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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG: High Performance for the Working Class

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When we first tested the CLA Class, we were seduced by its distinguished lines, compact size and – especially – its incredible price. In fact, you might even call it love at first sight. So it goes without saying that we couldn’t wait to try out the AMG version, which has been upsetting the established order at Mercedes-Benz’s high-performance division for quite some time already. This is the first AMG to be equipped with a four-cylinder engine, not to mention the fact that it dethrones the C63 as the least expensive in the family. Chances are this vehicle is going to snag a lot of new buyers.

The CLA has the same platform and mechanics as the B Class and A Class (the latter being restricted to the European market, regretfully). Scheduled to hit showrooms in September, the CLA should really start rocking the house a few months later when the AMG version comes out. This little speedster not only boasts fantastic style and performances, but it’s also flaunting a more affordable price tag that will open the door to AMG’s legendary models for many buyers who were simply not able to afford the C63 AMG. The exact pricing hasn’t been released yet, but it’s expected to be under the $50,000 mark.

AMG DNA
When developing this model, the manufacturer wanted one thing to be perfectly clear: they were not going to create an anemic AMG model. They did not want to compromise the AMG promise just for the sake of offering a new entry-level model. After testing it on the highway and track, we can definitely attest to the fact that they’ve pulled it off! The CLA 45 AMG has inherited all of AMG’s signature genetics.

When it comes to style, it’s hard not to fall under this car’s spell. The CLA was already sublime, looking something like a mini CLS , but it’s even more alluring with the AMG additions, which include a more aggressive grille, side skirts, distinctive tires and – of course – several carbon fibre moulds and components. You can’t not love it.

Inside, the AMG treatment is just as hot. As with the exterior, there are tons of options allowing you to customize your car. The optional AMG performance seats are hard to resist, but resist you must, lest the price of your vehicle skyrocket. The downsides of the AMG version are the same as those for the regular CLA: headroom is limited for rear passengers and there isn’t much in the way of cargo space. Also, it would have been nice to have a touch screen for the onboard computer.

The world’s most powerful four-cylinder (for a production model)
At the heart of this model – and for the first time at the AMG division – is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo engine that develops 355 horsepower and 332 lbs.-ft. of torque at 2,250 rpm. That’s right: 355 horsepower! This is much more power than what you get from the BMW M3 from the early 2000s (whose 3.2-litre six-cylinder produced 333 horsepower). And the CLS AMG is available for nearly half the price. Developing 178 horses per litre of displacement, this engine is the world’s most powerful four-cylinder made for a production model.

Mario Spitzner, head of AMG’s Marketing department, points out that this engine marks a change in philosophy, since it wasn’t so long ago that AMG used four-cylinder engines to power the windshield wipers, while placing a V12 under the hood.

Obviously, you can’t offer a vehicle this powerful with front-wheel drive. The torque effect would have you zig-zagging across the road like a drunken cheetah. Thus, this vehicle comes with AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive, which distributes torque up to 50% between the front and rear wheels.

Although AMG engines are synonymous with rich sound, you rarely get the right rumble from four-cylinder engines. This prompted the vehicle’s engineers to equip the exhaust with a valve that emits are more noticeable growl when Sport mode is activated. It’s hard not to smile when you press the accelerator and you hear the engine backfire  during gear shifts. Speaking of shifting, power is transmitted to the wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch AMG gearbox. We would have liked a manual transmission, but the AMG gearbox enhances performances and fuel economy (averaging 9.6 L/100 km – not bad, eh!).

From track to highway
AMG models are known for their dual capabilities. They can deliver mind-blowing performances while remaining comfortable in normal driving conditions. The CLA 45 AMG is no exception. In normal driving, its Comfort mode ensures a smooth ride on the highway, while the transmission shifts quickly to keep revs low and fuel consumption down. Our only complaint was that there was a small lull in start-ups, as though the transmission was a little slow out of the blocks.

Activate Sport or Manual modes, and the car is transformed into a fearsome beast. Push the pedal to the metal and the vehicle races from 0-100 km/h in 4.6 seconds – that’s as fast as an Audi R8 V8. There’s no delay in the delivery of engine power, the steering becomes a lot more communicative and the accelerator becomes ultra-sensitive .

On the track, we were astounded by this vehicle’s pick-up. Coming out of corners, the engine still has a lot of power, even at high speeds, which is pretty surprising for a four-cylinder (this type of engine tends to start huffing and puffing at high speeds).

In sum, the CLA 45 AMG has got everything it takes to seduce buyers: exotic style, practical four-door design and demonic power .

Evaluation

Test model 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA Class
Trim level CLA45 AMG 4Matic
Price range $33,900 - $54,000
Price as tested N/A
Warranty (basic) 4 years / 80,000 km
Warranty (powertrain) 4 years / 80,000 km
Fuel economy (city/highway/observed) 9.2 / 5.8 / N/A l/100km
Options N/A
Competitive models N/A
Strong points N/A
Weak points N/A
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