May 21, 2014
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG, 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG engine bay, 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG wheel. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Justin Pritchard
The standard Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 targets a young, affluent Mercedes shopper who wants to rock a Benz without severing and bartering an appendage. It’s comfortable, looks like a big deal, won’t empty its fuel tank too quickly, and amounts to a largely sensible choice in an entry-level luxury model with all of the brand’s attributes in place.
The new entry-level Mercedes also becomes the new entry product to Mercedes’ AMG lineup. After a tune-up and do-over by the brand’s performance division, the CLA 250 becomes the CLA45—a low-riding, high-boost new entry to the lineup of juiced-up, rorty-snorty AMG rocketships.
It’s not the type of performance-boosted luxury car popular with Murder She Wrote enthusiasts who wear fish-print golf-shirts and call their grandkids every few hours for help with the iPad. It’s loud, fast, hardcore and buried very, very deeply into the Sport side of the Luxury-Sport spectrum.
And, if you’re a younger sort of car buff who’s spent weekends wrenching on an import-tuner type ride in the not-so-distant past, the CLA 45 AMG will make you feel right at home.
There’s a body kit with vents and a splitters. It’s got the fancy xenon lights the tuners love. There are big exhaust pipes and humongous red brake calipers clamping on big slotted discs behind custom rims wrapped in performance tires. You probably installed some sports pedals and sports seats in your former compact tuner car, and the CLA 45 has them, too. Performance gauges? Check. Lowered suspension? You got it.
The resulting look often leaves passersby perplexed that Mercedes actually makes a car “like that”. If teenaged-me had gotten his hands on a standard CLA and a pile of cash for custom goodies, this is likely what I’d have come up with. It’s less formal and more youthful looking than AMG cars as we know them.
And with the CLA, you get all of the extra parts without waiting for boxes to arrive from EBay and installing them yourself. No fitment issues, no inventing new swear words when things don’t line up, no crappy quality parts from Uzbekistan, and no voiding your warranty. The CLA 45 AMG is like that boy-racer sports model you slaved over in the garage, without all the slaving.
What’s under the hood may remind you of your first custom sports car, too — thanks to a four cylinder turbo engine that’s butt-clenching bonkers.
Like your old tweaked-up GTI or EVO or MR2 or Cobalt SS, the CLA 45 gets a 2.0-litre engine with a turbocharger about the size of your head. Output from the hand-built piece is 355 horsepower, which gives this little AMG mill two big bragging rights. First, it’s the most powerful four-cylinder engine on the market. Second, it’s the highest output-per-litre engine you’ll find in a new car, anywhere.
A 2.0L, 355-horsepower engine sounds like a great big deal, but remember: running a little engine with great big boost is nothing new or revolutionary, and the sport compact kids have been doing it for 20 years or more. But unlike your old custom compact, the CLA 45 AMG probably won’t toss a rod through its block or melt down like an overboosted Eagle Talon.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG dashboard & shifter. Click image to enlarge
Drive gently and the turbo stays offline, the engine idles along, and a deep hum from the sports exhaust follows the CLA 45 around. Hammer on it, and a little lag precedes a lot of exhaust snort and a body-slam into your seat as the turbo pressurizes the intake system and cylinders to 26 psi. Head for redline, and the instruments turn red to remind you to click the paddle for an upshift, which rips off a gear change in milliseconds and dispatches a sharp burp from the tailpipes. Notably, the engine packs robust low-end pull, and a mid-range torque band that’s meatier than a bagful of baconators. And, unlike so many boosted engines, this one doesn’t go reaching for its ventilator as redline approaches: it feasts on delicious intercooled boost, even towards max revs. Opened up fully, the CLA 45 consumes the pavement ahead of it at an alarming rate.
You’ll likely be familiar with the barrage of turbo noises coming from under the hood, too. Usually, engineers dial these out of the equation—but with the CLA 45, they’re proudly on auditory display so you can sound your mighty blow-off valve at fellow car buffs to tell them what’s up.