2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Review

Posted by: Shelton Kwan onJanuary 27th, 2014

The CLA45 is an interesting vehicle, poised as an entry level 4 door sports sedan coupe yet styled much like the CLS coupe in the higher end of the Mercedes-Benz lineup, it’s an expensive looking vehicle for very little money. Starting at $49k, it’s a bargain for an AMG, but unlike the others, it’s outfitted with a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine instead of the mighty V8’s of its bigger brothers. So how does the baby AMG stack up?

With 355hp under the hood and fitted with 4matic AWD, the CLA45 is no slouch. Using the launch control “Race Start” mode, there is no struggle for traction, the car launches without much drama, rocketing to 60mph in a scant 4.5 seconds. Even though the 4matic system is really a front biased setup, the AMG wizards have done wonders to this setup, unlike its competitors. There is not a hint of torque steer as it puts all the power to the ground.

At the track, this is where the CLA45 really shines. I was very surprised at how well the car turned in. Granted, it doesn’t have the go-kart feel of the SLS or the Black Series cars, but it turns in unlike most AWD cars on the market. In fact, I would say it’s very close to the C63 AMG (which in itself is based on the CLK Black Series front end), and slightly number than the Mitsubishi EVO, which really defines good handling in this price range.

Mid corner, especially on the faster sections, you can feel the limits of the 215 width tires. It just doesn’t have the outright grip of the more serious AMG machines. It does, however, offer more stability than the RWD AMG vehicles, especially in the high speed off camber sweeper at our test track. The torque vectoring manages to claw the CLA45 back on line, even though physics dictate that the car should slide off the track at the speeds that I was carrying. In the slower corners, I was able to get the car sideways on entry, but the AWD system stabilized things quickly. Laying down the power after the apex, the car accelerated while still responsive in its steering, where I can still point the car without any understeer. It’s no drift car, but it’s no understeering bore either. It’s just a very rewarding and direct connection to the driver.

If there are any weak spots in any AMG, the most common complaint is the transmission. AMG transmissions aren’t exactly bad, but VW DSG’s, BMW M-DCT’s are so good that by comparison, AMG’s are just a notch below in response and smoothness. Not so in the CLA45, the new DCT gearbox just works, and works very well. The upshifts are crisp and instantaneous, and the downshifts makes sounds that shouldn’t come out of a car with a 4-banger. My only complaint was that smoothness wasn’t 100% there, the downshifts felt like it was off by 100rpms when the ECU matched the revs, something that hopefully will be addressed in a software update. The gearing in the CLA45 is quite short, so I found myself trying to get into 2nd when the car really needed 3rd.

Overall, it’s an amazing car for the money. The base car is a lot of car for the money, however, the prices starts creeping up as you check off the options. Mildly optioned, I was able to come up with $59k, which was acceptable, but started to lose its fun vs. price value. Fully optioned out at $70k, it was just too expensive for what you’re getting. Keep the options list minimal, and you’ll be rewarded with a whole lot of fun for not a lot of money.

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