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It’s the slightly more civilised brother to the A 45 AMG hot hatch, but why would you want the softer AMG?
Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG

First ride
Affalterbach, Germany


What we liked
>> Mega strong mid-range
>> Secure handling
>> Limo ride quality

Not so much
>> CLA packaging issues
>> Lacks blind spot vision
>> Not on sale yet


Tobias Moers is still not completely happy with the steering and he’s giving me Icky Face. He likes it, especially given AMG’s relative lack of experience with making front axles twist, but he just doesn’t quite love it. Yet.

He will, the AMG development head assures me as he throws the CLA 45 AMG prototype through the Swabian hills. Every drive, even drives like this with us in the passenger seat, brings AMG’s 270-strong development team closer to where the boss wants it to be when the car hits showrooms here in November.

He’s happy with plenty of other parts of the car, though, and our first impressions are that he should be. This Bengal Tiger version of the CLA 45 carries the standard suspension set-up (there will be a harder, Sports option) and the louder Sports exhaust and it all feels ridiculously organised and civilised in spite of its performance potential.

On our ride with Moers, it felt like it walked a superb line between comfort and agility, losing nothing on long corners or on rapid direction changes. It also takes the supple ride of the standard car and builds on it, feeling both more direct and offering more accurate damping to deliver comfort without losing mid-corner poise.

This drive, a two-hour exercise on the well-pounded roads around Affalterbach, is officially AMG inviting us to be part of its late validation program. Unofficially, it’s a confident AMG simply showing off ahead of the car’s US debut in New York on March 27.

This is AMG’s way of showing that the CLA 45 is fully prepped for a battle years in the making. By the time it arrives, the CLA 45 will deliver the same 265kW of power as the A 45 hatch, the same 4.6-second sprint to 100km/h and the same hefty 450Nm of torque in the same all-wheel drive package.

What’s more, the small, fast sedan will cost less than $100,000 making it a key part of AMG’s efforts to sell 30,000 cars a year.

It will be AMG’s first series production four-cylinder car, its first transverse-engine car and it will give AMG a serious player in this segment. Actually, it will give AMG two serious players here, because the A 45 will be a slightly firmer version of this in a five-door body.

Beneath its sedan skin, the CLA 45 is the same car as the A 45 AMG hatch, right down to its wheelbase and track widths. Even the spring and damper rates on the Sports suspension version are identical, though AMG has made the standard set-up slightly softer on the sedan.

To justify that kind of money, AMG has worked hard on four main areas: the CLA’s suspension system, the engine, the all-wheel drive and, of course, the exhaust.

Using 1.8 bar of turbo pressure to push 140 bar of peak pressure inside the 2.0-litre engine forced AMG to mass produce parts from the low-volume world of racing. The CLA 45 boasts a sand-cast engine block, forged steel crankshafts, sand-cast aluminium crankcases and spray-guided direct fuel-injection.

It uses piezo fuel-injectors in the centre of the combustion chamber that allow for multiple injections per stroke and backs that up with multi-spark plugs, too.

Despite its outrageous power output that delivers 133kW per litre, the CLA 45 also boasts an NEDC fuel economy rating of 6.9L/100km.

On the roads around AMG’s head office, that engine feels tremendously strong and sounds rich. There have been strong turbo fours before, most notably in Mitsubishi Evo Lancer and Subaru WRX STi bodies, but the CLA 45 has them comfortably covered in performance as well as sophistication and, critically in AMG’s view, sound quality.

While it has crushing strength from below 2500rpm, there is a slight softness below 1500rpm but it never complains or stutters when it’s left to labor at 1000rpm in fifth or sixth gear.

From around 1800rpm, the engine just builds inexorably until the tacho needle arrives at around 2300rpm and then the CLA 45 erupts.

Its strength from 2300rpm onward verges on brutal and it’s hard to imagine another four-cylinder that will run with its in-gear acceleration. There’s the faintest trace of a turbo whistle in the background as the exhaust deepens through the engine’s work.

There is barely an unwanted tremor or vibration through the body and all the occupants hear and feel is the aggression AMG wants you to hear and feel. By 5000rpm the CLA 45 is in the meat of its abilities and is both responsive to the throttle and terrifically fast.

AMG says it reaches its peak power at 6000rpm but the CLA 45 engine whips through to its limiter at 6700rpm without much thought, though the tone changes from deeply muscular in the mid-range to something more athletic at higher revs.

Even as quick as it is, the highlights (especially with the louder Sports exhaust fitted and the Sport mode on) are the pops and crackles at every shift from the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and the woofly burbles on every over-run or lift off.

That’s why we ran the CLA 45 in its Sports mode most of the time – the car’s behavior with its exhaust flaps closed in the default setting is very civilised and makes the car almost subtle.

The seven-speed transmission is fast and smooth and those crackles and pops just encourage you to change gear even when it’s not strictly necessary. Or even remotely necessary.

The transmission is flange-mounted onto the engine block and delivers a Race Start function for maximum getaway speed, fast shifts, double-declutch downshifts and three different driving modes.

Nestled inside the transmission are the lead-in parts of the Haldex all-wheel drive system. It means the CLA 45 is designed to run as a front-wheel drive most of the time, but it can send 50 per cent of its drive to the rear when it’s needed.

“You vary the torque split with the ESP button. It’s normally front-wheel drive with the AWD as a traction support system, but in Sport it moves more torque to the back,” Moers said.

Almost the entire suspension has been replaced from the standard Mercedes-Benz CLA, with a couple of exceptions that AMG forced onto Benz’s main layout when the A-Class was under development.

For example, the steering knuckle is the same one that Benz asked AMG to develop for the A250, but with a few more tweaks, and the rear sub-frame and the all-wheel drive clutches are the same, too.

“These are over engineered for the A-Class, at our insistence, because that’s what we needed in this car and it’s better this way around” Mr Moers revealed.


Body: Four-door sedan
Layout: Transverse front-mounted engine
Drive: All-wheel
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder
Bore x stroke: 83mm x 92mm
Capacity: 1991cc
Turbocharging: Twin-scroll, 1.8 bar maximum pressure
Max power: 265kW (360hp) @ 6000rpm
Max torque: 450Nm @ 2250 – 5000rpm
Max revs: 6700rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch
Drive system: Multi-plate clutch pack
Weight: 1530kg (approximately)
Brakes: 350mm x 32mm ventilated discs, four-piston calipers (front), 330mm x 22mm discs, two-piston calipers (rear)
Tyres: 235/40 R18
0-100km/h acceleration: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h (limited)
Fuel consumption: 6.9L/100km
CO2 emissions: 161g/km




Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG 2013: First ride - motoring.com.au

 
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