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The guys at EVO mag have a bias against the CLA

7024 Views 22 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  CLAJoe
We all know that the CLA45 AMG is an A45 AMG with a sexier body. Yet check out these ratings...Evo MARKS DOWN the CLA half a star compared to the A45...what is up with that?!?

evo reviews - A45 AMG vs CLA45 AMG

A45 - 4/5 stars

What is it?

To call the new Mercedes A45 AMG a radical departure from the AMG formula is something of an understatement. It’s a transverse-engined hatchback that directs its power to the front wheels by default and then sends up to 50 per cent of its torque to the rear axle when necessary. Furthermore, its engine is a 2-litre in-line four with a single twin-scroll turbocharger – a far cry from the large-capacity V8s of its stablemates. Prices start at £37,845.

Technical highlights?

That 2-litre engine is hand-built by one man, just like the 6.2-litre V8 in an SLS Black Series or the 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 in an E63. It produces an astonishing 355bhp at 6000rpm and 332lb ft from 2250 to 5000rpm, and drives through the seven-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch gearbox. With the help of a launch control system dubbed ‘Race Start’, the A45 scrabbles to 62mph in 4.6sec, despite a chunky kerb weight of 1555kg, some 160kg more than an Audi S3. And if you’re prepared to pay £1940 for the AMG Driver’s Package, it’ll hurtle all the way to 168mph before the electronic limiter cuts in.

What’s it like to drive?

You start the engine and it booms into life and settles into an oddly flat idle that could only be a four-cylinder engine droning through large-diameter exhaust pipes. It’s ugly but somehow exciting and unapologetically workmanlike. You just know it’s ready to deliver a big brawny punch to your kidneys.

They won’t be the only organs that might get bruised by the A45, however, because the ride is seriously stiff, jiggling and jolting at low speeds so badly that even a Renaultsport Megane Cup owner would baulk at the discomfort. Incredibly, there’s an AMG Performance suspension option that we presume is even stiffer. Needless to say, don’t take it.

Browse used AMGs from £12,000

But if the bucking ride quality is initially off-putting, the drivetrain is anything but. The twin-scroll turbocharger ensures that the engine isn’t particularly laggy and there’s real fun to be had extending it beyond the richly torquey mid-range, for it seems to gain renewed energy over 5000rpm, and howls to 6500rpm with the ferocity you’d expect from 355bhp.

The balance is predominantly mild understeer even when you select the looser AMG Sport ESP mode, which in theory makes the four-wheel-drive system keener to send power rearwards. In low- and medium-speed corners you won’t notice, and it feels like a front-driver with strong traction but without the sense of agility of the best. It’s more exciting through quicker turns, where you can feel the tail start to come into play.

How does it compare?

Its nearest foes are the rear-drive, 316bhp BMW M135i (priced from £30,570 though £32,700 as an eight-speed automatic equipped five-door to match the A45) and the all-wheel-drive, 296bhp Audi S3 (£30,640 basic/£32,740 as a five-door auto). Both are less powerful than the mad Merc, with more focused M Division and RS3 versions likely in the future.

Anything else I need to know?

Although the full verdict will wait until we can get the A45 next to its rivals, there's no doubt it's kept some real AMG attitude, especially in its drivetrain. Yet there’s also no doubt that it lacks some of the expressiveness so beloved of AMGs. To be continued…

CLA45 AMG - 3.5/5 stars

What is it?

The Mercedes CLA45 is the new A45 AMG’s saloon sister, sharing the same powertrain and four-wheel drive system. That means – in a fairly radical departure for the AMG brand – a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 355bhp.

Mercedes A45 AMG driven here

Mercedes claims identical kerbweights and 0-62mph times for both cars, with the CLA45 AMG capable of demolishing the acceleration benchmark in just 4.6sec, on its way to a top speed of 161mph. Pricing details haven’t been confirmed yet, but anticipate around £41,500 when the car goes on sale in the UK in October.

Technical highlights?

Definitely the engine. You sense that the decision to stick the AMG badge to a car powered by a four-cylinder turbo engine caused some sleepless nights to the engineers responsible for delivering on the promise implicit in the brand, but the new powerplant is a little cracker. It pulls strongly from the basement upwards, enjoys being revved through the 6000rpm point where most of its ilk give up, and even produces a crisp little exhaust pop on upchanges.

Despite being fed by a single, relatively large turbocharger, it feels lag-free – with lungs deep enough to deliver those mega performance figures. To do all this with an engine that’s also capable of meeting Euro 6 emissions figures, and to deliver 40.9mpg on the official economy test, has been a remarkable engineering achievement. The engine has a forged crank and pistons and a special cylinder wall coating to reduce frictional losses.

The transverse seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox uses the same software that controls the double-clutcher in the mighty SLS, with the four-wheel drive system using a clutch on the rear axle to divert up to 50 per cent of torque backwards when the need arises.

How does it drive?

Pretty much like the A45 AMG (Mercedes A45 AMG driven here), unsurprisingly. Like its hatchback sister the CLA feels relentlessly quick – with the massive mid-range torque, rapid-reacting gearbox and seemingly unbreachable grip limits giving instantaneous urge at almost any speed. In terms of outright backroad pace, little would come close – and we suspect it would probably be able to show most of AMG’s larger, rear-driven models a clean pair of heels.

Not that it can provide the sort of V8 soundtrack that we’ve come to associate with AMG over the last few years. The CLA’s four-cylinder soundtrack borders on the thrummy at constant revs, and although it sounds nicer when the engine gets extended – and especially when popping on the over-run – it’s closer to a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo than a C63 AMG.

The gearbox has two automatic modes, but it feels like it needs another. ‘Comfort’ is a bit too dull-witted, upchanging at the earliest possible point to boost fuel economy, while ‘Sport’ borders on being too aggressive for everyday use; feeling closer to the ‘Sport Plus’ setting on the more expensive models. Manual over-ride works well on upchanges, but as with the SLS the transmission can get confused with requests for multiple downchanges in short order.

Grip levels are enormous. On road, and on dry tarmac, you very rarely get near them – rendering the half-off ‘ESP Sport’ setting pretty pointless. Ultimately the front end will run wide, although the line tightens nicely on a lifted throttle. But you’ll search in vain for the sort of throttle steerability that defines AMG’s rear-drive offerings; the CLA can be persuaded into mild oversteer on the brakes, but its natural inclination is always to pull itself straight under power.

The steering is good – very accurate and with decent feel getting through its electric assistance. And the brakes are epic: unfazed by even an extreme workout on track. Ride quality is firm – possibly more so than the A45 AMG – and although we only drove the car in Germany it feels as if it might struggle in the UK.

How does it compare?

That depends on what you think of the CLA’s styling, and how much you think the extra exclusivity it brings over the A45 AMG is worth. The CLA’s nose-heavy proportions and relatively dinky wheelbase make it look ungainly from some angles; the taller and shorter A-Class is a more harmonious piece of design. Although prices aren’t confirmed yet, we’re told the CLA45 will cost around £3700 more than the A45 AMG, putting it over £10,000 more expensive than the BMW M135i.

Anything else I should know?

Carbonfibre trim for the cabin and a leather dashboard come as standard and look great – although the red stitching on the dash top can reflect in the windscreen.
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21 - 23 of 23 Posts
But they're charging a price reflective of real carbon fiber.
I have been assuming that it is the 'real deal'. I take it I'm wrong. btw - My guess is that it will pop off easily, but do you cover it with leather, or whatever the stuff is on the dash top? A good upholsterer who is used to doing custom work can do miracles and make anything look stock.

(A few years ago someone with dubious taste did his brand new Ferrari in yellow ostrich for $30K. It was a perfect, but ugly job. You can guess how much he lost on resale value.)
I have been assuming that it is the 'real deal'. I take it I'm wrong. btw - My guess is that it will pop off easily, but do you cover it with leather, or whatever the stuff is on the dash top? A good upholsterer who is used to doing custom work can do miracles and make anything look stock.

(A few years ago someone with dubious taste did his brand new Ferrari in yellow ostrich for $30K. It was a perfect, but ugly job. You can guess how much he lost on resale value.)
Guessing it went down to a $5 car? :)
21 - 23 of 23 Posts
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