In the past 20 months I’ve driven a lot of cars, some excellent and some comparatively average. Whilst I enjoy doing drive days, truly experiencing a car in a single day is virtually impossible (actually Jaguar did a pretty good job with the F-Type!). Having the opportunity to drive a media car like this for a week is an absolute dream and one I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of. It also gives me the opportunity to experience the car in-depth – live with it and write about, forming opinions as if I owned it. After all this time I’ve decided that an excellent car is one makes my heart race every time I climb into it and this Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG made me feel like Bradley Cooper in Limitless for 7 days straight.
I’m not entirely sure what the first thing is you want to hear from someone when you buy a new car, but on at least 6 occasions I heard a variation of the following quote, “Oh my god I thought it cost way more than that! It looks like a $200,000 car!”. I can’t imagine it gets any better as a new car owner to hear something like that, which brings me to my first point about this car, for what it offers in brand, power, styling, interior design and sports handling this car offers incredible real and perceived value. After seeing the car in the flesh, sitting in it and driving in it, the disbelief at its $86,900 price tag was unanimous.
Word on the street is that Mercedes-Benz did some research into their clients and realised the average age of AMG owners was 53, so they decided to invest some time into developing an AMG model in the sub $100,000 bracket to appeal to a younger market. Whilst AMG purists may sneer at the 2.0litre engine the CLA 45 AMG will rocket to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds almost matching that of the C63 AMG. Add to this the appeal of greater fuel economy, a more adventurous interior, all wheel drive functionality and a half price saving I suspect it may steal some C63 AMG customers.
So where do I even start with this car!? Well I’ll start by saying that I didn’t drive this car on the track, unlike literally every other review of it online. I just drove it on the road where it will spend 99.9% of its life, and on the road it’s phenomenal. I don’t understand pulling the CLA 45 AMG apart on a track, comparing it to other AMG models twice its price – off course it’s not going to be as capable as an AMG with more power and better breaking ability – AMG would cannibalise sales if it was. Furthermore, this isn’t a track car. Well I don’t think so anyway. Sure its been built to handle the track, its got outrageous grip and the launch control is a lot of fun but let’s face it, it’s just a rocket for the road.
Climbing into the CLA 45 AMG for the first time is one of those ‘ecstatic 5 year old kid’ moments. Visually it’s a delight. The fully adjustable Recaro race seats combined with the Alcantara trimmed steering wheel and funky little gear shifter make for an exhilarating experience even before the engine is turned on. Lean back at the traffic lights and you can take in the night lights through the panoramic sunroof, which seems to offer more ‘open’ combinations then I could understand in a week. The air conditioning vents look excellent and function ingeniously, twisting the entire vent to turn each unit off or on. My only qualm with the interior is the screen, which seems to be a bit of an afterthought, it does however function very well also.
Fire the car up and it’s your ears that are treated to further delight. The car features a very competent sound system from Harmon Kardon – not that it mattered because I barely listened to it. With only a week to enjoy it I wasn’t wasting my time with my Soundcloud stream. I let the engine play the music, which for most of the week I had to enjoy with the windows up due to the unforgiving rain. Even inside the car, rain splattering the windshield the sound of the CLA 45 AMG is undeniable and laughable, as in you laugh every time you hear it because it’s hard to believe a 2.0 litre turbo can sound so good (and I think the hatch sounds even better!).
Behind the shifter is a small button that scrolls through the car’s three driving modes. It’s default mode is ‘C’ which softens up the suspension, tones down the sports performance and engages the ECO functionality which I cannot stand. In normal driving conditions the CLA 45 AMG defaults to front-wheel-drive for optimum fuel economy and it’ll go the distance if you’re sensible about driving it. I did spend a bit of time in Comfort mode for two reasons. Firstly the ride is brittle. Perhaps I’m being a tad fickle but the suspension is so sharp in sports mode that it’s nice to relax the bolstered seat and cruise when you’re in the mood to. Secondly, this car is thirsty for your license and it’ll have it in no time if you spend every opportunity in Sports mode. That being said, ‘S’ was the drive mode of choice for the majority of the week delivering Usain Bolt style acceleration, Araldite levels of grip, rapid shifts via the AMG Speedshift DCT 7-speed sports transmission and of course, the crackling bark from the ‘toned down’ exhaust.
Put your foot down and the CLA 45 AMG literally takes off. It pulls harder than your Grandma on the end of her Christmas Bon Bon. It’s blisteringly quick, and effortless, with not even a hint of turbo lag. Throw it into a corner at pace and you’ll quickly see just how capable it is with the ESP working just enough to make sure your poised perfectly to exit on the power, albeit with a fraction of understeer. The AMG 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 265 kilowatts, translating into a benchmark performance of 133 kilowatts per litre. Currently it holds the title as the world’s most powerful production 4-cylinder engine. Affalterbach have pried and poked at almost every aspect of this car including the engine, the All-Wheel-Drive system, transmission, suspension, steering, exhaust, cooling technology and the high performance braking system. You get A LOT of AMG pedigree for your buck.
As I said above, this car wants to go fast and it does, with ease. As a package of power, prestige, performance and price I just don’t know what’s coming even remotely close to this car. I was interested to see the video of the launch control on our Facebook page was an anti-climax for some, but to put it in perspective this CLA 45 AMG is quicker to 100km/h than a brand new Aston Martin DB9 and it holds four mates. To get a European badge and match this level of performance you have to spend a lot of money, and that’s the reason there’s a waiting list until October 2015. If you have your doubts, save them, at least until you’ve driven it, because I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a week on the road more than I did with the CLA 45 AMG.