Make: Mercedes Benz
Variant: 45 S 4Matic+
Engine / Transmission: 2.0 litre – 8 Speed DCT automatic
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 8.1L/100km combined
Price: From $123,700 drive away
I’m a big fan of the three pointed star. It is a brand that I have had first hand experience with. I haven’t met a Mercedes product I haven’t liked (with the exception of the early B Class – what was that about?) and any dealership experience I have had has always exceeded my expectations (and you can’t always say that)!
After living with the AMG CLA 45 S for a while, this little hot rod has done absolutely nothing to damage my opinion of Stuttgart’s finest.
It’s no secret that I’m not always a massive fan of tech in cars. Despite this, the CLA has done a good job of convincing me that the more tech the better. It’s hard to know where to start with the level of technology in this car. Let’s break it into comfort and performance.
Tackling performance, the 2.0 litre fitted to the AMG is the world’s most powerful production four cylinder engine. It is made as part of AMG’s one builder, one engine program and the builder’s name and signature sits proud on top of the engine cover.
Naturally, in order to squeeze this much power from such a small engine capacity Mercedes Benz employs some serious tech, including some special F1 inspired cylinder coatings. The DCT transmission sports lightning fast changes and is teamed with 4Matic all wheel drive.
There is a drift mode, of course, and launch control. Because this CLA is in ‘S’ spec, top speed is pushed up to 270kph from the ‘standard’ model’s 250kph. Oh, did I mention that this car is fast? Like, 0-100kph in 4 seconds fast.
Throw in AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers and the thing handles like a demon too. Selectable drive modes, including Sport+, adjust steering, throttle control and shocks. It works too. In comfort mode, the CLA is perfectly compliant for a car with this kind of performance. Sport+ gives a brittle ride, but no doubt works well on the track.
Speaking of tracks, this CLA was fitted with AMG Track Pace, which is like having Toto Wolff in the passenger seat, giving you telematics as you cut hot laps. Unfortunately, neither Mount Panorama or Phillip Island were preloaded.
On the comfort front, it could be hard to imagine what else could be added to the CLA’s equipment list. The optional two tone leather won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but the sporty, heated, electronically controlled, massage seats are superb.
The massage function can be operated independently or as part of AMG’s ENERGIZER pack, where mood lighting, sound and massage seats are used to treat the driver and passengers to an immersive mood lifting experience.
Even further ‘ENERGIZER’ features are accessible via your Garmin Smartwatch. This was a step too far for me and gave the impression of a preschooler kicking the back of your seat while the interior lights shorted out and Kenny G played through the Burmester Surround Sound System. I’m not a fan.
Luckily, other features include the truly spectacular multi LED Active High Beam Assist PLUS and an utterly comprehensive active and passive safety suite.
All of this technology could become infuriatingly incomprehensible if it weren’t for Mercedes employing multiple options for accessing features, including touchscreen, touchpad, buttons or voice assistant. Importantly, you can simply mix and match how you best access the feature that you want.
For example, I can control the DAB radio from the steering wheel, the touchscreen, the touchpad OR the voice assistant. A further example would be the stop-start engine function. There is a button on the dash to control this, a duplicate button on the steering wheel or I can use the touchpad or touchscreen to scroll through screens until I find the stop-start feature in the vehicle menu.
Sure, it’s a lot of duplication, but I adore it. I can choose how I want to access each feature. I’m not forced to use one particular access route.
The way the CLA blends epic performance with superior build quality and a mind-bending array of technology makes this little Mercedes a car that I will be very, very reluctant to hand back.
It’s not a cheap car by any means, but it is good value. It is in a completely different realm to something cheaper, such as Volkswagen’s Golf R. It offers similar performance to Audi’s TT RS, with the benefit of workable rear seats and a lower entry price, albeit without Audi’s five-cylinder soundtrack. If you are shopping in this kind of price bracket or higher, you simply must take a close look at the CLA 45 S.
Not So Impressive:
Look, with those wheels and brakes and this kind of performance, the CLA 45 S is never going to be a cheap car to maintain. This aside, I struggle to find things to criticise and the things that do jar are either optional or form part of a range of choices you can pick from.
The red and black seats, for example, are inferior to an all-black leather interior or even the standard fitment leather and microfiber trim, but, if you like them, tick that box and be happy.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Make sure you compare the CLA to others in the AMG range. The AMG GT 63 S, for example, is almost $400,000 yet the little CLA gives its big brother a hell of a good run for its money.