The CLA45 will be the next big thing to hit the US market. And while it will be the first four-cylinder in AMG’s line-up, make no mistake about it: this compact sports sedan means business.
Although traditionally associated with V8 or V12 engines, AMG redesigned the 2.0-liter turbo motor for this application. Based on an existing Mercedes production engine, the AMG version boasts a sand-cast aluminum cylinder block with forged internals to handle the 322 lb-ft of twist available from 2250-5000rpm (boost arrives around 3000rpm in the lower gears).
The engine also has staged direct injection, air-to-water intercooling, a large 3" exhaust, twin-scroll turbo, and a redesigned cylinder head pressurized to 26psi in order to produce 355hp at 6000rpm. So not only does the CLA45 beat every four-cylinder in the world; but the hand-built engine also claims the highest specific output with an astounding 178hp/liter. And it only weights 350 lb.
While the car will cruise in front-wheel drive mode, AMG knew AWD would be essential. So a new, lighter, standard 4Matic system kicks the rear wheels into play via a Power Takeoff Unit (PTU) in the rear diff. An integrated clutch electronically engages whenever it detects front-wheel slip, high lateral g, an aggressive steering angle, high vehicle speed, or specific throttle positions.
As a result, not only do you get improved fuel economy, but torque-steer is undetectable. When pushed, the car handles and accelerates like an AWD, without the extreme understeer of brands that use a 50/50 torque split.
As a result, AMG claims 0-60mph in 4.5sec, thanks to launch control, a close-ratio seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and a feathery (by today’s standards) 3380 lb curb weight.
While this might sound too good to be true, we were lucky enough to experience the CLA45 AMG (and the European A45 AMG hatchback that’s not coming to the US) at the brand new Bilster Berg racetrack in Paderborn, Germany. And we’re proud to have been the first to experience the circuit, which is Germany’s first new track in 80 years!
The BB (can I be the first to call it that?) is a 19-turn, 2.6-mile course devised by F1 track designer, Hermann Tilke, and took seven years to build. It features two straights, elevation changes, with both low- and high-speed corners. The configuration pounds a car’s brakes, suspension and engine, which was a great test for any high-end car and a bold move by AMG.
On track, the CLA45 rocks. The only limiting factor was the driver and the tires, with the latter overheating after a few hot laps. Fortunately, the car remained stable but the ESP Dynamic Assist took over if you got too aggressive.
If you start to lose front traction when tracking-out, the rear tires receive more torque to propel you back into line. It may not be the visceral experience some purists desire, but it’s certainly fast.
The four-cylinder has the midrange flexibility of a 5.0 V8, and the exhaust note delivers a deep roar when the automatic flap opens.
The transmission also emits an audible engagement with each up-shift that’s impossible to ignore – a characteristic from the AMG SLS GT, it’s awesome.
Suspension-wise, the CLA45 AMG has multi-link front and rear axles. The front uses stiffer steering knuckles for high camber stability, better turn-in precision and high-speed cornering stability. While the four-link rear axle is totally new.
Of course, an AMG vehicle needs sporty styling, and while the exterior borrows from the successful CLS55 AMG, the interior features sport seats wrapped with Artico man-made leather and Dinamica fibers with red stitching. AMG also offers optional carbon fiber trim.
Overall, the cockpit combines style and luxury with good ergonomics. On entry you immediately notice the aggressive lateral support from the Recaro seats. Perhaps the only quirkiness was the funky transmission lever, but you won’t be looking at it much.
While we personally like the CLA45 aesthetic, we’d like to see more tire width and rear fender flare. From the rear, the 235-section tires don’t give the appearance of an autobahn sled. Going up a couple of rim sizes would not only improve the look, but also improve the overall performance – something the aftermarket will surely offer…
However, AMG does have a 19" wheel option as well as carbon fiber spoilers and black exterior trim to give customers sporting options at the point of sale.
With the introduction of the CLA45 AMG, it’s time for the competition to sit up and take notice. This will be the first time Mercedes has entered the premium compact sports sedan market with such an aggressive package that will undoubtedly win new followers from Audi and BMW, as well as the Asian brands that can’t match Mercedes-Benz heritage.
We predict you’ll be seeing a lot of the CLA250 and CLA45 AMG on the road when it arrives in the US this November.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG
Layout Transverse, front-mounted engine
Engine 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbocharged and intercooled, direct injection, twin-scroll turbo, 26.1psi
Drivetrain AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed transmission, 4Matic all-wheel drive
Suspension McPherson axle f, four-link axle r, both with coil springs, gas shock absorbers, anti-roll bars
Brakes 13.8" cross-drilled rotors, four-piston calipers f, 13", two-piston r
Wheels & Tires 18x8", 235/40 R18 Dunlop Sportmaxx (optional 19x8", 235/35 R19 Dunlop Sportmaxx)
Power 355hp at 6000rpm
Torque 332 lb-ft at 2250-5000rpm
Top Speed 155mph (limited)
Weight 3380 lb