2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review
When Mercedes-Benz announced the front-drive CLA-Class cars would be coming to the United States, questions were asked. “Is Mercedes making a mistake going so down market? Are they risking tarnishing the brand? A four-cylinder front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz—are they kidding?”
Turns out the company wasn’t kidding. The CLA-Class is very real, and by many accounts, very good too. It also forms the basis for a rather interesting performance model; the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG—host to what Mercedes-Benz asserts is the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever fitted to a production automobile.
The CLA-Class Mercedes-Benz also holds the distinction of being the smallest four-door sedan to get the AMG treatment for the North American market to date. It is also the most affordable AMG model ever offered here. Thing is, affordable can also be a highly relative term.
Does it apply here?
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Models & Pricing
Starting at $30,825,(with the $925 destination and delivery fee Mercedes adds to all pricing) the CLA-Class is the least expensive Mercedes-Benz offered here. The more costly iteration, the CLA45 AMG, starts at $48,375 (including destination).
Standard features include a set of 18-inch alloy wheels, all-wheel drive, a performance-oriented braking system, a performance-oriented suspension system, cruise control, power adjustable front seats, Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming, cruise control, rain sensing windshield wipers, M-B Tex DINAMICA (vinyl/microfiber) upholstery, red seat belts, an AMG instrument cluster, brushed aluminum trim, driver memory settings, a tilt and telescoping steering column with shift paddles for the transmission, and the Mercedes-Benz COMAND interface for secondary functions.
If it seems lightly loaded for a Mercedes-Benz product, it is. To get the price of entry down, corners had to be cut somewhere, and in this case, the company cut the standard feature set. Consequently, items like keyless entry and pushbutton start aren’t offered.
On the other hand, you can get features like dual-zone climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front seats, satellite radio, and navigation, as part of an options package. Other CLA45 AMG options include a 19-inch wheel and tire set, carbon fiber trim, deeply bolstered racing-car like sport seats, a flat-bottomed AMG steering wheel with leather and Alacantara, and red brake calipers. Thing is, once you start adding features, the price jumps up considerably.
There is also a $1950 AMG driver’s package, which fits an even more aggressive suspension system to the car, as well as raising the electronically limited top speed to 167 miles per hour. To equip our test car more like a modern luxury car, our test CLA45 came with $7,215 worth of options. The sport seats, performance exhaust system, 19-inch wheels, and a performance steering wheel added another $4050—ultimately pushing the price to $61,590.
Is that a lot of scratch for a car equipped with a four-cylinder engine? Is paying extra for items like dual-zone automatic climate control off-putting in a car starting at just under $50,000?
Excellent questions, all of which come down to personal preference—it’s all relative, right?
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Design
Differentiating the CLA45 AMG from its more pedestrian CLA 250 sibling are the AMG "twin blade" cross member in the grille—painted matte titanium gray, large front air intakes, and bi-xenon headlights.
Running along the lower edge of the car are a pair of sill panels, also done in titanium grey. A specific selection of 18-inch and 19-inch wheels is offered for the AMG CLA, with the standard wheel offering being a twin-spoke AMG design with yes, titanium grey inserts. Finishing off the side view is a pair of Turbo AMG badges, announcing the presence of the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder engine.
At the rear of the car is a pair of air vents in the trailing edge of the rear fenders, a large diffuser insert just beneath the rear bumper, and a quad-tipped exhaust system. A specific treatment for the LED tail lamps completes the distinctive look.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Features & Controls
Our test car was fitted with the Alcantara and leather wrapped sport steering wheel, and we must say it is one very nice piece. The Alacantara is placed where your hands typically reside on the wheel, and in combination with the just-right thickness of the wheel, feels terrific in your hands. The flat bottom helps you know where you are in the wheel’s range of travel, and the controls for the audio system, telephone, navigation, and voice activated functions of the COMAND system are also very “handy”.
The AMG instrumentation appears both sporty and substantial. Looking at it, you know you’re in a pricey car. The central color display positioned between the speedometer and the tachometer offers information about transmission, oil, and coolant temperature, as well as monitoring the audio system, navigation system, and other secondary functions.
Crowning the dash in our test car was the optional seven-inch LCD screen for the COMAND system, offering 3D map views and the output of the rear view camera, as well other information and controls. Well laid out and intuitive, the cockpit is easily navigable, making interacting the with the car’s various systems somewhat instinctive. Further, it looks like a genuine Mercedes-Benz. Materials, fit and finish are well in line with the rest of the maker’s models.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Comfort & Cargo
Fitted with the optional sport seats, getting in and out of our test car was a bit on the tricky side. If you got wide hips, you’re gong to feel a bit confined in them. Of course, when the CLA45 AMG’s engine is let loose to run the car to its full potential, those seats really offer a great deal of security too, as they are both comfortable over long distances and keep you in place quite well. One of our passengers put it best. Rather than hold you; the seats “contain” you.
The back seat offers a surprising amount of legroom, given the overall dimensions of the car, however you’ll still need to be considerate of your passengers when you dial up the amount of legroom you desire. Go all the way back; there’ll be no legroom for them. Headroom in the back seat will also be an issue for taller passengers. The outré chic roofline cuts into it considerably.
On the other hand, given the overall size of the CLA45 AMG, the trunk is surprisingly deep. Further, the rear seats can be folded separately to increase cargo capacity, as well as offer a measure of flexibility in that regard. You’ll find 13.1 cubic feet of trunk space—with the rear seatbacks in place.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Safety & Ratings
Regardless of the placement of a car in the MBZ hierarchy, safety is a very real consideration. To that end, you’ll quite naturally find the CLA45 AMG equipped with stability and traction control, antilock brakes, a driver’s knee airbag, front seat side thorax airbags, front seat side pelvic airbags, and full-length side curtain airbags. In deference to its sporting nature, the stability control system in the CLA45 AMG offers three modes so its aggressiveness can be somewhat dictated by the driver.
By and large, all of the modern electronic safety aids with which we’ve become familiar are available—if optional—for the CLA-Class cars. This means stuff like collision prevention, automated parking, parking sensors, lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring all cost extra.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Engine & Fuel Economy
Delivering 355 horsepower and 332 ft-lbs of torque, the hand-built 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine fitted to the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is touted as the most powerful four-cylinder production engine in the world.
A seven-speed dual clutch transmission routes the output of the engine to all four wheels—in extreme circumstances. In steady-state operation, the CLA’s powertrain uses the front wheels for primary propulsion, shifting output to the rear wheels as traction and other circumstances dictate. The system is capable of shifting to fully rear-drive if the need arises.
Among the performance highlights of the engine; a twin-scroll turbocharger producing some 26-psi of boost feeds the directed injected powerplant with variable valve timing. The exhaust system is one of the least resistive ever fitted to a production car. It also incorporates a butterfly valve in order to enhance its sound under full throttle and during downshifts.
The engine additionally employs multiple spark and injection events per stroke to increase power output and lower emissions. A sand-cast aluminum crankcase, forged pistons, and a forged steel crankshaft further enhance the engine’s performance potential. These factors are augmented by AMG’s ultra-slippery NANOSLIDE cylinder liners, friction optimized piston rings, and water to air intercooling.
Fuel economy, given the CLA45’s high performance nature is really quite remarkable. The EPA says you can anticipate some 23 miles per gallon in the city, 31 on the highway, and 26 combined. We averaged 24 mpg.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Driving Impressions
The CLA45 AMG possesses a dual nature, which can be a bit disconcerting at first. Set to its Eco mode, the Mercedes putters around town like an unremarkable four-cylinder powered car. The dual-clutch transmission shifts early and often as it tries to make its way into the highest gear possible, as quickly as possible, to conserve fuel.
However, when you decide to take advantage of the full potential of the engine, things get more interesting rather quickly. The sound of the engine alone is enough to get your adrenalin flowing, and the POOOFTS it emits during full-throttle gear changes sound just like those emitted by a Formula 1 car. It’s so thrilling; you actually envision flames shooting out of the back of the car when you hear it.
Acceleration is equally enthralling; the AMG45 AMG is an acceleration-hungry device, capable of compounding speed in a logarithmic fashion. It just keeps going faster and faster and faster than you’ll ever want to go on public streets. Particularly if you get the AMG Performance Package our test car was equipped with, which brought with it a 167 miles per hour top speed.
The other news is the ride quality. As our tester was equipped with the extra-taut AMG Performance Suspension Package, we can’t speak to the ride quality of the standard car, but our test car rode tighter than a new pair of shoes a half size too small. With seemingly no compliance whatsoever, this suspension system completely sacrifices ride quality to the Gods of outright roadholding.
The good news is the gods were wholly pleased with the sacrifice because the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG sticks to the road with unrelenting temerity. Nicely balanced, you can go screaming into virtually any corner. And, if the suspension system can’t handle it, you can count on the all-wheel drive system to pull you through. Eventually though, if you completely overcook it, the CLA45 will plow into understeer. But the limit is so far out there you have to be doing something incredibly stupid to find it.
And the brakes? Absolutely fantastic.
Long story short, if you can live with the ride, you’ll love the drive.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Final Thoughts
Still though, $61,590 for 355-horsepower?
Mitsubishi's Evo and Subaru's STi get reasonably close for considerably less. Of course, if you can make do without all the extras, you can get a pretty nice CLA45 AMG for closer to $50,000—but still, those two require less money.
Further, if you're going to spend $60k on a performance car, you can get a nicely optioned 662-horsepower Shelby GT500, or even a lightly optioned Corvette for that kind of money.
But hey, it's all relative—right?
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Road Test & Review: Pros & Cons
Outstanding performance potential, the cachet of owning an AMG Benz, terrific fuel economy…
Harsh ride, high price…
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