Despite a good deal of skepticism from the press, the Mercedes-Benz CLA is going over very well with buyers. But now that AMG has put their hands on it, there’s even more skepticism. Just how much performance can the AMG wizards cram into this front wheel drive chassis? Well, how about the most powerful production 4-cylinder engine ever, and add standard all-wheel drive to handle it! Will that be enough to quiet the skeptics? Well, there’s only one way to find out.
We know that you’re jealous, and if you’re not…well you should be, because the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is one heck of a car, and unlike any 4-cylinder anything we’ve ever driven.
For starters, there’s 355-horsepower worth of four-banger under the hood. That’s the highest output we’ve ever seen from a 2.0-liter I4. 332 lb-ft. of torque is spun up with the help of a twin-scroll turbocharger with 11.9 psi of boost.
Technically, it is the same engine found in the base CLA. But like all AMG power plants, it is hand assembled start to finish by a single person with access to better parts and perhaps a little magic.
As the results spoke for themselves around Roebling Road Raceway’s high speed turns, or rather coming out of them. Where after a brief wait for the turbo to kick in full power, it was “hittin’ and gettin’” it on to the next corner in a hurry.
Even at full throttle things are fairly quiet inside, so it’s easy to find yourself in the rev limiter or getting an unexpected shift mid-corner if you’ve left the DCT in Sport mode.
Whatever mode you’re in, the 7-speed unit, which gets its drive logic from the SLS AMG works very well.
The suspension hasn’t so much been tweaked as totally revamped. Up front, the MacPherson strut gets a 3-link setup with all bushings and bearings stiffened.
While in the rear, the wishbones and control arms are ditched in favor of a 4-link arrangement directly bolted to the body; accompanied by a larger stabilizer bar.
4MATIC all-wheel-drive is standard equipment, and while it helps to mitigate torque steer by sending up to 50% of power to the rear wheels, it’s not so effective that you forget it’s a front wheel drive chassis. At high speeds there is still some tell-tell understeer and thus more than desired tire wear.
It takes patience to find a happy launch point, but much like your college education, it pays dividends almost immediately or 5.0-seconds to 60 in this case. We think it could be a half to three-quarters of a second quicker on something other than our freezing race track.
Power doesn’t exactly pour on, rather it sneaks up on you and all of a sudden 13.3-seconds have passed and you’re at the end of the quarter mile cruising at 110 miles-per-hour.
And somehow it remains a plenty comfortable daily driver. There’s virtually no compromise to ride quality. It’s nowhere near stiff, just more buttoned down. But, for added firmness you can opt for an AMG Driver’s Package with Performance Suspension.
Even Government Fuel Economy Ratings are not unreasonable for a high performance car at 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined.
That makes for a fairly good Energy Impact Score of 12.7-barrels of annual oil use with CO2 emissions of 5.7 tons.
The exterior of the CLA45 has been suitably toughened up with AMG’s “twin blade” grill, and aggressive front fascia with big air openings and small wings that channel air into the beefed up cooling system.
19-inch AMG wheels, matte titanium trim, and a rear diffuser with twin exhaust tips poking out of either end complete the package.
Though the CLA’s CLS inspired design means that visibility and rear seat room are both sacrificed to the god of style.
The interior is very nicely done with tasteful upgrades such as red stitching, red seatbelts, and alloy pedal covers that give a sportier feel without being overdone. And the environment feels more like a downsized sport sedan, than an upgraded compact.
Base pricing of $48,375 may indeed scare off some, but 50-grand is no longer what it once was, and when you consider that the next car in the AMG line-up is the C63 that costs over 10-grand more; the CLA45 is a great way to enter the world of AMG.
And that’s exactly what the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG is all about. Spreading the AMG fun to more people. And along the way, we don’t think the AMG name has been compromised at all. How can you not love a small, light, fun to drive car that is waiting to turn into a monster any time you want? We sure did. And it makes living the AMG dream a whole lot more attainable.
Engine: 2.0-liter I4
Torque: 332 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 5.0-seconds
1/4 mile: 13.3 seconds @ 110 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city/ 31 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7-barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.7 tons/yr