2020 MERCEDES AMG CLA45 TEST DRIVE
2020 MERCEDES AMG CLA45 TEST DRIVE BY CAR CRITIC STEVE HAMMES
One of the most affordable AMG models has just been redesigned and it’s a live wire with tons of boost and a youthful spirit. This is the CLA 45.
A compact sports sedan that Mercedes refers to as a ‘coupe’ due to its plunging roof line, the CLA45 AMG debuted for the 2014 model year. I drove it and much of what was true then is still true now.
The little 2.0-liter turbo remains but AMG has turned up the boost even further, now capable of over 30 psi to crank output to 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque.
Let that sink in for a minute. The 5.0-liter V8 in my old Cougar made a measly 150 horsepower. So this car is even faster than before with an eye-opening 0-to-60mph time of 4.0-seconds flat.
And despite an extra gear for this dual-clutch automatic, gas mileage has decreased to a still very respectable performance car number of 23mpg with the driving range reduced to 310 miles. But these are all just numbers. How this car makes me feel now as compared to how it made me feel 6 years ago is about the same; akin to a kid a kid playing a racing game. This is AMG as a teenager after 3 Red Bulls.
Mash the accelerator and once that boost kicks in it’s all go, popping and snapping its way through the 8 gears while providing that elemental go-cart-like experience. You like to feel the road?
The CLA45 is your car as even this optional, adaptive sport suspension seems as though it has forgone springs.
Avoid pot holes at all cost lest you suffer a spine injury and do damage to these awesome, matte black 19” wheels wrapped in summer-use Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires. Shifts happen at lightning speed and when you’re really feeling frisky keep dialing all the way to Sport S+ where high-revving, big sound, neck-snapping driving awaits.
Here’s what you need to know. The CLA is all about big turbo punch and road feel. This is one of, if not the, stiffest rides you can buy regardless of drive mode. It’s going to shove you into your seat and take off like a rocket but in a very controlled way. But you’ve got to love the turbo life and not be offended by a nearly brittle ride and lots of tire noise. If you’re ok with that the CLA is going to deliver on fun. Whatever you do though don’t pass on these Recaro seats; they are perfect.
With an all-wheel drive system that’s fully variable front to rear as well as from side to side on the rear axle – i.e, torque vectoring – this front-wheel drive based car is confidently predictable in its moves when driven hard with a touch of understeer taking hold when you’re nearing the limits. If there’s one aspect that could use some more AMG honing it’s in the steering which can feel a little numb.
If you opt for the $4,300 AMG Dynamic PLUS package – absent here – you’ll even have access to Race and Drift modes. The suede-like grips on the AMG steering wheel make for an excellent primary control and the performance seats with their adjustable side bolsters are still right there among the best of all time. Motoring around in Comfort or Slippery modes calms everything down but there’s still an edge to this car that makes it seem as if it just always wants to run. High-end performance controls, Track pace measuring and sport gauges really give you that race day feel.
You know who’s at the peak of the car interior game? Mercedes. They’re killing it and this CLA’s might just be their best yet. It perfectly coveys the car’s AMG image and at night it’s off the charts.
This cabin is special…the graphics, design of the trim, the lighting, the screens…it stimulates the senses. The latest Mercedes infotainment is variably controlled, mostly easy to use and chock full of tech which flows over to the fully customizable information center.
No heads-up display here but one is available.
As for occupant transport, the rear seats can feel a little claustrophobic with not much greenhouse, flat bottoms and close quarters all around. But the coupe-like styling works and this Polar White example with the AMG Night Package makes for a striking contrast of colors.
Base price is about $56,000 but this one, just about fully loaded, takes the MSRP to nearly $74,000. I think this car is pretty cool and the feature content makes it feel especially modern, upscale and sporty but I’m not necessarily sure how someone with that kind of money ends up here. But if they do I can guarantee they’ll have a heck of a time.