The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG is one bonkers car. Not only does it stand out in this bright yellow paint, but it has more power than some fully fledged sports cars. So then the question is, does it work on the roads or is it just a weekend toy?
Engine – Here’s the headline. 382 hp & 354 lb-ft of torque from a hand built 2.0L turbocharged engine. That is a lot of power to be squeezing out of a 2.0L engine. Some rally cars don’t have that much power and this CLA 45 AMG has it with a 4 year/ 80,000 km warranty no less. But if you’re reading this in Europe, you also have an S variant of the CLA 45 with 421 hp. Unfortunately, we don’t get this version in Canada but even with 382 hp, it’s enough to propel the little CLA to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. And you will be getting there in that time thanks to launch control and a 4MATIC+ AWD system that does not allow any sort of wheel slip on launch.
But squeezing that much power from a 2.0L engine requires a fairly sizable turbocharger. The problem then is a lack of power at lower rpms. It isn’t so much turbo lag because the turbocharger reacts quickly when it’s in the correct rpm range. The problem is a high boost threshold, as in, the engine’s rpms need to be at a certain amount before the turbocharger can provide the power to get the car moving. If you stomp on the throttle pedal below 2,500 rpms without downshifting to a lower gear, you won’t really be going anywhere. Peak torque comes in between 3,000 to 4,000 rpms with peak power at 6,500 rpms which is almost right at the 7,000 rpm redline.
As for fuel economy, EnerGuide (EPA equivalent here in Canada) has not released official numbers for the CLA 45 AMG at the time of writing this review. However, during my time with the car I averaged 11.0 L/100km (21.4 mpg) which is not bad considering how often and how hard I pressed the loud pedal. If you’re a bit more gentle than I was, you can probably squeeze 9.0 to 9.5 L/100km (26.1 – 24.8 mpg) on a combined city/highway drive cycle.
Transmission – Mated to the engine is an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. For the most part, the transmission is good at what it’s supposed to do. When it’s in Sport+ mode, the shifts are quick although not quite as quick as Porsche’s PDK dual-clutch but still very quick. However, in this drive mode, they can be felt especially when downshifting through the gears. But leave the transmission in Comfort mode and you forget all about it. The shifts are smooth and relatively quick in this mode.
Braking – When it comes to stopping the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG, 350mm front discs with 4-piston fixed calipers bring the 1,678 kg (3,699 lbs) body to a stop with authority. The CLA 45 comes to a stop more violently than it accelerates. However, if you’re mad and want more stopping force, you can opt for the AMG Track package which – among other things – adds 360mm front discs with 6-piston front calipers. This particular demo vehicle did not have the Track pack unfortunately. Automatic emergency braking is standard on the CLA 45 AMG.
Handling – Despite it being such a small car, the CLA 45 AMG is very stable at highway speeds. You almost don’t realize just how fast you’re going unless you look at the speedometer. Take the car off the highways and onto twisty roads and you’re in for a treat. Steering is fast and precise with a good amount of feedback to the driver. It is a little on the heavy side for daily commuting but for having fun, it is just about perfect.
As mentioned earlier, the CLA 45 AMG comes equipped with 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive. This system is equipped with a rear limited slip differential that can send power to whichever rear wheel has more grip. It can also overspin either rear wheel – depending on steering angle, throttle position, etc. – to make the rear of the car rotate more through a corner thus allowing it to accelerate out of a corner more quickly. This feature makes the CLA 45 feel neutral around corners without any hint of understeer that is usually associated with front-wheel-drive biased powertrains like this one.
But there is a way to have even more fun with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG. If you opt for the aforementioned AMG Track package, you also get a Race and Drift mode. Yes, Drift mode in an AWD vehicle. Unfortunately like I said earlier, this demo vehicle does not have this package. But head over to CarWow’s YouTube video to see this feature in action at the 3:33 mark.
Ride Comfort – For a car that looks like a boy racer and is meant for the race tracks, you’d think that it would be awful to drive on city streets. But you’d be wrong. The CLA 45 AMG is equipped with adaptive suspension that can change firmness depending on the drive mode or with a touch of a button on the center console. However, regardless of which drive mode the car is in, the suspension is smooth over rough city streets. Of course you do notice the softer ride in Comfort mode as opposed to Sport+ mode but even in Sport+, you can drive around all day without feeling any numbness in your bum.
Speaking of bums, the optional AMG Performance front seats are hip hugging but also comfortable for longer journeys. The side bolsters can be adjusted for different body sizes and there are multiple settings for the lumbar support. I took the CLA for a 300 km trip and I felt as though I could have gone for another 300 km at the end of my trip.
Interior Space – The CLA is advertised as a “Coupe” rather than a sedan by Mercedes-Benz. I can see why because the rear seats are very tight. Head room is pretty much non-existent and leg room is basically resting your knees against the back of the front seats. You do not want to be in the back of a CLA. The front though is much more spacious. There’s plenty of leg and headroom for tall adults and outward visibility is also good. Trunk capacity is small at just 460 L (16.2 cu-ft).
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Let’s start with the good. The engine makes a wonderful deep tone through the active exhaust system. It pops with each up shift and further pops and bangs when you let off the throttle. There’s also a hint of turbocharger spool up and blow off that you can hear from the driver’s seat. This car has all of the correct characteristics of an AMG vehicle.
Now for the bad. The interior trim pieces creak and rattle to the point of driving you crazy if you focus too much on them. The trim piece that annoyed me the most was the door handle. I had to keep my knee on it so that it wouldn’t rattle over every little bump. There is also a lot of road noise from the high performance summer tires that gets translated into the cabin through the suspension components. It’s so bad that you could distinctly hear every little bump or road surface that the car drives over. It is much worse than the standard CLA 250 that I reviewed earlier this year.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – In terms of standard features, the CLA 45 AMG is equipped with most things that you’d want to make a pocket rocket livable on a day to day basis. Heated seats, panoramic sunroof, the 10.25-inch screens, Bluetooth, satellite radio, remote start, push button start, automatic emergency braking, LED headlights, and power front seats.
But there are a couple of things missing that should be on the standard features list rather than on the options list. In my opinion these should include Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, Keyless go (so that you don’t have to take the key fob out of your pocket every time you open or close your car), and lane departure warning with blind spot sensors. Not sure why these types of features are not standard on a car as expensive as this but I suspect the marketing or accounting department may have had something to do with it.
However, there is one optional feature worth noting on the CLA 45 AMG. The Track Pace app; in fact, all new AMG vehicles have this app built-in to the MBUX infotainment system. The app lets you keep track your lap times across a range of real world race tracks. Once you set a baseline lap time, the system can also display a virtual guided line of where you drove as well as a virtual ghost car of your best lap time. But if you don’t see a race track in the system, you can create your own. There’s also a drag race mode to keep track of 0-100 km/h times and quarter mile times should you take your CLA 45 AMG to a drag strip.
Interior Design – Just like many other new Mercedes vehicles, the 2020 CLA 45 AMG’s interior looks stunning. It has just enough sporty touches such as the alcantara-like material on the steering wheel and seats to the luxury touches of the ambient lighting and 10.25-inch infotainment & driver displays. But as I said earlier, there are a lot of squeaks and rattles from the trim pieces when driving over bumps or rough roads. Also, some may not like the piano black plastics along the center console and air vents as those attract fingerprints, dust, and scratches like flies to a bug zapper.
Exterior Design – The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG tries very hard to stand out in a crowded parking lot. It has canards – or dive planes – flanking each side of the front bumper along with a splitter and a large Panamericana grille. Around back it receives quad exhaust tips (fakes) along with a split diffuser and a lip spoiler on the trunk. To the side, 19-inch matte black wheels encompass the big brake discs and have a faux center locking wheel bolt cover. The only thing that stands out like a sore thumb, are those “butt extensions” out of the rear bumper. They’re there because of Government laws. As for that paint, it’s a standard colour along with white or black. I think it suits the bonkers look of the CLA 45 AMG and you can’t say that you didn’t see the car coming down the road… no matter how hard you try.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG starts at $59,200 CAD ($54,800 USD) and this demo vehicle came equipped at $76,650 CAD ($71,650 USD) . That is quite a large sum of money for a pocket rocket especially considering that for an additional $250 CAD, you can get a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG with more interior space and a V8 engine. Sure it will be a base model with no options but it’s hard to say no to a V8 engine. However, if you still want a pocket rocket, consider the Mercedes-Benz CLA 35 AMG. The base price of that is $8,000 CAD less than the starting price of the 45 AMG and there are other body styles to choose from like the A35 sedan or the hatch. Sure you get 80 hp less but look at it this way, that’s $1,000 savings for each 10 hp. Don’t get me wrong though, I really enjoyed the CLA 45 AMG and it is a brilliant driving little sports car. But paying almost $77,000 CAD for such a small car with an interior that can drive you crazy is something that I just can’t recommend. Save some money and go for the 35 AMG, you won’t be disappointed.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca