Mercedes-AMG calls the new CLA 45 4MATIC+ a "super sports car in the compact class," and after having recently spent a week in the sedan I'm inclined to agree. Entering its second-generation last year, the flashy four-door represents a selection in the AMG line-up that is relatively affordable yet uncompromising in performance.
"We have completely redesigned our CLA 45 - from the engine and transmission through to the chassis, the elaborately constructed drivetrain and body structure, and of course the design itself - all with one goal. To raise vehicle dynamics and the sporty driving experience to a level previously unimaginable in the compact class," said Tobias Moers, Mercedes-AMG board of management chairman, in a news release.
Lets get to the specs first. The car pumps out 382 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque, which is standard fare for a product coming from the brand's in-house tuner. What's unexpected is the method of delivery: a hand-assembled single-turbo 2.0L four-cylinder engine, one of the most powerful such examples in the world.
Step on the accelerator and the thing just moves, exhaust roaring, feeling like there are a couple of extra cylinders hidden under the hood. Pressing the button on the centre console bearing the adorable muffler symbol unlocks even more noise by electronically opening a flap in the piping.
Going 0 to 100 km/h takes only 4.1 seconds, but this isn't simply a straight-line shooter. McPherson struts front and multi-link rear suspension, as well as additional bracing, helps the vehicle negotiate turns with a decisive crispness. Also lending a hand is the 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system capable of sending torque to a selective rear wheel, making a drift mode possible when the optional track package is equipped.
In regards to the appearance, there's no two ways about it - the CLA 45 looks distinctive and mean. For starters there's the large grille boasting 12 vertical louvres, and underneath massive jet-inspired air intakes dominate the "shark nose" fascia. And ahead of the forward set of wheels a pair of canards, usually seen only on race cars, smooth out airflow and increase aerodynamics.
Ground hugging body aero is installed around the vehicle, culminating in a large black rear diffuser surrounding quad round exhaust pipes. The bright coat of Sun Yellow paint on The Epoch Time's media loaner guaranteed the turning of many heads while passing other motorists and pedestrians on the road.
Nearly as provocative as the exterior, the cabin is awash with supple leather, brushed aluminum, and high tech gadgetry. The dashboard boasts a bold AMG logo lit up by ambient lighting that is customizable in a rainbow of hues. In front of the driver, the instrument cluster is 100 percent digital and merges seamlessly into the infotainment touchscreen, creating a widescreen unit.
A dizzying array of information can be displayed, much of it related to performance, showing anything from G-force to engine data. There is a number of ways users can manipulate on-screen menus -- via inputs on the steering wheel, a refreshingly easy-to-use centre console touchpad, or voice.
The Mercedes-Benz User eXperience, or MBUX, is a virtual concierge ready to execute any command following the verbal prompt "Hey Mercedes." Ask her what the current weather conditions are, to turn the air conditioning on ,or how to get to a destination.
Featuring plenty of legroom for all passengers, a big cargo area, and decent fuel economy (an average of 12.9 L/100 km during my week driving in mixed city and highway conditions), the sporty sedan makes for not a terrible choice as a daily driver. Ready for one more pleasant surprise? The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of the 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 4MATIC+ is $59,700.