Mercedes-AMG GmbH, commonly known as AMG is a high performance division of Mercedes-Benz headquartered in Germany. Previously an independent engineering firm, Daimler AG became the sole owner of AMG in 2005 and is now a wholly owned subsidiary. As most of us know, AMG models are the most expensive and highest-performance models of each Mercedes-Benz Class. AMG variants are usually badged with two numerals next to the class-model as opposed to three numerals on the regular variants.
Mercedes-Benz India has been on a product offensive in 2014. So far, this year, the brand has launched the S-Class, GL63 AMG, ML63 AMG, A- & B-Class Edition 1, CLS350, CLA45 AMG, E350 CDI and GLA-Class. There’s still more coming our way with the GLA45 AMG, regular variants of the CLA-Class etc. The company has created quite a stir in the Indian market has successfully attracted customers with sales figures showing a positive result.
The CLA-Class is a compact four-door luxury sedan based on the W176 A-Class and W246 B-Class compact cars. Known by the code C117, the CLA range of models made their market debut globally in 2013. Although based-on and resembling the A-Class, the silhouette of the the CLA is more like a mini-CLS. The styling is clearly targeted to drive in the younger audience and we must add, the car looks brilliant. Arch rivals will be the Audi A3 and BMW 1-Series sedan; while other high end products from manufacturers such as Honda, Toyota, Hyundai etc. also offer models in this price range, with more space but less value for the badge.
One glance at the CLA 45 AMG from the front and it is evident that this is based on the A-Class hatchback. Front profile is identical when it comes to the design, but has its fair share of changes to justify the AMG badge at the back. The CLA, just like the A-Class squats low and is not a very tall car to look at. Hence, the front windscreen also appears to be significantly raked. The most noticeable change when you have both the A-Class and the CLA 45 AMG in front of you is that the sedan sibling does not get the stunning diamond grille on the AMG variant. Instead, it has a twin-blade AMG front grille painted in silver with a black mesh background. The front bumper gets aero fins below the headlamps, above the conventional fog lamp position and the lower lip, the bumper skirt is also seen painted in silver. The bonnet is redesigned with a total of 4 crease lines on it. The bonnet shut line also does not reach the headlamps on the CLA. Headlamps have the same styling element of LED DRLs and similarly placed turn indicators with a projector setup and silver accents around it, however, the headlamp casing has a slight change in the form of a drop just under the projector when compared with the A-Class.
Side profile of the CLA-Class is what most would love. Call it a sedan based on the A-Class or a baby CLS with respect to design, either way the car looks beautiful. Sloping roof line, prominent crease lines on the body panels add a lot more action to the car even when stationary. Side profile reveals a total of 3 crease lines; one from the headlamp to the rear door, one from the tail lamp to the rear door and one on the lower end on both the doors. B-pillar is blacked out in a glossy finish. Side skirt has the same silver inserts as seen on the front bumper. An ‘AMG Turbo’ badge is slapped on the front fender and below that you will find the 18″, 5 bi-spoke AMG alloy wheels in titanium grey. To add some funk, Mercedes has painted the brake calipers in red. ORVMs get the typical C-shaped LED turn indicators and the front half of the roof is blacked out. The panoramic sunroof pops-open over the roof and although it looks big from the outside, the opening from the inside is ordinary. We love that Mercedes has not taken chrome treatment too seriously and only let it pass around the window sills.
The rear end is where the CLA-Class stands out. The sloping roofline merges well with the boot and the overall rear design. The sedan squats low and the rear windscreen is rather small. If we could tag something amongst the best features on the CLA, it would surely be the tail lamps. The LED units look fabulous when illuminated at night. The bootlid is also neatly carved out around the tail lamp and maintains the curvy nature of the overall design. Below, the rear bumper gets a blacked out section with a diffuser like look in silver. On either side of the rear bumper you have 4 loudspeakers in chrome (read = exhaust tips). Just behind the rear wheel, on the wheel arch section of the bumper, you have a slit for better aero performance which apart from being functional, looks good too. A small shark-fin like antenna sits on the rear end of the roof.
To sum up the exteriors, the Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class is clearly the best looking compact luxury sedan money can buy and blows away the competition such as the Audi A3 and the upcoming BMW 1-Series sedan.
Open the doors and the frameless door design adds so much more to the feel good factor. The window rolls up / down on its own every time you open / close the door. Get inside and the overall dashboard layout is familiar territory compared to the A-Class. If you’ve been in an A-Class before, you will be at home instantly. On the CLA 45 AMG, you get contrast red stitching on the dashboard and the soft-touch leather finish on the face of the dashboard has now been replaced by a hard silver panel. Flat top and bottom steering wheel also gets contrast stitching and gets Alcantara upholstery on the grip area. The aluminium paddle-shifts fall right in place when driving in manual mode. Instrument cluster now features two protruding silver surrounds for the speedometer and tachometer. Each of these dials also get a carbon fibre detailing. An MID sits between the two with a host of driver information. AMG lettering is seen in the tachometer with a ‘sport’ backlit showing up with you switch-off the driver aids. Unlike the steering column mounted gear stalk on the A-Class, the CLA 45 AMG has a conventionally placed gear lever which replaces a storage bin. Sweet looking AC vents, AC controls, and the stereo system with the screen above remain identical to the A-Class.
The seats on the CLA 45 AMG mean pure business. Made by Recaro, these seats are built for such enthusiast cars. It gets contrast stitching in red and a hard silver panel between the seat and the neck restraint. Lateral support is clearly best in class with the car holding you in place when throwing around the car in twisties. With a bucket like feel, these seats might be slightly problematic for those who are on the heavier side. To add some more colour inside the cabin, Mercedes provides all 4 seatbelts in red, to match the detailing on the seats. Both front seats are electrically adjustable with memory function and the driver also gets an armrest. Seat height adjustment is satisfactory and will not be an issue for the shorter as well as taller drivers. Compared to the C-Class though, the cabin space is noticeably smaller. The front windscreen is so raked, that if you get the sun visor half way down, you cannot see anything that is happening on the road. One useless feature on any road going car in India is the heated seat. Manufacturers can drop this feature and should think of getting the prices down by a bit because clearly, very few here in India will want their seatback to heat up given that the window tint ban already allows a lot of heat in the cabin.
Jump into the rear seat and things haven’t changed too much over here. Just like the A-Class, even the CLA is good only for 2 rear passengers with the floor hump being not so 5th occupant friendly. This is even though Mercedes uses the MFA (Modular Front-wheel-drive Architecture). Seats are well bolstered and provide decent lateral support when the car is being driven enthusiastically. The contrast stitching all around breaks the all-black monotony. With the greenhouse being on the smaller side, one can feel a little claustrophobic inside the CLA. Also, rear headroom is in minimum quantity. So if you are anywhere closer to 6 feet, things are less than ideal. Front seat back is also hard plastic, hence it won’t be comfortable if your knees keep hitting it. Rear AC vents between the front seats do help in maintaining the temperature on a hot sunny day.
Press the electric boot-release button and the bootlid pops up instantly. But the space saver spare wheel eats up majority of the space available here. The CLA can carry moderate amount of luggage, 2-3 medium sized bags at the most. Spare wheel provided on the CLA 45 AMG was an alloy wheel painted in black.
Engine, performance and handling:
It would have been great if Mercedes offered a push button start for the CLA 45 AMG. Nevertheless, twist the key and the M133 engine wakes up with a throaty growl. The engine even at idle gives out a sweet sound which enthusiasts will love. The CLA 45 AMG is powered by a in-line 4 -cylinder, 1,991cc, turbocharged petrol motor producing 355 BHP of power @ 6,000 RPM and 450 Nm of torque @ 2,250-5,000 RPM. If you were wondering where does the car get the ’45’ nomenclature from, it is from the torque figure. Engine is mated to an AMG Speedshift DCT 7-Speed sports transmission which offers a perfect balance between city driving and mile munching on the highway. The car can accelerate from o-100 kmph in 4.6 seconds and has an electronically limited top speed of 250 kmph. Mercedes claims that this is so far the most powerful 2.0L petrol engine in the world.
Release the pedal and the CLA crawls easily in city traffic. However, make sure you are commuting in comfort mode when in traffic, because in sports mode, the gear shifts are a little jerky. Also, make sure you know the road well when taking the CLA 45 AMG out, because the ground clearance is too low and the car will scrape on most of the speed breakers. With a light foot on the pedal, the car is very manageable within the city. Driving over undulated roads does allow a good amount of thuds inside the cabin due to the stiffer suspension setup. Ride quality is about average when it comes to comfort. But then, the CLA isn’t built for those who want to drive around the city and be comfortable inside the cabin. It is meant for those long highway runs where you want to have some fun.
Get the CLA 45 AMG on the highway and floor the accelerator, the car builds the revvs and shoots with a typical AMG growl. Make no mistake, this is the smallest AMG available and the exhaust note is no match to the likes of the C 63 AMG etc., still, quite a earful. The gearbox allows you to revv till the redline in sports mode and holds on to each ratio till you churn out most juice from it. Want to have more fun? Slot it in manual mode and use the paddle shifts to upshift. You can revv all the way to the redline with the car not interfering or shifting up unless you press the paddles. It also gives you a visual suggestion when to upshift in manual mode. However, if you slow down too much, the car takes things in its own hands and selects the apt gear for the situation, but will later allow upshifts at your wish and will.
At kick-down, the low end performance is about average, but once you reach the peak torque band, the car starts making swift progress. If you floor the pedal suddenly, there is a noticeable lag and you can even hear the revvs build up before the car gets into action mode. If you drive with a heavy foot, the car will deliver a fuel efficiency of about 7-8 kmpl, which is not bad for an engine which can accelerate upto 200 kmph in no time. However, this is the smallest of the AMG range and a 2.0 litre for that matter, so we thought about checking how practical it is. Not that owners will care about the fuel efficiency numbers, but when we cruised on the highway for around 40 minutes, the car needed only 5.4 litres / 100 km which is a fuel efficiency figure of a brilliant 18.5 kmpl. But then, who cares…
When driving fast, the stiff suspension makes the car feel like its running on rails and does not loose composure at all. Also because the car squats so low, there is very little body roll felt when accelerating even in mid-corner, which if you try in the E 63 AMG, the story would get rather scary.
The CLA uses the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system which normally powers only the front wheels. But when the car senses too much torque being demanded, it can be shared upto a ratio of 50:50 between the front and rear wheels. This results in brilliant starts from a standstill even on imperfect road surfaces, or even during monsoon. Steering feels reasonably heavy even in comfort mode and we like it that way. It allows decent amount of feedback while cornering and does not feel too vague. Braking performance is adequate with confidence inspiring brake bite. With all the electronic aids in place, the car stops in a straight line even during panic braking. The frameless doors look brilliant, but there is very little one can do to reduce road noise with this design. Road and tyre noise does creep inside the cabin at speeds above 70 – 80 kmph.
While most people would compare the exhaust note to the bigger C 63 AMG and the likes, we think that the CLA 45 AMG does a decent job. Yes, it is not as loud as the bigger sibling, but still packs enough punch to attract eyeballs and move away traffic when you floor the pedal. The exhaust blip is also fairly audible and loud enough to leave a grin on your face.
One missing feature we must mention, is that for ~ Rs. 80 lakh on-road, Mercedes should have offered gas-struts top pop open the bonnet.
To round it off, the CLA 45 AMG is a brilliant corner carving AMG machine significantly under the Rs. 1 crore mark (on-road) and is also the cheapest AMG model in India. The car looks stunning as well and with that throaty exhaust note, nobody will miss you when driving around your favourite locations. Practicality on the Indian roads however is gone for a toss due to the ridiculously low ground clearance. But if you have a local track around, the CLA 45 AMG will deliver that exact feeling which Mercedes-Benz dubbed as #AhMyGod.