Mercedes’ new CLA 45 coupe is a hotrod, yet is surprisingly easy to drive gently in day-to-day conditions

Mercedes’ new CLA 45 coupe is a hotrod, yet is surprisingly easy to drive gently in day-to-day conditions

Yet another class has been introduced to the Mercedes-Benz range in Australia. The CLA-Class is a baby brother to the CLS-Class, a model that has changed the landscape in stylish but reasonable practical car and brought on a host of imitators.

Mercedes AMG engineers have given us an amazing 355 horsepower from a 2.0-litre high-pressure petrol turbocharged engine. A powerplant that’s the most powerful four-cylinder mass production engine ever made.

Sitting alongside the engine is a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual gearbox that’s beefed up to provide ultra-fast shifts.

Putting 265 kilowatts of power and 450 Nm of torque to the road through just two wheels would have resulted in the engine management system detuning the engine far too often. So an all-wheel-drive system was developed. The system normally drives only through the front wheels, with the rears being brought into action in a tenth of a second when required. That’s usually only on harsh takeoffs or during really hard cornering.

Though it could be classed as a Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan, Mercedes has elected to give the ‘A-Class with a boot’ a low-slung style. In doing so it has created a new model called the CLA-class. Like the larger Benz CLS-Class the CLA has four doors, but a sleek coupe body that can easily be mistaken for a two-door at first glance.

The hot version of the CLA is the 45 AMG model. It’s a great looking machine with a neatly integrated body kit to enhance its high-performance credentials. The slope to the roof at the rear is a major factor in this being the most aerodynamic mass production cars ever built.

Though every external panel of the CLA 45 coupe is different from those on the A 45 hatch, inside, the two vehicles share the same overall architecture. It’s attractive, with a strong emphasis on the sporting nature of this machine.

Front seats are well shaped and comfortable and there’s good stowage space. However, keep in mind that the CLA is a coupe so the back seat has limited headroom. The boot is a good size and easy to load.

Our introduction to the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG was done on the road, rather than chiefly at the racetrack as was the case with the Mercedes A 45 AMG hatchback a couple of weeks back. On the road during the Mercedes-Benz organised Australian launch out of Melbourne we were extremely impressed by the road grip and exceptional cornering ability.

When you build a car that can reach 270 km/h on the track you need to be able to promptly pull it up without overheating. The huge brakes on the CLA 45 AMG use cross-drilled and ventilated discs and can stand up to track use, meaning they have huge reserves of safety during road driving.

Best of all is the exhaust note, the baby Benz spits, snarls and carries on when thrashed hard; just the way it should be in any high-performance car powered by a small turbo engine.

At Phillip Island we tested the race-start system which electronically makes for the fastest off-the-line figures possible. Simply turn it on, put your left foot hard on the brake pedal, floor the accelerator completely and then let go of the brakes. It feels brutal and won’t do a lot for the longevity of some of the transmission components so should probably be best left for special occasions such as track days.

If need be the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG double-clutch seven-speed automatic can crawl along at very low speeds, something that’s not always guaranteed with this transmission type, as some others are jerky and can be a hazard in tight parking areas.

Driven correctly any high-performance car is safer than the standard model on which it’s based. That’s due to its improved chassis and braking dynamics, as well as its ability to accelerate out of trouble if that’s the correct way of doing it.

Mercedes has been one of the leaders in car safety for close to 70 years. Avoiding crashes and/or minimising their dangers is carried out by everything from driver drowsiness warnings to radar detection of potential crashes. There’s automatic lane keeping and blind spot warning systems. A complete suite of occupant protection devices ensured the CLA had no trouble getting a maximum five-star rating in crash tests.

Mercedes CLA 45 AMG coupe is a sophisticated hotrod from the high-performance division of the iconic German car maker. It provides immense driving enjoyment, and can even be used as a family car if the kids haven’t yet reached their hulking teenage stage – and aren’t prone to car sickness…

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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