A Mercedes, with the possible exception of the puny A-Class, is never going to be affordable. The CLA 45 AMG, for example, is over $47,000 and pretty much unattainable by most motorists out there. What this car is, though, is a bit of a bargain considering the level of performance and sophistication you get. At this price, the comparable BMWs and Audis are much less exciting by comparison. As old a brand as Mercedes is, they seem to always have a surprise in store.
Why they're calling this car the CLA 45 is a mystery, because the engine is a 2.0 liter unit with a single Borg Warner turbocharger. It does, however, put up horsepower numbers that you might expect from a 4.5 liter motor, 360 to be exact. It's currently the most powerful production four-cylinder turbo in the world, and will make this surprisingly small but practical sedan really scoot. Zero to sixty comes in around 4.6 seconds and top speed, like all high performance German sedans these days, is limited to 155 miles per hour. The transmission is, unfortunately, only available as a dual-clutch seven-speed semi-automatic. All-wheel-drive is standard as well, making for big grip rather than the tail happy shenanigans of some of this car's rear-drive AMG cousins. The odd thing about the all-wheel-drive is that the CLA 45 is really designed to run as a front-drive (it shares a basic platform with the A 45 that they will have in Europe), but sends power to the back when needed and in the car's Sport mode will send a lot more torque to the back.
At the New York Auto Show in March of 2013, Mercedes introduced this latest offering to an intrigued crowd. The CLA 45 AMG is an unusual, but not new, move for Mercedes-Benz. With this small, reasonably priced entry into AMG motoring, this car is going after a younger market and a different type of driver. Not since the 190E of the 1980s have we really seen a hot little Mercedes like this, and even though Mercedes is an old name, this is a fresh alternative to the offerings from BMW and Audi like the various iterations of the 1 and 3-Series and the S4/RS4.
The dynamic performance and the price set this small AMG apart, but the same can't exactly be said about its looks. Other than the sporty black wheels, the scoops behind the rear wheels and the dual exhausts, there isn't much about the styling that shouts performance. The inside is certainly a little sportier, with all the right mixtures of carbon fiber, aluminum and red stitching.
The CLA 45 AMG is definitely refreshing. Such brutal power from a turbo four was previously only found in Subaru WRX's and Mitsubishi Evos. It is also a nice step out of the box for AMG. They have given the world some amazing engines, but they have typically had a lot of size and a lot of cylinders. With this car, Mercedes really is trying to attract some new folks to the three-pointed star, and as the 2014 model year rolls around, we'll see how that works out for them.