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Four Is the Furious: Mercedes-AMG Reveals New CLA 45

© Motor Trend Staff


Watch out, BMW M2 and Audi RS3: There's a new contender for the hyper-compact crown.

The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 lives again, now with far more power and performance than before. Packing the new M139 turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 engine—the most powerful production four-cylinder in the world—the CLA 45 throws down 382 hp and 354 lb-ft. A more potent version of this engine makes 416 ponies.

That's largely thanks to its turbocharger, which features improved ducting and low-friction roller bearings to aid response and deliver a maximum of 30 psi. AMG engineers worked to give the punchy powerplant a naturally aspirated feel, indicated by its 4,750 rpm torque peak and 7,200 rpm redline.

It's all bolted to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, which sends power through AMG's 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system. While front-wheel-drive based, the system constantly distributes power between the axles, and can deliver it variably between the left or right side.

With launch control, this drivetrain allows a 0-60 sprint of 4.0 seconds, on to a 168-mph top speed unlocked by an optional driver's package. Optional too is drift mode, which, like in its E63 stablemate, sends power solely to the rear axle for—as AMG puts it—"even more driving pleasure." Keep in mind the cost of the CLA 45's 235/55 R 19 tires before hitting that button.

Changes over the standard CLA improve dynamic response. Bracing in the engine bay increases front-end stiffness, while diagonal struts on the underbody tighten the rear section. Model-specific suspension elements, including springs and shock absorbers, work with adaptive dampers to provide driver-selectable modes ranging from Mercedes-soft to AMG-stiff. Additional drive-select modes adapt the car to conditions, whether around town cruising, wet road treading, or racetrack ripping.

Compared to the previous CLA 45, designers worked to further differentiate it from the base car. It now wears the AMG-signature trapezoidal multi-slat grille, which works with the squinting headlights to give the car a ferocious visage. The lower fascia features twin inlets to feed heat exchangers, surrounded by aerodynamic splitter elements. Around back, double double-barrel exhaust tips sunken into the diffuser blat out what's sure to be a delightfully crackly exhaust note. A trunklid spoiler and front bumper dive planes come with an optional aero package.

The interior gains visual distinctions including front bucket seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Lest you forget you're inside the sport model, AMG reminds you with available red or yellow seat belts, dashboard stitching and trim, and air vent surrounds (yellow trim is part of a special edition). Brushed steel pedals and door sills further the theme. Like the standard CLA, the 45 includes Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system. Here, however, it features AMG-specific readouts which show a g-force meter, manual-mode gear display, and engine data such as temperatures or real-time power output.

With the A-Class now opening the door to entry-level Mercedes-Benz ownership, the CLA is elevated as a more stylish, sporty offering. That's especially true of this new 45 AMG, which sits at the top of the range with the CLA 35 AMG below. It competes against other hardcore compacts like the BMW M2 and Audi RS3, and certain super-hatchbacks like the Honda Civic Type R or Volkswagen Golf R. Regardless, based on how the original CLA 45 performed, we're guessing its successor will be more than good—we can't wait to get behind the wheel.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 will go on sale by the end of the year in the U.S. Pricing has not yet been announced.

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