By Joe Bruzek on March 27, 2013
Competes with: Audi S4, BMW 335is
Looks like: Honey, I shrunk the $95,900 CLS63 AMG into a compact car
Drivetrain: 355-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: November 2013; ordering starts this spring
Mercedes-Benz is looking to redefine what a "pocket rocket" is. The 2014 CLA45 AMG builds on the company's newest and least-expensive CLA-Class by stuffing a 355-horsepower four-cylinder into the four-door coupe. Mercedes says the CLA45's turbocharged 2.0-liter is the most-powerful four-cylinder engine built in a production car; it should propel the CLA45 AMG to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds.
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No other small sedan crams this much power into an entry-level luxury car. A base CLA-Class starts at $30,825, including a $925 destination charge, while the CLA45 AMG starts at $48,375 including destination charge. The CLA45's 2.0-liter engine uses twin-scroll turbocharging, water-to-air intercooling and a stout 26.1 psi of turbocharger effort to pull off its high horsepower. In traditional AMG fashion, the high-performance CLA45 AMG comes with only an automatic transmission, though the seven-speed dual clutch automated manual transmission is no ordinary automatic as the style of transmission typically offers lightning quick shifting.
The 4Matic all-wheel-drive-equipped CLA45 AMG is based on the front-wheel-drive CLA-Class' architecture; power is sent to the rear wheels only when needed. Otherwise, the CLA45 AMG drives with the front wheels for improved efficiency and splits torque up to 50/50 between the front and rear wheels for maximum traction, determined by wheel slip, acceleration, steering angle and speed. The suspension is beefed up for performance with more rigid suspension bushings and components plus specifically tuned spring and shock rates with larger stabilizer bars to reduce body roll.
The high-performance dedication continues with functional air vents up front to improve airflow and cooling, plus an exhaust system with a butterfly opening to change the exhaust from mild to wild.
Inside the CLA45 AMG are standard sports seats wrapped in Mercedes' MB-Tex artificial leather and microfiber with red stitching on the seats, door panel and dashboard. The CLA45 AMG comes standard with the Mercedes mbrace2 technology suite, 5.8-inch display screen, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth, power front seats with three-position memory and anthracite trim. A Premium Package adds an iPod interface, satellite radio, premium sound system and heated front seats. A Multimedia Package adds navigation with a 7-inch screen, backup camera and 10-GB music hard drive. A Driver Assistance Package includes safety features like blind spot warning, lane departure warning and Distronic Plus; the latter senses a frontal collision and alerts drivers while pre-loading braking power.
The CLA45 AMG's optional equipment is where performance fans can start to rack up the tab with extras like carbon-fiber interior trim, a performance steering wheel, performance seats, as well as an AMG Exterior Carbon Fiber Package with a carbon fiber front splitter and rear carbon fiber highlights. An AMG Night Styling Package darkens the outside trim with black highlights, tailpipes with black chromed finish and available gloss-black painted front grille.
Road Test Editor Joe Bruzek covers Cars.com’s short-and long-term fleet of test cars and drives a 1998 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Email Joe