Think of the new CLA AMG as a car with the lithe reflexes and raw power of a Sukhoi-30 fighter jet and the luxury and comfort of a business class seat in an Airbus A 330 jetliner. You know what we mean. After all, it is the most powerful four cylinder production car in the world. But more on that later. The CLA is also the fifth AMG to be launched into India in the last twelve months and also the cheapest one as yet. All clear indications that Mercedes wants to regain the number one luxury carmaker status here in India.
Pictures don’t really do justice to this car and you have to see it in metal to appreciate its good looks. The CLA is essentially a booted version of the A-class hatchback and that means it is based on an already good looking car. The AMG version just pushes the sexy quotient to another level. The big swept back headlamps with the LED daytime lamps along with the big grille with the three-pointed star make it stand out. The sweeping roofline at the backalong with the quadruple exhausts shout out hotness while the compact rear along with the pronounced wheel arches which house the 18-inch wheels are a clear give away about this car’s performance lurking under the bonnet. While there are other colours on sale, it looks particularly dramatic in this shade of red pictured here. You also get the sporty looking diffuser under the rear bumper, and large air intakes in the front bumper.
Just like the exteriors the interiors are a special place to be in. If you have been inside an A-class before then this cabin will be very familiar. You get the same triple circular air vents in the middle of the dash board. There is also a tab-like central screen which shows you the operations of the car’s COMAND centre operated via a circular button on the central console. Cabin quality is absolutely first rate and everything looks and feels as if it is made from the best materials. You also get Recaro racing seats, which offer good amounts of support all across. The rear seats offer good amounts of leg and shoulder room, while headroom is just about decent.
Engine, performance and gearbox
The CLA AMG is powered by a 2-litre turbo charged petrol motor that pumps out 360bhp of raw power and 450Nm of torque. The AMG CLA uses Merc’s 4Matic four-wheel-drive system, but in theory it’s primarily front-wheel drive most of the time, with extra power being sent to the rear wheels when the on-board computers deem it necessary.The gearbox is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The transmission has three modes – Comfort, Sport and Manual – the last of which will hold gears all the way to the rev meters redline until you pull the paddle shifters at the back of the steering wheel. In comfort mode, the gearshifts are a bit slow while the sport mode they hold onto the revs much longer and feel a lot crisper.
Performance as expected is bonkers. We managed to touch speeds in excess of 240kph pushing this car on the back straight of the Budh International Circuit(BIC). However, most AMG fans will miss the strong and sporty engine note from the exhaust, which feels a bit muted when compared to the performance on hand.
Ride and handling
There is plenty of grip from those chunky tyres however, being primarily a front wheel drive car means that you will have to negotiate understeer, although the 4-matic system steps in if necessary. The steering itself is well weighted – its light and crisp around town and adds more weight when you head on a faster highway road. This makes the car very easy to manoeuvre around town traffic.
The suspension also does a great job of taking the harsh edge out of most potholed roads but is pliant enough for highway travel offering a reassuring ride as speeds build. There is minimal body roll when you push it into a corner and the CLA AMG is always very sure-footed.
Safety and equipment
Being a AMG car means the CLA comes very well equipped. You get 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate as well as cruise controls, automatic headlamps and wipers, rear parking sensors, xenon headlightsalong with ABS, multiple airbags as well as traction control and a host of other safety kit to keep you and your loved ones safe. There is also a 470-litre boot space to aid practicality.
Though other rivals have plans of entering this category as of now there is no direct rival on offer to the CLA 45 AMG, which gives it a unique place in the market.
With looks to kill and performance to match, it’s easy to see why the Mercedes launched the hot AMG version of the CLA before the regular version. At a price of Rs 68.50 lakh(ex-showroom, Delhi) its well worth the price for performance seekers.