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29 Oct 2020

What We Dislike
Very boost-reliant engine
Lacks finesse

Packing a 416bhp 2.0-litre engine, the new CLA45 S brings a new level of power and performance to the compact class.

How do we value performance? Is it simply about power? When it comes to performance motoring, power is undeniably important. 0-100km/h timings, bhp figures, it's all part and parcel of the gamesmanship that comes with owning a performance car.

But power isn't an infinite, abstract quality. It exists in the real world, and that means coming to terms with the fundamental laws of physics.

So, how much power can a compact performance car have? How much should it have? 10 years ago, a Mk6 Golf GTI had 207bhp. Five years ago, the number seemed to be somewhere north of 300bhp. With the ever expanding arms race, we've now reached the point where a compact, 2.0-litre car is pushing upside of 400bhp.

Say what?

The AMG-specific radiator grille is available for the first time on a compact class model
This here is the new CLA45 S, the newest fire-breathing member of the AMG family.

The car isn't shy about its performance capabilities. With its aggressive front fascia, stout stance, flared arches and quad-exhaust rear, the CLA45 is certainly eye-catching. Good-looking? I'm not sure. The grille is a little too shouty for my personal tastes. But, it's fitting that this car's loud looks match its loud character.

The interior is familiarly AMG - a modern, high-tech Mercedes cabin dotted with sporty (read: red) detailing.

Performance, then...

The AMG boffins have somehow managed to extract 416bhp and 500Nm of torque out of a 2.0-litre engine
Let's get the big numbers out of the way first. The 2.0-litre engine pumps out a slightly ridiculous 416bhp and 500Nm of torque. 0-100km/h takes just four seconds (FOUR!). Top speed is 270km/h.

For some perspective, this car has more power (and just a tad less torque) than a C43 with a 3.0-litre engine, and has the same 0-100km/h timing as a (albeit heavier) C63 S with its 4.0-litre engine. Both of those cars are facelifted 2019 models. So, what the actual hell.

The outright performance capability of this CLA45 is shocking. Full bore acceleration kicks you violently in the back of the head on each upshift, and the car absolutely embarasses just about anything else on four wheels. 

With the car's ability to get to 100km/h in just four seconds, you're certainly not going to be losing many drag races
The car rides firmly but reasonably, and handling is sharp and assured, thanks in part to the all-wheel drive system. However, if you have your foot fully down, I'm 100% sure that you're not thinking about anything else other than how damn fast you are going.

The CLA45 is massive out of corners, too. The 4MATIC+ system smartly shuffles power around, so when you put your foot down early, the car just shoots out of a corner in a way that is sometimes mind-bending. It's not exactly delicate, but damn is it effective.

Is there such a thing as too much power, though? 

The massive brakes help you to shed all the speed that you will invariably be carrying
This engine is extremely boost reliant, and it has to be. The laws of physics still hold, after all. To extract this much power of a (relatively small) 2.0-litre, Mercedes has done a ton of complicated fiddling with the engine.

It does mean that the car's feral character only comes alive above 3,000rpm. Below that, it's slightly lacklustre, as you wait for boost to build. This also means that if you leave it in the wrong gear while driving manually, power can take quite a while to come - sometimes, you can be on 50% throttle and still be waiting for the power to come. 

Sounds a little mad... 

The raw performance capabilities of the CLA45 S are quite astounding
To fully appreciate and use the car's monstrous performance, you have to drive it in Sport or Sport+ mode, and let the car do the complicated job of hunting the right gear such that you're always on boost. Do that, and the CLA45 is a right hoot.

What the car lacks in delicacy or driving nuance, it makes up for in sheer power and raw pace. And hey AMGs have never been known as delicate machines, eh? As a feat of engineering, the CLA45 is impressive. That Mercedes has managed to wring this much power out of a 2.0-litre engine is nothing short of black magic. Right now, it can claim the 'most powerful series production compact car' crown.

When it comes to power, the CLA45 S literally gives you absoutely bragging rights within its class
I'm personally unconvinced by this formula. Perhaps I don't judge performance simply via power figures, but I don't think a compact car should have this power. But then again, I'm exactly the sort of buyer that AMG doesn't care for.

In this arms race, numbers matter. And for drivers who care about these things, this car is sure to tingle their senses. Having the most powerful 2.0-litre engine ever produced is undeniable bragging rights.

And all those people who pull up next to you at the red light muttering on about how power isn't everything? Hit the gas, and they'll be far too small in your rear view mirror for you to hear them.

Need to see just what 416bhp means in this CLA 45S? We have just the thing...

Also read our comparison article on:
Mercedes-Benz CLA180 vs BMW 216i Gran Coupe
Car Information


: $416,888

Engine Type


4-cylinder in-line 16-valve Turbocharged

Engine Cap





310kW (416 bhp) / 6750 rpm



500 Nm / 5250 rpm




Acceleration (0-100 km/h)



Top Speed



Fuel consumption



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mercedes  amg  cla 45  cla45  a45  amg 45  mercedes amg  amg  cla  cla-class