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We’ve seen it digital form and leaked pictures, and now comes the official debut of the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG. Affalterbach’s ultimate CLA proves to be more than a worthy extension to the bigger CLS 63 AMG’s legacy, the trendsetter among four-door high-performance coupés.

Characteristic AMG elements mean no one will ever mistake this as a cooking CLA. The twin blade grille and deep front apron gives it an unmistakably AMG look, as do the twin sport tailpipes peeking out of the large diffuser. TURBO AMG lettering on the front fenders and 18-inch wheels are further dead giveaways to the car’s performance capabilities.

The not-so-subtle hints continue inside too, with standard sports seats, red safety belts, AMG sports steering wheel with shift paddles, generous carbonfibre trim panels and the purposeful AMG gear lever. The three important letters adorn the door sills and instrument cluster too, not to mention all the AMG-specific menu selections.

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Just like the hottest of hot hatches, A 45 AMG, the super CLA has the most powerful four-cylinder unit in series production, a hand-built 2.0 litre turbocharged motor with 360 hp and 450 Nm of twist force. An AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed sports transmission matched to performance-oriented AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive makes the best of the engine performance.

Getting out a specific output of 181 hp per litre isn’t easy, and it took all of Stuttgart and Affalterbach’s combined knowhow. A twin-scroll turbocharger with charge pressure of 1.8 bar, spray-guided direct petrol injection via piezo injectors, gravity-die sandcast all-aluminium crankcase, forged steel crankshaft and pistons with friction-optimised piston rings are all called into action. Bits from the SLS AMG supercar are used for cooling.

0-100 km/h takes just 4.6 seconds with the RACE START function, on to a limited top speed of 250 km/h. That sort of supercar matching performance is hard to come by, especially when backed with EU6-meeting emissions and capability of returning as much as 14.5 km per litre on the NEDC combined cycle. The base CLA’s world-best slippery drag efficiency of 0.22 and Merc’s BlueDIRECT technologies no doubt showing their effectiveness here.

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As powerful as it may be, 2.0 litres is a very small engine by AMG’s standards. Getting it to sound like a proper AMG took some serious fettling too. An AMG sports exhausts system with multiple active flaps is fitted, giving it a rude bark and tangible aural dynamism but with hallmark Mercedes comfort on long journeys. Still not loud enough for you? There’s the optional AMG Performance exhausts for even more emotional and striking engine sound, otherwise the preserve of engines with more than four cylinders.

On the move, power distribution is fully variable. It can be a fully front-driven car in normal driving, but when the driving dynamics so require, the variable AMG 4MATIC splits the torque between front and rear axle up to a ratio of 50:50 percent. The 3-stage ESP can be turned completely off, perfect for hooning around. When speed and stability matter, ESP SPORT Handling allows some fun at the wheel with less intervention.

The CLA’s entire suspension system has been overhauled to meet AMG’s performance requirements. Sports suspension with specifically tuned spring/damper units and larger stabilisers provides high lateral acceleration and a reduced rolling tendency while Curve Dynamic Assist applies imperceptible braking force on the inside wheels to help turn in and cornering stability.