DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

Oscar Wilde once said: Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess. While that may be a stupid thing to say when it comes to food, with the calories found in our nasi lemak ayam goreng and what not, it certainly holds some truth in relation to cars.

Buyers nowadays expect more with their personal forms of transportation – more power, more safety, more equipment, more value, you get the picture. And with demand comes supply, so car manufacturers are more than happy to meet (and exceed) those needs, including Mercedes-AMG.

The famed acronym has been on a roll lately, delivering nearly 100,000 cars in 2016 – a 44.1% growth from the year before that (2015). Part of this success comes from the variety of options offered to buyers, including a few entry-level options like the A 45 and the CLA 45.

The latter is the topic of today’s review, with the facelifted model going on sale in September last year. The outgoing model is already a formidable performance car on the road, and blessing it with more power (what else can you expect from AMG) certainly sounds like a recipe for success following Wilde’s words of wisdom. Is it really? Well, we spent a few days driving around in one to find out.

DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

We’ll just jump straight into the part that grabs the headline here, the power. Under the hood, you’ll find a handcrafted M133 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the same as that from the new A 45.

This particular unit is the work of a Mr. Thomas Saitzbach, and produces 381 hp at 6,000 rpm and 475 Nm at 2,250 to 5,000 rpm. That is an extra 21 hp and 25 Nm compared to the previous car, sent through an AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which has been tweaked for shorter gear ratios, and Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

As you’d expect, the new car accelerates a lot quicker than before, capable of making the 0-100 km/h sprint in just 4.2 seconds (down by 0.4 seconds) with launch control. From there, it’ll go on to an electronically-limited top speed of 250 km/h.

To make sure all this savagery is delivered in controlled doses, the car comes with a new AMG Dynamic Select dial, with four modes to choose from – Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual (no Race mode like on the A 45 here).

The former helps to make sure the M133 mill consumes as little fuel as possible, decoupling the gearbox while coasting, and isn’t that exciting to the more youthful crowd of our readers.

Rotate the dial to Sport, and the powertrain gets more aggressive, offering drivers a quicker throttle response, shift times and rev-matching on downshifts. In Sport+, which you’ll want to use on track, the AMG Performance Exhaust button is lit, so you’ll know your ears are in for a treat, much to the dismay of your neighbours. If you’re the sort of person that still wants the loud exhaust even in Comfort mode (or any other mode), you can manually do that with a push of said button too.

Performance-wise, it’s an occasion every single time you put your foot down as you watch the revs climb, matched by an increasingly angry-sounding engine note. There’s a sense of terror and awe throughout the experience, before the crackle and burble of the exhaust “shouts at you,” and you move on to the next gear, starting the process all over again.

Make no mistake, the CLA 45 picks up speed at an incredible rate thanks to its power bump, so much so that the pre-facelift model seems “tame” by comparison. If you’re not careful with the angle of your right foot, you’ll likely be way past the speed limit before you know it, while being pinned in the snug AMG sports seat.

DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

If there is one complaint about the drivetrain, it is the transmission. If you’re progressive on the throttle, it’s superb and seamless as it cycles through the gears. However, if you’re just cruising and suddenly decide to stomp hard on the accelerator for a burst of speed, it takes the odd second before the dual-clutch unit acknowledges that need and delivers.

This can be remedied by swapping driving modes to the more aggressive Sport and Sport+. Alternatively, you can also opt to perform the gearshifts yourself by pushing the manual button near the gear level, but both options aren’t something that is catered towards daily driving.

All this power is nothing without control, so the CLA 45 gets AMG-tuned suspension and 4Matic to tackle corners. Unfortunately, AMG Ride Control two-stage adaptive dampers – standard on the facelifted A 45 – have been given a miss here, which is a baffling omission.

As a result, the Dynamic Select here only deals with the powertrain, but Mercedes has retuned the suspension to be more tolerable in the ride department, without sacrificing handling.

DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

It doesn’t show at first, with primary ride still feeling harsh when driving around on the crater-filled roads of Petaling Jaya. However secondary ride is improved slightly than the previous car, with minor bumps no longer upsetting your back as much as before despite the car’s firmness.

In terms of NVH, the exhaust drone is still pretty audible at highway speeds, even with the loud exhaust mode switched off. The large 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloys don’t help the situation either, with tyre roar that can make long drives unpleasant. These deficiencies shouldn’t be a big concern to the youthful but may put off more senior customers.

Then again, this is to be expected especially when you consider what the CLA 45 is capable of in the bends. There is no shortage of grip here, as the 4Matic system ensures just the right amount of power is delivered to both axles to keep you going, aided by the rigid chassis.

Turn-ins are sharp and direct thanks to the steering’s precision, with barely any body roll following after. Accelerating early out of the corner is non-dramatic, as the all-paw system does its best to sort things out, ensuring you get the best possible speed on exits.

While it may sound wonderful, you’ll still need to practice some restraint with the rightmost pedal as the CLA 45 does present a fair bit of understeer if you suddenly choose to unleash all 381 hp mid-corner. Also, despite the steering’s precision, it does suffer from a lack of feel although you can change its weightage via the aforementioned driving modes.

Even so, the car is happy to oblige you as your confidence builds, and you want to push the car further to its limits. It takes a lot to upset the previous CLA 45, and this one is no different. Should you want to break traction at the rear, you’ll have to force sharp changes of direction to do so. Even when provoked to oversteer, it is something that can be corrected with ease given enough space.

Once you’re done with your drive through the twisty bits, having properly excited your heart and ears, the cabin then calls for your attention. The main highlight is the large carbon-fibre piece on the familiar dashboard, followed by plenty of red highlights on the seats, multifunction steering wheel, seatbelts and instrument cluster.

Other standard items include the AMG Dinamica Cockpit package, where you’ll find the microfibre material on various contact areas, including the steering wheel, along with a pair of powered AMG sports seats.

It certainly makes you feel like you’re driving a racing car when you’re inside, and when you step out, that perception is amplified further. If the outgoing car wasn’t aggressive enough for your liking, Mercedes has gone ahead and given it more aggression.

The revised face now includes a new bumper, which features the same A-wing design from the updated A 45, accompanied by a thinner front splitter and canards. Less obvious items are the addition of full LED High Performance units and a silver chrome finish for the twin-louvre grille.

Some of these items are part of the AMG Aerodynamics package, which also include a black AMG spoiler, plus spoiler lips over the air outlets on either side at the back. Also at the rear is a new diffuser, now with four vertical fins that are displayed more prominently.

These upgrades only serve to make the CLA 45 appear even more of a street brawler than it already is. The stunning designo Polar Silver Magno you see on this car only helps to make the visual assault even more effective, although we’ve been told that it will cost you an additional RM2,000 on top of the RM408,888 for the car.

DRIVEN: Mercedes-AMG CLA45 – excess is welcomed

For the amount, which is a fair bit more than the A 45 (RM349k) mind you, the CLA 45 equipment list also includes a new, slimmer 8.0-inch infotainment display screen, linked to the COMAND Online system (now with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support), a dual-zone automatic climate control system, panoramic sunroof and a bevy of safety assist systems.

Coming to the conclusion then, the new CLA 45 is a perfect representation of Wilde’s quote, where excess is a welcomed thing. In a way, the quote is perfectly in sync with AMG’s philosophy of “just enough isn’t enough,” and there’s always room for improvement (aka more).

You may not had known that the outgoing model was “short on power” and yet, Mercedes decided to give more of it. Previous car was not showy enough? Here’s some more visual drama. Was it loud enough? Who cares, here’s an active exhaust system as standard. There’s no playing it safe with this facelift, it’s all about making the best CLA you can buy, excessively better than needed.

It may have a bumpy ride, lack of rear headroom (anyone taller than 170 cm will not like it) less than desirable NVH nor does it have keyless start functionality. But on the days where you can really put the hammer down in it, all that excess starts to make sense. You’ll then forget all about those “minor” niggles, and start believing that your last name is Hamilton.

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Gerard Lye

Originating from the corporate world with a background in finance and economics, Gerard’s strong love for cars led him to take the plunge into the automotive media industry. It was only then did he realise that there are more things to a car than just horsepower count.



  • One of the most enjoyable evening reads from paultan. Love the conclusion!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1
    • Kelab Penyokong Kunta on Feb 15, 2017 at 7:45 pm

      Superb review from Paul Tan. You guys must teach Top Gear how to write proper car reviews. I must say, Driven has the most balanced and unbiased view of cars I have ever seen.

      Pity this car is priced at RM410k. Not many Malaysians can afford it.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1
      • Sam Prabanathan Loo on Feb 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm

        RM410k, not a problem for me (will get this ‘sibling’ beast – A45 AMG as my additional car) with my side job as a pu**dua SA with ‘special package’ to hell…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14
        • Woi! Dats me job!
          Im the official sole P2 salesman here and only me can offer special package combo deal. Now buzz of me zombie buyers!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
    • nabill (Member) on Feb 15, 2017 at 9:27 pm

      If only they do sting abt the comment sections…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4
  • passion on Feb 15, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    CLA RM408,888.
    XC90 T8 & X5 Hybrid amazing bargains.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1
    • Kelab Penyokong Kunta on Feb 15, 2017 at 8:06 pm

      Not many people have sat in a CLA. It is sempit like the A class. So tiny. Most Malaysians cannot even fit into this car. Try and sit into a CLA, you will get a shock of your life. Malaysians want not only speed but luxury as well. Pity the M5 and the E63 W213 is unaffordable to Malaysians

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2
      • ducatiscrambler on Feb 16, 2017 at 7:11 am

        Our C-Class W204 feels cramped already, i wonder if they have sorted it out with next gen cars (including the A class). Cars today are a lot more cramped than cars of the yesteryears because they tend to use aluminium when it comes to the panels even thought they have bloated in size. The current gen 3 series is just slightly smaller than the E60 5 series, at least from the outside. Aluminium has high tensile strength compared to say, steel for a given quantity. But people tend to overlook the fact that, aluminium requires greater thickness especially at the A and B pillars to achieve the said effect, i think it has something to do with the manufacturing process and its property. Climb into the Range Rover and you would realise how thick the A and B Pillar is, and the same is most certainly true when it comes to other luxury vehicles. But hey, it presents the feel of safety to the passenger of the cars. Had a ride in the bezza, the B pillars are almost non-existent.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1
    • Sure or not on Feb 17, 2017 at 1:32 am

      Volvo for life. Because resale hancur . You keep for life.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  • Basheer on Feb 15, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    There is a big gap between the AMG CLA45 and AMG C63 S in terms of interior space and price. MB should put in the new M256 3 litre in-line 6 engine into the C Class for those who prefer a bigger car with more performance. Yes there is the C63 but its 4 litres and at RM700k it costs more than the S Class. The 3 litre should sit nicely between the 2 and 4 litre engines.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0
    • I’ve heard rumours from dealers that the c43 is coming to malaysia

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0
  • Holofanboi on Feb 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Gerard Lye, mah new favvy writer on paultan. Not as tasty as anthony’s articles but hey, being different is a good thing!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
  • Mikey on Feb 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    IMO, if U want a performance sport coupe but do not want 2 show off, this is a perfect car to own. It drive quite nicely on the road without being obnoxious. It will sit 2 young kids at the back & have luggage space to boot.

    If U remove the 45/AMG from the back, most will think it is a normal CLA until they smell the rubber & the rear view of the car plus some smoke. The only grouse i have is the A45-AMG hatchback is much cheaper & more desirable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  • salleh said what on Feb 16, 2017 at 10:00 am

    i’m glad im not alone to think this is a very well-written piece. keep it up. as for the car itself, it’s far beyond my reach but if i can afford 1, i would pick something else other than this odd-looking midget monster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  • Semi-Value (Member) on Feb 16, 2017 at 11:06 am

    CLA sedan car looks bigger than a class but so much tighter

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • Sure or not on Feb 17, 2017 at 1:31 am

    Sexy and fast. Salivating. Stopped drooling after see the price. Damacai, magnum, toto please lah let me touch….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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