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2018 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG CLA

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2018 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG CLA Expert Review

By

KBB Expert Rating: 9.2

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is the least expensive AMG model you can buy. This isn't surprising, since the CLA250 on which it's based is the least expensive Mercedes-Benz you can buy. Yet, like its less powerful cousin, the CLA45 is no less a "real" AMG, despite its low price tag. With 375 horsepower from its turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, it actually outpowers many V6-powered AMG43 models, and standard all-wheel drive ensures 0-60 times around the 4-second mark. No, it's not very roomy inside, and there are a few cheaper-feeling pieces of plastic in there as well, but the CLA45 nonetheless manages to provide real AMG-style performance at a reasonable price, even undercutting its closest competitor, the Audi RS 3.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you've fallen in love with the shape of the CLA250, but your fast-paced lifestyle demands more power, then the CLA45 is the car for you. Its all-wheel drive makes the most of that power, and the aggressive styling announces your Civic-sized Mercedes means business.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you think $50,000 should buy you a bigger car, you'll be better served by making the small stretch to the larger (but slower) Mercedes-AMG C43. Additionally, considering the tiny rear seat in the CLA, you might be better served by a sports car like the $53,000 Porsche Cayman.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 9.2
  • 9.0
  • 9.2
  • 9.0
  • 9.1
  • N/A
How It Ranks
What's New for 2018

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 offers a new Performance Studio Package that bundles a Dinamica steering wheel with a yellow 12-o'clock marking, 19-inch wheels, performance seats and special yellow-highlighted trim.

Driving the Mercedes-AMG CLA
Driving Impressions

The 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 uses a highly turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to make its 375 horsepower. That is a lot of power, more than the twin turbo in the company's V6...

... used in the AMG C43, so the CLA45 also comes standard with 4Matic all-wheel drive to help tame the beast under the hood. Mercedes-Benz says the CLA45 springs from a standstill to 60 mph in about 4.1 seconds, and our seat-of-the-pants impression suggests that's no lie. Unfortunately there's a bit of lag, something you don't notice much when hammering the CLA45 around at full-throttle, but try to cruise and there's a lack of punch off the line. The 7-speed dual-clutch transmission works well, but we've felt smoother gearshifts in other manufacturers’ setups, specifically Audi's. The CLA45 ferociously tackles corners, and the steering feels spot-on. Ride quality, however, suffers thanks to the stiff suspension.

PANORAMA ROOF
Panoramic roofs are a love-or-hate kind of thing. They let in a lot of light, but they also add weight. In this case though, we'll take the slight weight hit in favor of opening up the CLA45's snug interior, and adding a smidge of headroom.

CLA45 ENGINE
The hand-built engine in the CLA45 is a gem. With only 2.0 liters of displacement, Mercedes-Benz has managed to turbocharge the bejeezus out of it, and the resulting 375 horsepower is the most of any production 4-cylinder anywhere.

2018 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG CLA Details
2018 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG CLA photo Interior

Like the regular CLA250, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 doesn't offer a lot of rear-seat room. Instead, concentrate on the front seating area, where there's a lot to like. Aside from the occasional use of price-sensitive materials, the aesthetic is what we've come to expect in modern Mercedes-Benz cars, with first-rate assembly. While it shares its basics with the regular CLA, there are distinct differences. The front seats, for example, are AMG-specific, with deeper bolsters and an overall sportier design. The steering wheel features Alcantara grips, and the gear selector is on the center console, instead of the column-mounted stalk on the CLA250.

Exterior
2018 Mercedes-Benz Mercedes-AMG CLA photo

The basic CLA250 looks like a shrunken version of the larger CLS sedan. The CLA45 takes that shape and adds the expected AMG cues: a more aggressive grille and larger air intakes on the lower bumper, rocker-panel extensions, a more aggressive rear end with a trunk spoiler and diffuser under the rear bumper. The AMG wheels and badging are almost superfluous at that point. New this year is a Performance Studio Package, which adds special black-and-yellow 19-inch wheels; yellow accents on the front bumper, mirrors, diffuser, air vents and sill inserts; and a grille with twin louvers in high-gloss black.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

As expected, the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 comes standard with a bunch of performance hardware, including the turbocharged engine, all-wheel drive and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. Beyond that there are 14-way-power seats with memory, push-button start, dual-zone climate control, an 8-inch infotainment screen with USB, Bluetooth, and a knob-type controller. On the safety side, there are eight airbags and a rearview camera. To help prevent you from trying out the airbags, the CLA45 comes standard with active brake assist to warn you about impending collisions and even hit the brakes for you, and attention assist to let you know when you're getting drowsy.

Optional Equipment

Options mostly come bundled in packages on the 2018 CLA45. A Multimedia Package combines Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, COMAND navigation and voice control. The Driver Assistance package adds active cruise control and lane-keeping assist; add in the Premium Package to get blind-spot assist, keyless entry, heated front seats and more. Leather is an option, with the seats covered in convincing-enough MB-Tex vinyl otherwise. An AMG Dynamic Plus package adds adjustable shocks, a limited-slip differential, higher top speed, and a Race mode for when you really want to push the CLA45's limits, safely under controlled conditions, of course.

Under the Hood

The 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder under the hood of the 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is the most powerful 4-cylinder engine from any automaker, anywhere. With 375 horsepower routed through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic to all four wheels, the littlest AMG lives up to its billing. Hand-built like its larger V8 cousins, it lacks for very little, especially considering the CLA's relatively feathery weight. Surprisingly, fuel economy remains pretty good, with up to 30 mpg on the highway. Some of the credit surely goes to the slippery shape of the car itself. Not surprisingly, the Mercedes-AMG requires premium gasoline.

2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (CLA45 AMG 4Matic)
375 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
350 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg

The Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for a 2018 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 starts at about $51,300, including the $925 destination charge. That's not cheap -- the much bigger, but slower, AMG C43 starts a couple thousand higher -- but the CLA45 is a pretty wicked little beast. Add options and, of course, you'll be looking at a higher price, getting close to the $60,000 mark if you're not careful. Still, that's competitive with the likes of the Audi RS3, the CLA45's primary rival. Before buying, check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their CLA45. The good news is that in the long run the CLA45 should hold onto its value fairly well.

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