The CLA 45 AMG is the second part of the new 'baby AMG' double act, and it's surprisingly different in character to the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG. That's despite sharing its mighty 360hp four-cylinder engine and identical performance figures. There's a 'but' coming...
In the metal 5/5
While the regular Mercedes-Benz CLA seems to divide opinion about its styling, the AMG version was met with unanimous praise and it's every inch the junior AMG car, looking no less special than its larger siblings. Even the AMG Sport trimmed models will fade into the background when parked next to one of these. The makeover is extensive and much more assertive than the regular car's look, but still not, in our opinions, over the top.
The interior comes in for similarly sporty treatment and, to our eyes, more successful than the A 45 AMG's, as it has less red detailing. So the air vents are 'galvanised' and the dashboard panel itself is brushed aluminium. The dials and instrument cluster are unique to the car too, and it retains the lovely suede and leather steering wheel as found in the A 45.The front seats are fantastic (though possibly too slim for those with 'bigger bones'), while rear seat access and space are not - and in truth, probably not too important to most buyers.
Driving it 4/5
It takes mere minutes behind the wheel of the CLA 45 AMG to realise that it has a subtly different personality to the A 45 AMG. It's less raucous, a little more comfortable and definitely more refined. Don't let that lull you into thinking it's a softer proposition; it's still a real AMG car and its performance figures are no different to the A 45's. So use the launch control and it should hit 100km/h from rest in just 4.6 seconds. And it very rapidly gets to 230km/h (when you have an autobahn to play on).
The damping is a little more forgiving, but it's still a stiff car. The slightly different weight distribution alters the stance a bit too, but there's nothing between the cars on the road really. The CLA would be easier to live with day-to-day, but optional items like the gorgeous larger wheels have more of an effect on the ride comfort.
Speaking of options, the wild optional performance exhaust that dominated our experience of the A 45 is more subdued in the CLA and we reckon it's well worth shelling out for.
Everything else is pretty much the same, including the strong brakes, quick-changing dual-clutch gearbox and direct (but not very feelsome) steering. While we realise that most people will choose between the twins because of an aesthetic preference, the CLA 45 AMG is the better everyday car - and certainly better suited to Irish roads.
What you get for your money 3/5
We can't score the CLA 45 AMG as high as its A-Class-based sibling here as, though we don't yet have the Irish price, it's expected to cost considerably more than the A 45 AMG. Admittedly, it has few real rivals (we doubt Audi has an RS 3 saloon up its sleeves), but even so, that's a lot of money for a car based on the A-Class, no matter how impressive it is. Thankfully it's loaded with equipment to help justify it.
Standard in the CLA 45 AMG is three-stage ESP with ESP Curve Dynamic Assist. Press the ESP button briefly and ESP Sport Handling is selected. More of the engine's output is sent to the rear wheels in this mode (though still only up to a maximum of 50 per cent), while the ESP system intervenes later. Hold the ESP button down for long enough and it'll turn off intervention - until the brake pedal is pressed that is. Built into the ESP system is Curve Dynamic Assist, which applies the brakes to the inside wheels to aid cornering and, theoretically, makes the car feel more agile.
Price difference aside, we reckon buyers will choose based on which they prefer the look of. However, the CLA is a little less hardcore than the A-Class version and better suited to everyday use. Regardless, like its close sibling, it's very much a true AMG car.