2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 First Look Review: US Gets Shortchanged

First Look / 3 Comments

Why can't we have the A-Class hatchback or the more powerful S model?

Mercedes-Benz remains deadlocked in a battle with Audi and BMW, each vying to be the best luxury automaker in the world. In order to remain on top, each of the three German automakers needs to make constant improvements, building more powerful vehicles with every new generation. As the sales battle rages on, Mercedes-AMG and BMW's M Division have expanded their respective lineups with all-new models ranging from the entry level to large SUVs.

The CLA 45 represented the entry-level AMG product for the US and now the "baby AMG" has been updated for the 2020 model year. It joins a new A45 (which remains for Europe-only) as the least expensive, fully-fledged AMG models but are the updates enough to keep it competitive with what Audi and BMW have in the works?

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Exterior Design: An Aggressive Evolution

The CLA was always an attractive car but this new generation is even more beautiful. It retains the old car's coupe-like roofline but the rear end looks less droopy than before. AMG has differentiated the 45 model from the lesser 35 and 250 models using the Panamerica grille found on larger AMG models. The exterior has been festooned with standard 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, and air ducts on the front fenders, giving the CLA 45 an aggressive look. We do prefer the rear end styling of the A45 hatchback but beggars can't be choosers since the A45 won't come stateside. Expect a GLA 45 model in the near future, which should closely resemble the A45's styling, albeit with a higher driving position.

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Interior: This Is The Baby Mercedes?

Benefiting from the interior of the all-new CLA-Class, the CLA 45's interior looks wonderful. If the cheapest AMG product looks this good inside, it is hard to imagine how nice the next-generation S-Class will look. Aggressive sport seats come standard but those racing buckets will hopefully be optional for buyers who want to forgo comfort in exchange for more bolstering. All of the screens, including the 10.25-inch MBUX infotainment system and 10.25-inch Digital Instrument Cluster, are standard kit, so you'll be able to say 'Hey Mercedes, take me to the nearest race track.'

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Performance: Is It Enough?

Power comes from a new 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque, which is an increase of 7 hp and 4 lb-ft over its predecessor. The turbo grunt is sent to 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system through an eight-speed DCT and the 0-60 mph time is estimated at around four seconds. While the CLA 45 sounds like it will be fast enough, the current Audi RS3 is quicker to 60 mph and the RWD BMW M2 can match it when optioned with the DCT.

The M139 engine is available in a 416-hp state of tune for the CLA 45 S and A45 S, but those models have only been confirmed for Europe. It seems like the US got the short end of the stick here and when Audi introduces a new RS3 with even more power, Mercedes may need to respond by bringing the S models stateside.

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Will It Sell?

Comparing the CLA 45 to the RS3 and M2 is just simple nitpicking and Mercedes will likely sell a ton of them. With the CLA 35 and A35 set to compete with the Audi S3 and upcoming BMW 2 Series Gran Coupe, the CLA 45 will act as the next step up for those who need more than 302 hp. The CLA 45 has a newer interior than the RS3 or M2 and the styling is far more eye-catching, which should attract plenty of buyers away from Aud and BMW. Mercedes hasn't announced pricing but we expect it to remain close to the outgoing car's starting MSRP of $53,100.

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