2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S Review: Giant-killer

Lionel Kong

The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S is a hunter of unsuspecting supercars


The Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4Matic+ is currently the most powerful series production compact sedan in the world, with 421 horsepower being sent to all four wheels. To put things in perspective, it’s just 68mm longer than a Toyota Corolla Altis, but has as much power as more than three Corollas put together. The result is predictably, crazy fast. 

It’s important to understand that this is a true, purebred AMG car and not a standard passenger car in ‘AMG Line’ dress up kit. This means that the car shares very little components with the base model CLA cars, and has suspension, drivetrain and engines built specially for a single purpose: to have the ability to go blindingly fast through any piece of tarmac it can find.

The 2.0-litre turbo engine has been fettled straight from the factory to give 421 horsepower, which is about as much power as what some 4.0-litre V8 engines are capable of. 

The cabin is pretty special too, and features a funky steering wheel that is neither round or flat-bottomed, as has been the trend in go-faster cars over the last couple of years. The steering wheel is actually kind of… square, with slimmed down sides and a flat bottom. It sounds strange when you write it, but in use it’s astonishingly good to hold. 

The sports seats are also integrated into the car and anyone with ideas to try and acquire them to fit into another base model Mercedes-Benz will be disappointed because it can’t be done. By this we mean that features like the side bolstering and lumbar support adjustments are integrated into the car’s software and integrated into the car’s touchscreen interface. They are designed specially for the CLA 45 S.

Actually, the car’s software has the ability to measure how well you’re hooning it about, with G-force sensors, lap timers, telemetry readings and even a drag race stopwatch for you to practice that perfect takeoff. 

And it sure does takeoff. When you find a straight, quiet piece of road to put your foot down, the CLA 45 no longer resembles a nice, civil little Mercedes passenger car but turns into a demented rocket. It hits 100km/h from a standing start in four seconds flat. That’s faster than a Porsche 911 Carrera, and it costs only about half as much. 

The intelligent four-wheel drive system helps the CLA 45 S stick to tarmac like a leech, and its grip through corners will likely still be there long after your courage to go through them faster has given out.  

The suspension is noticeably stiffer compared to a regular CLA and the steering is heavier, so while it may look like a luxury car it does ride like a serious sports car.

The sports exhaust can also be toggled on and off with a button on the steering wheel for extra noise-making antics, but for all its seriousness the car does roll around at urban speeds in a nicely civilised manner as well.

It cruises quite nicely on the highway too, where the transmission’s tall seventh and eight gears help to keep the engine revs low for better fuel economy and less engine noise.

When the mood strikes, which is all too often in this car, burping and barping about on back roads is fun. But if you’re on a five-hour drive to Kuala Lumpur you sure don’t want a loud engine drone to bore its way into your head and that’s where you’ll be glad for the sports exhaust off switch.

The car may be built to drive comfortably along the German autobahn, but its natural environment is really a winding piece of road, where its amazing dynamic abilities really shine. 

If the CLA 45 S AMG is a little too hectic for your tastes or simply too costly, there’s also the less powerful CLA 35 available in Singapore. It may be less powerful with 350 horsepower, but that’s realistically more than most of us will ever need unless you’re a track enthusiast waiting for the day Covid-19 goes away so you can go about setting fast laps at the Sepang race track in Malaysia again. The CLA 35 is also substantially cheaper at S$234,888 with COE. But the CLA 45 S is crazily good for giving Porsche 911 drivers a serious scare. 

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4Matic+

Engine1,984cc, in-line 4, turbocharged
Power421hp at 6750rpm
Torque500Nm at 5000rpm
Gearbox8-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h4.0 seconds
Top Speed250km/h
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
VES Band / CO2C2 / 189g/km
AgentCycle & Carriage
PriceS$302,888 with COE
Verdict   A stunningly powerful and dynamic sports car in a compact package


4-door 5 seat CLA 45 AMG S 4Matic+ CLA-Class Mercedes-Benz petrol sedan

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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