India is a market where the term “Pocket Rocket” is not very commonly used. Generally, people associate huge lumps of power and speed in large engine sizes and gargantuan bodies of steel. They think about the number game and if my car has higher power output then yours, mine is faster. What a great misconception!
They clearly have not heard about a word called downsizing or turbocharging. A technique Mercedes uses these days and created the absolutely stunning, CLA45 AMG.
So the CLA45 is not a particularly big car. It is almost the size of a Volkswagen Vento or if you cannot picture a Volkswagen Vento, then it is just a small car. It is technically a 4-door car but I am sorry, you would not want to let your well wishers have a journey sitting there. It is quite cramped and the windows are hilariously small, which reduce the amount of light the rear passengers get. Bad mark there for the CLA45.
Now in a car sized like this, roughly around 140 bhp would be more than sufficient to make slightly faster than what you call “sprightly”. The standard CLA200 petrol indeed has 135 odd bhp, which does enable it to keep up with the car next you in the chock a block traffic. It would do the 0-100 sprint a very respectable 7-8 seconds. Now I find that very respectable in today’s times. But then Mercedes upped the ante and turned the knob to maximum madness mode.
To create the CLA45 AMG, what Mercedes has done is plonked in a very tiny 2.0 liter engine but have fused it with a twin scroll turbocharger. This has made the cute CLA in to a raging monster pumping out a scarcely believable, 355 bhp and 332 lb-ft of torque mated to a 7 speed dual clutch transmission. To keep all the power in check and make sure the car is just not sitting at one place infuriatingly diminishing its tires, Mercedes has wisely fitted the CLA45 with all wheel drive so this means you always get the grip you need in a variety of situations.
Once you pull open the frameless doors (trust me more cars need this today), you are greeted to a very tasteful interior. The Steering wheel is partially clad with alacantara and leather. The seats are bucket seats, which do a great job of holding you in place and providing great comfort to the tushy. When you look straight, you are greeted to the SLS-esque air con vents, which look absolutely killer in person. Above the vents, you will see an iPad. Oh wait, that’s not an iPad but just a screen to show all the menus and stuff. Damn, I actually thought it was an iPad. But anyways.
Put the familiar looking key in the slot and fire it up. First think you will notice is how loud the startup was. Very AMGish there. Slot the aircraft controller looking gearlever in to D and put the suspension in C (Comfort) mode and this car is very easy to potter around the city. It is definitely much stiffer than a normal CLA but not bone jarringly hard as well. Then put the suspension in S (sport) mode and you can invariably feel the potholes filtering in the cabin now. This is not the ideal setup in a city like New Delhi. Definitely not. But then this sharpens up the steering response as well so you have to make the choice between a comfortable tushy or quick steering… A tough call indeed.
Come up to a redlight, and I put the car in S+ (Sport +, which is somehow more than Sport) and put the gearbox in M (Manual) mode. This means the butterfly valves in the exhaust open up and the noise that comes out from the exhaust is pure symphony. I build the revvs with my left foot on the brake and right foot on the throttle and as soon as the light turns green, I release the brake. In 4.4 seconds, I am doing 100 kmph and 10 seconds later, waaay past what I can deem legal or safe. Shifts are jerky from the dual clutch transmission, which can be operated from steering mounted paddle shifters. But heck when you accelerate that fast, and have such music to your ears, you do not really notice this.
This setup is so addictive and all I did was floor it. Then brake. Then floor it again. Then halt. The crackle and bang from the exhaust is so damn addictive every time I upshift near the red line. How have Mercedes managed to extract so much power and fun from a puny engine? How? Wizcraft? Can’t say.
At the end of the day, my fuel light comes up. I realize that all my hooning has lead to an abysmal fuel economy. My best figure was a 6.5 and my worst figure was 4.5 kilometers to the liter. Certainly still an AMG then. Mercedes has taken the compact idea a little too seriously and fitted a hilariously compact fuel tank as well in the CLA. This takes a toll on the range and your fuel pump attendant soon becomes your best friend.
So the CLA45 AMG is a small. Small boot. Small fuel tank. Small cabin (atleast for the rear passengers). Small engine. But definitely not small in power. The power is exhilarating and explosive. The grip is simply superb. The small car handles amazingly well. I think it looks absolutely breath taking, especially in this spec. Another thing that is definitely not small is the price. At retailing at over 80 lacs, it is a lot of money for the car. But heck, would you still want that 2 BHK apartment over this AMG?
And just when you think that is it… Here is the video review of the Mercedes AMG CLA45!