World’s fastest hatch hits SA: Track drive in new AMG A45 (and its CLA cousin)

By Willem vd Putte Time of article published Aug 31, 2020

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PRETORIA - We can't tell you what they're like as an every day drive yet, but we can gladly inform you that on the track Mercedes-AMG’s compact A 45 S 4MATIC+ Hatch and CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ have put the compact super-sportscar theme into a class that seems difficult to match.

The clever people in Affalterbach have completely redesigned the 45 models from the ground up including engine, drivetrain, body and overall design, and South Africans as the third largest consumers of AMG products in the world, are going to love it.

And you have to hand it to the engineers. To be able to get 310kW and 500Nm out of a four cylinder turbocharged engine, making it the most powerful four pod in the world, is a remarkable feat.

Merc says the A45 S 4MATIC+ Hatch gets to 100km/h in 3.9 seconds (4.0 seconds for the CLA 45 S 4MATIC+) and while we didn't get to test it, I don't doubt the figures having given it a proper go using the launch control from the top of the straight at Zwartkops raceway.

Talking of launch control, for such a high tech car it's refreshingly simple. No switches, settings or menus to go through, just left foot hard on the brake, floor the accelerator and you're away with almost no fuss.

The power is distributed via an eight-speed dual clutch gearbox that changes remarkably smoothly and lightning fast and blips delightfully through a combination of an exhaust flap, which is automatically controlled depending on the engine speed and load especially in Sport+ and Race, and an optional Real Performance Sound piped into the cabin.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4MATIC+. Picture: Daimler AG.

Merc reckon that going into the future almost every car will be all-wheel drive and while it may still be up for discussion, the AMG torque control in the A45 is simply outstanding. Again, those clever people in white coats have put together two electronically controlled multi-disc clutches, each of which is connected to a rear axle drive shaft allowing power to be distributed between the front and rear wheels and also between the left and right rear wheel.

I managed to test it to the maximum purely by coincidence when I came in hard for a sharp right hand curve and before things got too hairy the car simply eased me through onto the apex, making me look like a complete pro.

It was the same on the skidpan in drift mode which comes with the optional AMG Dynamic Plus package enabling powersliding, and hence a big grin on your face as you twist the steering wheel and floor the accelerator.

Around the track I personally preferred the CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ probably because I'm not a youngster and prefer the space it provides and the lines with its boot, but also because the weight feels better distributed because of it.

Make no mistake, the hatch is fun to drive with its twitchy rear and front end that bites brilliantly before you power out of a corner, but drifting around a bend, to me at least, felt slightly more controlled in the CLA.

Both driving positions are very comfortable with the leather sports seats providing ample lateral support as you race around the track.

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4MATIC+. Picture: Daimler AG.

The flat-bottomed steering wheels too are chunky and easy to grip, especially with my large paws and there's a rotary dial to scroll through the various driving modes and a toggle button on the left for transmission adjustments, suspension set-up, traction control adjustments and exhaust loudness.

It's a clever solution that means with a scroll of your thumb you can select your optimum driving setting without having to scroll through and drill down into an on-screen menu.

Track driving also gives you a proper indication of the suspension because even my old Defender feels okay while driving normally but throw it into a bend and I'll end up on my side with no effort. Not so in this case with frequency-selective shock absorbers and optional AMG ride control adaptive damping system providing three different modes, both the Hatch and CLA stayed the course with very little body roll even after a host of laps around the track with wannabe racing scribes going hell for leather.

There's no doubt that the engine and drivetrain set-up in the AMG compact A 45 S 4MATIC+ Hatch and CLA 45 S 4MATIC+ has upped the ante significantly, they're engaging to drive, quick and responsive and provide big smiles all around and for now, deserve to sit on top of the compact super-sportscar selection.

Drive360

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