Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class

The first thing people notice about the CLA is its unique styling. Mercedes-Benz classifies the car as a 4-door coupe, much like its older sibling, the CLS. The comparison is apt, as the CLA borrows much of its design language from its bigger brother. However the base price of a CLA is less than half that of a CLS, making the CLA quite a bargain from a styling standpoint.

The CLA utilizes a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine in the base trim, which makes 208 horsepower and a very healthy 258 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard, with Mercedes-Benz's 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system as an option. The only transmission choice is a 7-speed dual-clutch unit, providing the efficiency of a manual with the functionality of an automatic. Performance is sprightly with good acceleration, while fuel economy is also respectable thanks to one of the most aerodynamic bodies ever sold in the U.S.

In the entry-level CLA250, standard equipment includes 14-way power adjustable front seats, an 8-speaker CD/MP3/Radio sound system, rear seat armrest with cup holders, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rain sensing wipers, heated mirrors, a 5.8-inch color screen, Bluetooth and an integrated garage door opener.

Options are plentiful on the CLA250 and include items like a panoramic sunroof, HID headlights, a navigation system, heated front seats, PARKTRONIC parking assist, a rearview camera, and a blind spot assist system. Equipment packages include a sports package with unique exterior details and upgraded brakes, an interior package with leather seating surfaces, a premium package with keyless entry and an uprated stereo, and a multimedia package featuring a larger screen and a 6-disc CD changer.

The high-performance AMG CLA45 features a hand-built turbocharged 2.0L inline-4 that produces a stout 355 horsepower -- enough to propel the car from 0-60 mph in just 4.4 seconds. The CLA45 is clad in unique exterior body styling, and inside there's Recaro performance front seats among other AMG-specific amenities.

With the CLA-Class being a bit smaller than typical Mercedes-Benz models, safety was a point of emphasis for the company. Optional safety equipment includes Distronic Plus, a radar-based cruise control system that can automatically apply the brakes if it senses a collision, as well as lane-keeping assist and blind spot assist. Standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and traction control as well as stability control and several airbags for both the front and the sides of the car.

Editors' First Take

The new Mercedes-AMG CLA45 is a freakin' monster of a compact performance car, with sleek "four-door coupe" styling, a trick all-wheel-drive system and a crazily powerful turbocharged engine. But in Europe, Mercedes offers a different version of the CLA45 that's even faster, and a second body style that looks even better.

The Shooting Brake wagon offers a roomier interior and more cargo space while retaining the rakish profile and fashion-forward vibe that the regular CLA is known for. And, not to sound like a broken record, wagons are just plain cool. Sadly, there's basically no hope for the Shooting Brake to come to the US, even despite the A-Class hatchback not being offered to us, either.

The CLA45 is only available in the US in "base" form with 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque from a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four, but Europe also gets a CLA45 S model with a bunch of powertrain modifications that results in a whopping 416 hp and 369 lb-ft. Mercedes says the CLA45 S Shooting Brake will do 0-to-62 mph in 4 seconds flat, a tenth better than the non-S, but it feels even quicker than that. In addition to the boosted engine, the S model also gets features like larger brakes, additional driving modes and a higher top speed. Most of the S model's upgrades will be available on the base CLA45 in the US as part of a package -- just not the extra power.

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