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Track day with the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG (pictures)

To find out if the diminutive four-cylinder Mercedes-Benz GLA45 is worthy of its AMG badge, we took it around Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca.

Wayne_Cunningham.jpg
Wayne_Cunningham.jpg

Wayne Cunningham

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1 of 22 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Mercedes-Benz handed its all-new GLA compact SUV over to its AMG division, and ended up with the GLA45 AMG.

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2 of 22 Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Unlike its bigger siblings, the GLA45 AMG uses a small four-cylinder engine, but a turbo and direct injection, and some expert tuning, bring it up to 355 horsepower.

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The AMG badge on the engine bears the inscription of the engine builder.

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The front grille conforms with AMG style.

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Flics on each front fender channel air away from the wheel well.

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Red-painted calipers accent the Jupiter Red body color.

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A front-wheel-drive platform, the GLA45 AMG comes with all-wheel-drive standard.

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The rear wing includes vanes on the ends for aero stability.

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Sport seats provide more comfort than the typical hot hatch.

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The GLA45 AMG can be had with Mercedes-Benz's latest cabin electronics.

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Like a proper AMG car, the drive selector is on the console rather than a stalk.

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Paddle shifters control the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

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13 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

The GLA45 AMG cuts a clean line down Laguna Seca's famous corkscrew.

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We used the CLS63 AMG as a baseline for what a proper AMG car should feel like.

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Launching into Laguna Seca's main straight, full throttle and fifth gear gets you to 100 mph by turn 1.

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The GLA45 AMG can carry a lot of speed through turn 10.

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Not as powerful as the V-8 and V-12 AMG models, you can floor the GLA45 AMG on every straight at Laguna Seca.

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With its compact SUV body style, the GLA45 AMG is fun on the track but can also be used as a daily driver and grocery-getter.

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19 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Heading through the Andretti hairpin at turn 2, the GLA45 AMG leans a little.

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20 of 22 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Leading out of turn 6, the GLA45 AMG has the horses to make the climb.

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The GLA45 AMG feels more like a hot hatch in the turns than its bigger AMG siblings.

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As a track-worthy car, the GLA45 deserves its AMG badge.

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