How I Would Spec It: 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA45

by   Anthony Fongaro

Beyond creating niches within niches, automakers make sure that cars literally have no competition. Want a luxury wagon? You have about two to three choices now. Convertibles are also dwindling in number. One of the most interesting aspects of having almost no competition includes vehicles with powerful engines that are not needed. The culprit I’m thinking of behind this is Mercedes-Benz and their sports division, Mercedes-AMG. AMG creates some powerful vehicles, but there usually is some competition. That’s not the case with a certain vehicle. Funny enough, this is a sub-compact four-door coupe.

Have you ever jumped into a vehicle and thought “oh my goodness, this is so unnecessary but hilarious”? That’s how I felt when I did a very short drive of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA45. AMG really hit it out of the ballpark with the 45 series. These 2.0-liter engines are the most powerful I4 engines ever created for a mass-production car. Ready for the stats? 382-horsepower and 354 lb-ft. Those are numbers close to some V8s of a few years ago. Pure AMG engines are handcrafted and this engine has an 8-speed automated manual and standard all-wheel-drive.  0-60 is a claimed 4.0 seconds but it’s probably lower. Can you get the CLA35 for 8/10 the power? Sure, and you can save over $10,000, but why do that when you have bragging rights?

$55,000 is quite a lot of money for a sub-compact car, but it is the entry point for a Mercedes-AMG. Standard features are exactly what you would think for a Mercedes. The exterior boasts an aggressive Panamerica grill, extra aerodynamics, and 19” AMG twin five-spoke wheels. Interestingly, there are three standard colors: black, white, and yellow. I never would have thought that yellow would be a no-cost color. The lights are LED for both the headlamps and taillamps as well as the Daytime Running Lamps. A large panoramic sunroof is and finally, there is hands-free access to let you open the trunk by doing a kick motion under the rear bumper to open the trunk.

Moving inside, we get the 10.25” digital instruments and infotainment systems that are options on lesser models. These are fantastic and I’m glad that for your money, AMG chucks those in. Paired to the touchscreen infotainment screen is a touchpad that’s quite easy to use. AMG uses Mercedes’s latest MBUX which comes with voice commands and BlueTooth.  Both Apple CarPlay and Android are also free of charge. Make sure to invest in some USB-C cables since those are the only USB ports in the CLA.

Along with regular CLAs, the AMG CLA45 comes with a dynamic system but with added AMG flair. Comfort, Slippery, Sport, and Sport+ are available to use along with an individual setting. For fuel economy, the CLA45 comes with a stop-start system that thankfully can be shut off.
On the safety front, there are the Active Brake Assist and Blind Spot Assist. The seats are power-operated and are more sporty than the lesser-powered CLAs. The last standard features worth mentioning include the rearview camera and regular cruise control.

Let’s face it, those aren’t the best standard features that can come with a sporty four-door coupe for that price. Adding options is going to be quite easy, so let’s start with the exterior and go from there. Note: while this is a powerful car, the way I am building this out is for someone that’s not going to take it out on the track. Now that I’ve said that, let’s talk about paint. Why have something so crazy as a CLA45 with a boring color? I would go with blue, red, or the standard yellow. To truly make the CLA45 look aggressive, go with the $1,250 AMG Aerodynamic Package. A bigger front splitter, larger rear spoiler, and other aerodynamic changes come included and they’re all in gloss black. Since we chose this, the AMG Night Package for $750 has to come selected, and now, you’re looking with the most aggressive CLA with 19” AMG twin five-spoke wheels in matte black.

Jumping into the inside, there are six different types of upholstery and five different types of trim. Even though this is a Mercedes, getting the regular MB-Tex faux leather should be just fine. AMG has a great looking no-cost Aluminum AMG design trim which seems to fit the CLA the best. My favorite option to get in the CLA45 is the $400 AMG Drive Unit which can easily adjust performance settings. This partners with the $400 AMG Nappa leather performance steering wheel but adds two cool features. The first is the left side which can put the car into manual mode and adjust the dampers. The right size is a knob that can easily select the AMG dynamic select. Heated and ventilated seats are $450 and I always go for that option.

There’s only one package that you’ll find for entertainment and convenience, and that is the $1,150 Multimedia Package. This includes navigation which you can also see in the digital drivers, display, an amazing augmented video display that uses live imagery, and speed limit display. Speaking of displays, a $1,100 AMG head-up display uses an 8” projection that shows speed, navigation, an AMG bar-graph tachometer, an upshift indicator, and a lap timer.  $200 gets you Inductive wireless charging with and NFC pairing. Finally, a 12 speaker 590-watt Burmester Surround Sound System can be yours, for $850.

If anything, Mercedes is known for a combination of having a plethora of safety features and making you pay for them in packages. The CLA is no exception, and the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package has 12 features in it. I’m going to list them one-by-one since there are that many features in it. Adaptive-cruise-control which can bring you to a complete stop. Active and evasive steering assist. Active lane keep assist, blind-spot assist, and lane change assist. Active speed limit assist makes sure you’re doing the speed limit which no one goes over anyways. PRE-SAFE PLUS and PRE-SAFE Sound, two features that hopefully you’ll never use as they’re more systems if you’re going to crash. Finally, we have Route-based Speed Adaptation can have the car slow down for a curve or a tollbooth. I think this is $2,250 well spent.

I’ll admit, this build isn’t cheap. In fact, I added $10,000 to the base price of the CLA45 and I could have added an additional $10,000! Total cost with the options I choose: $65,000. The Mercedes-AMG is all about large numbers. That engine produces close to 400-horsepower in a 2.0-liter I4. Although this is an almost track-focused car, I don’t think even sportier options are needed since the CLA45 is probably not going to be on a track. If you think yours will be, you have some additional options to include. It may be expensive, but the CLA45 is a four-door coupe that punches way above its class.