And the new AMG models just keep on coming. The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Coupe sports aggressive new AMG family threads and a hand-built 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that packs an impressive 382 hp and 354 lb-ft punch. Funneling all that mumbo to terra firma is an eight-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch transmission and the AMG Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system.
The bottom line? A swoopy Corolla-sized four door that AMG says will zing from 0-60 mph in about 4.0 seconds and reach a top speed of 155 mph, or 168 mph if you order the optional AMG Dynamic Plus Package that also gives you bigger brakes and Race and Drift modes.
The CLA 45 Coupe is of course closely related to the A 220 sedan that drew criticism from judges during MotorTrend’s 2020 Car of the Year evaluations for its tinny ride and obvious cost cutting. The CLA 45 Coupe looks and feels more premium. It needs to: No pricing has been announced yet, but the outgoing model stickers at just over $53,000.
Making the regular coupe AMG-worthy required more than the usual tweaks to engine, suspension, and software. The body structure has been extensively reinforced, with a focus on creating a very stiff and stable structure, particularly at the front of the car, so the steering and suspension can be tuned to work with greater precision. Steel plates connect the front side members to the A-pillars, an aluminum plate is bolted underneath the engine, and a strut tower brace fitted between the front suspension struts.
As expected, the CLA 45 Coupe’s ride is very tight, but the stiffer body structure means the car generates much less noise, vibration, and harshness than we experienced in the A 220 sedan, especially with the adjustable suspension set in Comfort mode. Sport and Sport+ modes are stiffer still, the latter instigating a lot of sharp vertical motions, even on the smooth German backroads on our test route. In anything other than Comfort mode, the CLA 45 Coupe’s ride would be unbearably busy on choppy U.S. freeways.
The steering is a bit video-gamey, with not a ton of feel or feedback, but all that strengthening and stiffening of the body structure means the front end responds adroitly to inputs. On a twisting two lane, the CLA 45 Coupe drives like a Subaru WRX in a straitjacket; it has the same basic dynamic responses, but they’re much more tightly controlled, with less corner entry understeer and much more traction from the rear axle on the exits. That’s down to the AMG-tweaked 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, which features a new rear differential with two electronically controlled multidisc clutches that, depending on the drive mode selected, allow the drive torque to be separately distributed to either rear wheel. This diff technology also facilitates the optional Drift mode, which can be activated in Race mode using the shift paddles, providing electronic stability control is deactivated and the dual-clutch transmission is in manual mode.
Sideways fun is therefore yours when you want it in the CLA 45 Coupe, and the playtime is made all the more intense thanks to the mighty little AMG-massaged four-cylinder under the hood. Compared with the previous 45—and the rest of the regular A-Class lineup—the transversely-mounted engine has been rotated around its vertical axis by 180 degrees so the turbocharger and the exhaust manifold are at the rear and the intake system is at the front. AMG says this configuration allows the most aerodynamically advantageous front-end design and more direct air and gas flows on both the intake and exhaust side.
Other upgrades include a turbocharger that not only features a twin-scroll impellor to help with low-end torque, and roller bearings to improve response, but also a turbine housing with two parallel flow passages. Divided ducts in the exhaust manifold feed the exhaust flow to the turbine separately to prevent individual cylinders from influencing each other negatively during load cycles, and to improve the gas cycle. The result, says AMG, is higher torque at lower engine speeds, and extremely good responsiveness.
Our testers were all CLA 45 S Coupes, powered by a 415-hp, 368-lb-ft version of the engine that’s sadly not coming to the U.S. It’s a great engine in terms of its power delivery; it’s torquey yet willing to spin freely to 7,000 rpm. But it doesn’t sound that sophisticated, with a grumbly exhaust note in Comfort and Sport modes that from 4,500 rpm onward in Sport+ mode sounds like Billy Idol gargling in the shower.
Though it looks less like a used bar of soap than its predecessor, the 2020 CLA Coupe still has an odd hunch-backed stance, accentuated by the lower arch in the greenhouse. However, the AMG styling tweaks—including the bold vertical bar grille up front and four bazooka-sized exhaust pipes at the rear, along with the more aggressively styled front fascia, side skirts, and larger lip spoiler on the trunk—give the CLA 45 Coupe a tougher, more hunkered down look. Standard wheels are 19-inch, with lightweight 19-inch forged wheels available as an option.
Inside is AMG’s trademark black-and-red color palette. Standard trim features a combination of black MB-Tex and Dinamica microfiber highlighted with double topstitching in red. The seat belts are red, the microfiber dashboard support trim has a red border, and the glittery chrome air vents are also ringed in red. If that’s a little too much red, you can order MB-Tex trim in gray and black with mid-gray double topstitching.
The interior hardware upgrades are matched by AMG-specific tweaks to the MBUX infotainment system. Three AMG display styles—Classic, Sport, and Supersport—are available for the instrument cluster. The touchscreen multimedia display also features AMG displays such as visualization of the driving programs and telemetry data.
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