Mercedes-Benz has partnered up with events such as the Fashion Week before, but with the 2016 CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake, they’ve taken ‘trendy” to a whole new level. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a car that a designer, not a model, would drive.
It’s easy to misunderstand this installment of the 45 AMG
franchise, but it will definitely make your head turn. Starting with its impossibly-long name, this car is an exaggeration, so it definitely appeals to those seeking one. But what about the rest of the people? We recently set out to answer this question by taking the car for an extended drive.
Oh and by the way, Mercedes itself sometimes calls it the “CLA 45AMG S/B”, so expect us to do it too.
With its lowered rear window line, the Mercedes-Benz GLA Shooting Brake looks like a well-trained German Shepherd. In AMG trim, its extravagant nature is taken even further, reminding me of an open ankle boot.
Speaking of which, it is extremely difficult for an untrained eye to distinguish the genuine Affalterbach model from a standard one fitted with the AMG package. Aside from the big brakes, it’s best to look for the “Turbo AMG” badges on the front wings and the extrovert roof spoiler (the one in the standard model is more restrained).
The standard 18-inch wheels are flamboyant enough, so we’d recommend sticking with these, as the optional 19-inch rims, such as the ones we had on our tester, do affect the ride.
Despite the CLA Shooting Brake being launched after the GLA, it follows the CLA four-door coupe’s light cluster design. Interestingly enough, the GLA’s headlights and taillights look more modern, with those on the CLA feeling like their styling might age quickly.
Stepping aboard, the AMG treatment has a two-sided face. We’ll start with the seats, which are perfectly balanced. At first, I found them a bit too firm for my taste, but after spending many hours behind the wheel without any complaints from my body, I changed my mind. Having settled into their comfort, I noticed that, when you fully dig into the monstrous grip through the bends, you need some extra lateral support. Well, this is where the AMG Performance seats step in.
And while the seating version is simply a matter of choice, when it comes to the steering wheel and the gear shifter, you simply have to turn to the optional goodies. The standard steering wheels is okay, but the AMG Performance one, with its nice Alcantara grip and metallic paddles is the pleaser.
As for the gear shifter, we’re glad the AMG treatment means it has migrated from the steering column. But the standard shifter is tiny and doesn’t do the car justice. Opt for the Affalterbach logo and you get the larger, real-deal shifter.
All the models built on the MFA platform have a perceived quality issue with the center console, which doesn’t appear to be on par with the rest of the cabin. The AMG console partially solves this.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same about the Red dashboard air vent surrounds, which would be much better suited on a cheaper car.
In the end, the CLA45 AMG S/B cabin falls behind the rest of the car, but can offer a premium feeling if optioned properly.
In terms of cabin space, four adults can travel comfortably on long distances. As with the other models in the family, the space up front isn’t abundant, but it’s enough to get the job done. In the back, the headroom has grown by inches (28 mm) compared to the CLA four-door coupe and you can feel it. A 5'10" (1.80 m) editor was able to ride behind the driver in decent comfort.
The window line is still low, but you get enough visibility to enjoy the trip as a passenger. Speaking of visibility, you don’t get to see outside well enough to label this as an urban cruiser.
When you drive it in heavy traffic, the GLA45 AMG Shooting Brake is, for its kind of car, what the Lamborghini Aventador
is to the V12 supercar breed. You can’t maneuver it with ease, the gearbox won’t go from Drive to Reverse and back all that quick when turning around and so on.
And don’t get the impression this is a compact car. Sure, all MFA platform-built models share the 106.3-inch (2,700 mm) wheelbase, but at 182.3 inches (4,630 mm) in length, the CLA S/B is not much shorter than a C-Class Estate. Then again, you don’t buy a 360 HP AMG to navigate jammed intersections. But when the traffic gets lighter, this car becomes a phenomenal tool inside the city. It’s incredibly fast in any kind of conditions, totally dependable and it will never-ever scare its driver away. And you also get other kinds of benefits.
Interestingly enough, the CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake seems to act as a social networking tool at times. When you go for an evening drive in this thing, suddenly all the people with over 150 hp per ton will want to talk to you.
I remember driving through the city center one evening and pulling up next to a guy with a BMW that had Pikes Peak-like aero modifications. We spoke for a few moments and, before I knew it, someone had found me on Facebook and had sent me a message with the two cars next to each other.
The next morning, I was heading to the car wash when a lady in a CLA stopped at the traffic light checked out the car and we got to exchange looks and have some smiles about it. To put it shortly, this car boosts your social life in a way you wouldn’t expect.
“Boost” is an appropriate term for the 45 AMG, with the twin-scroll turbine delivering a pressure of 1.8 bar (psi). This means the 2-liter engine delivers 355 hp (360 PS) at 6,000 rpm and 332 lb-ft (450 Nm) of torque between 2,250 and 5,000 rpm.
Do you get turbo lag? Not in the traditional sense, but the answer isn't that simple.
Normally, a milk bottle-sized engine delivering well north of 300 hp would feel helpless below 2,000 rpm and them explode with power at a certain point, creating a massive hike in power delivery.
You won’t enjoy that, simply because it means your car isn’t streetable enough. AMG engineers have worked their magic and spread the turbo lag across a wide rev range, so you never feel powerless. Up to 2,000 rpm the engine still manages to show a bit of oomph, things get serious from 3,000 rpm upwards and hell is unleashed once you pass 4,000 rpm. You end up with two cars in one and it’s fun.
The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, this has a dual character as well. In the C (Controlled Efficiency) driving mode, the gearbox and the pedal response mean the car is entirely relaxed.
However, at times, the gearbox did rush to downshift when all we wanted was a quicker response.
The “C” mode isn’t enough for sporty driving and switching into “S” (Sport) or “M” (Manual) changes things altogether. You still feel you’re driving a two-liter car, but it’s like nothing of this sort you’ve experienced before. Oh and it will definitely make any other 2-liter car feel slow.
The gearbox isn’t perfect, but you can easily learn the way in which it interprets your throttle inputs. Once you speak its language, it becomes an excellent tool.