Merc’s entry-level performance sedan is getting some good camera time

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The CLA-Class has been one of the most successful sets of compact sedans in the segment and the CLA 45, being an AMG, will churn out every bit of sportsmanship hidden inside of you. The second-generation CLA brought a lot of changes including an aggressive design language and other added features in the luxury and performance section. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 brings minor changes to the foreground and it competes with the BMW M2 and the Audi RS3. Is it the ultimate among the three? Let’s find out.

Overview

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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There aren’t many of the German mid-size performance four-door coupes and with the CLA 45, the Audi RS3 joins the game, but before getting into the differences let’s talk more about the new 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45. Since its design overhaul with the second generation, the CLA 45 gets all the cutting-edge design dynamics of the AMG division. An AMG-tuned 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine is what you will love the most because of its responsiveness accompanied by a butter-smooth eight-speed DCT. The interior gets all the carried-over components of the model it replaces which includes leather sport seats, two 10.25-inch high-quality displays, and other AMG goodies which we will talk about below. As for the addition of newer features, the 2021 AMG CLA 45 gets a blind spot monitoring system as standard. The newest iteration of the CLA 45 is priced at $66,665 which is about $1,170 expensive than the 2020 model year but will be cheaper than the Audi RS3 Sedan which has a converted price of about $72,000.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Features and Packages

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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Among the other CLA-Class trims, the CLA 45 is the top-of-the-line trim with a base price tag of $55,350 and packs quite a few features which are not top tier but are surely an upgrade over the lower trims. The features are listed down below:

  • Twin-turbocharged inline-four pumping out 382 HP and 354 lb-ft.
  • Eight-speed DCT.
  • 4Matic+ with AMG Torque Control.
  • Power-operated tailgate.
  • Sport-tuned suspension.
  • 19-inch AMG wheels.
  • Power-folding side mirrors with auto-dimming.
  • Panoramic sunroof.
  • Rain-sensing wipers.
  • Simulated leather upholstery.
  • Eight-way power-adjustable front sports seats with memory function.
  • Faux-leather upholstery.
  • Dual-zone automatic climate control.
  • Eight-speaker audio unit.
  • Turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel.
  • Ambient lighting control with customizability.
  • 10.2-inch dual displays at the front.
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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Safety features available with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 are:

  • Blindspot monitoring.
  • Adaptive cruise control.
  • Lane-keeping assist.
  • Lane-departure warning.
  • Evasive steering assist.

A few standalone options available with the 2021 CLA 45 are as follows:

  • Leather upholstery.
  • Heated and ventilated front seats.
  • Gloss black and carbon-fiber-style trim on the body.
  • Heated steering wheel.
  • Dashcam.
  • Wireless charging pad.
  • Burmester premium surround-sound system.
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The CLA 45 can be equipped with the aforementioned options along with the following package:

  • AMG Dynamic Plus- AMG-tuned upgraded brakes, Electronically adjustable suspension profile, and dynamically adjustable driving modes.

AMG-designed Exterior Sets It Apart From The Regular CLA

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Even at standstill, the second-generation CLA looks sportier than the earlier generation, but the AMG-Line takes the design language to another level. The CLA 45 gets The broadened signature front fascia with more intake vents. The 12-bar intake grille which AMG calls “Panamericana” sets is lowered and widened for better air intake with the huge Merc logo. The LED headlights and DRLs make the front fascia look angrier with their sleek physique. The AMG add-ons are seen on how the other vents are now the working ones, especially on the sides for cooling the brakes. The 19-inch alloys wheels come fitted as standard and so does the sleeker tire profile.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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The rear has similar LED taillights from the standard CLA but the diffuser and the quad exhaust tips on the sides make the difference between the two. The overall exterior design including the sloping roofline gives the CLA 45 a dramatic look along with a visual appeal of how AMG has put efforts into making it look different from the competition.

Well, the CLA 45 is a heavy car with a curb weight of 3,660 pounds making it weigh more than the RS3 Sedan by about 350 pounds.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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That said, the dimensions are pretty much the same as the outgoing model year with 184.8 inches long length, 107.4 inches long wheelbase, 55.4 inches of height, and an overall width of 73.1 inches. The ground clearance is just 3.4 inches meaning that if you think of considering the car, you have to be very careful while going over speed breakers, and rough patches. A few of the exterior highlights of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 are as follows:

  • LED headlights with DRLs and integrated turn indicators.
  • Sculpted hood for a more aggressive stance.
  • 12-bar Panamerica chrome grille.
  • Rear quad-exhaust pipes tuned by AMG with rear diffuser.
  • 19-inch AMG alloy wheels.
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior Dimensions
Model 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45
Curb Weight  3,660 lbs
Length 184.8 inches
Width  73.1 inches
Height 55.4 inches
Ground Clearance  3.4 inches
Wheelbase  107.4 inches

A Strictly Driver-Focused Cabin And Best For Tech-Savvy Consumers

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Interior Wallpaper quality
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Mercedes has always been known for its cabin mastery and this time with the top trim of the CLA-Class, it is just nuts. Everything from the fit and finish to the high-tech dash looks phenomenal. Sitting in the driver’s seat will give you a nice view of the newly designed cockpit with two large 10.2-inch screens slapped on the dash and a beautifully made leather steering wheel. The center console has a huge touchpad for controlling the infotainment screen along with a few other buttons and a drive selector. There are cup holders and a wireless charging pad which comes as an optional add-on. The three circular turbine air vents have LED lights around them which change according to the temperature.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Interior Wallpaper quality
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The dashboard is well made with minimum to zero use of cheap plastics and has AMG branding and design on the right. Let us remind you that if you nitpick about it then you might find a few plastic areas around the lower part of the dash and center console including a few parts on the door panels. The seats like the door panels are covered with faux leather and will cost you an extra $1,450 for upgrading them to premium leather ones. But there’s nothing to worry about the cushioning and comfort as they will provide you with plenty of them. The front has eight-way power-adjustable seats with multi-level heating efforts with good enough space for your legs and decent headroom. Move to the back and you will instantly realize that performance sedans are not for everyone. The headroom takes a hit because of the sloping roofline so someone above six feet will regret getting in the rear. The legroom too isn’t too great at 33.9 inches which will be somewhat similar to the new RS3. A cargo capacity of 11.6 cubic feet is offered but will fit up to two duffels if you are curious.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Interior Wallpaper quality
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2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 interior specifications are as follows:

  • Dual-zone automatic climate control.
  • 10.2-inch MID.
  • Leather-covered steering wheel with optional heating functions.
  • Leatherette seats.
  • Dual illuminating vanity mirrors.
  • Eight-way power-adjustable front seats with multi-level heating options.
  • Leatherette trims on the door panel and dashboard.
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Interior Dimensions
Model 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45
Seating Capacity 5
Front Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches) 38.5/55.1/41.8
Second Row (Headroom/Shoulder Room/Leg Room, in inches) 37.5/54.0/33.9
Cargo Capacity  11.6
2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Interior Wallpaper quality
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As for the infotainment system, a similarly sized 10.2-inch display comes fitted to the range-topping CLA with the latest MBUX system. The screen can be controlled via the touch-sensitive screen, a touchpad controller on the center console, and by voice commands. With all the functions and accessibility shortcuts, the system feels more refined in its latest iteration. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity will make it simpler if you are an old-school fella and will take some time to get used to the system. If you compare, then Audi’s MMI is more intuitive. Anyway, let’s point down a few of the infotainment features:

  • 10.2-inch touchscreen display with MBUX.
  • Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity.
  • Bluetooth, WiFi, and USB connectivity.
  • 12-speaker Burmester surround sound system. (Optional)
  • Satellite navigation.
  • Ambient lighting control.
  • Heads-up display. (Optional)
  • Surround-view camera system. (Optional)

Redefined Performance and Handling

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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When the AMG team gets their hands on a 2.0-liter engine, they prove it to make what is called engineering excellence. They took the base 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four engine from the CLA 250 and added another turbocharger which is larger and is from the C 63’s V8 engine. The exhaust manifold and the turbochargers are placed at the rear with the engine placed at a 180-degree view for better air ducting. The engine puts out a whopping 382 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque through all four wheels and comes mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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All these combined, the overall on-road performance is just phenomenal. With quick and smooth gear shifts and increased engine responsiveness, the 2021 AMG CLA 45 can achieve 60 miles an hour in just 4.0 seconds which is fast, yes. But the RS3 can do the same in like 3.5 seconds with its slightly bigger and powerful 2.5-liter inline-five. Please do note that the RS3 will be priced higher than the CLA 45 when it is launched. The quarter-mile timings are pretty good too. Edmunds recorded 12.3 seconds from standstill which is not bad considering the segment and has a factory limited top speed of 155 miles per hour.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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In terms of handling, the 2021 CLA 45 is a pocket rocket and can prove that even smaller cars can be just as fun-to-drive as their bigger brothers. To start with, the AMG 4Matic+ is the queen in terms of stability and comes with torque vectoring as standard with the CLA 45. The sports suspensions offer stiffer but confident drive with excellent cornering stability coupled with the 4Matic+ with minimal understeer. The electronically controlled multi-disc clutches at the rear axle not only understand power shifts between the front and rear axle but also the left and right wheels, ensuring flagship-level handling capabilities. A set of 13.8inch front and 13.0-inch rear brake rotors come equipped with the CLA 45. As for their performance, the initial bite is present and the pedals are quite responsive.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Performance Stats
Model 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45
Engine Type 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-4
Drivetrain AWD
Transmission 8-speed dual-clutch transmission
Power  382 HP @ 6,500 RPM
Torque  354 lb-ft @ 3,000 RPM
0-60 (MPH)  4.0 seconds
Quarter Mile (Seconds) 12.3 seconds
Top Speed  155 MPH
Front Brake Rotor Size (Inches) 13.8
Rear brake Rotor Size (Inches) 13.0

Fuel Economy

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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AMG-tuned 2.0-liter twin-turbo engine means that the fuel economy will take a hit and that is normal for the performance the engine is churning out. The EPA has rated the CLA 45 with up to 20 miles per gallon in the city, a decent highway mileage of 29 miles per gallon, and a combined economy of 23 miles per gallon. A decently sized 13.5-gallon gas tank is fitted to the CLA 45 which can return up to 310 miles combined. Audi claims that their new RS3 will deliver up to 36 miles per gallon on the highways and if it is true then the former will fall back in the competition.

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Fuel Economy
Model 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45
MPG (City) 20 MPG
MPG (Highway) 29 MPG
MPG (Combined) 23 MPG
Tank Capacity (Gallons) 13.5 
Range (City/Highway/Combined, in Miles) 270.0/391.5/310.5

Safety Convenience

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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Since there are no official safety ratings by our federal agencies, we cannot dig deeper into how safe the new CLA 45 is. But according to other Mercs, the build quality should be up to their level and will offer extensive protection in times of accidents. That said, along with other standard safety features, blindspot monitoring gets added to the list with the 2021 model year. Eight airbags are offering up to ten-way occupant protection including knee and side airbags. Features like active lane change assist, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, evasive steering assist, sadly comes under optional features. A few of the standard features are as follows:

  • Cruise control.
  • Active brake assist.
  • Crosswind assist.
  • Blindspot monitoring.
  • Tire pressure monitoring.
  • Post-collision safety system.
  • Rearview camera.
  • Emergency braking assist.
  • Passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation.

Is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 a perfect match for you?

2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 Exterior
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You have set your priorities first. If you are a Mercedes fanboy, then it is a perfect match for you. Okay, that was lame, if you are in the market looking for a fully equipped performance sedan for the price, then the CLA 45 is just for you. But do note that it is best as a secondary car as it is not as comfortable as a cheaper Japanese family sedan. That said, the CLA 45 is a perfect performance sedan for the price and is all set to offer exhilarating looks, performance, and techy interior for a starting price of around $55,000.

Amreetam Basu
Amreetam Basu
Content Contributor
Experienced Content Writer with a demonstrated history of working in the automotive industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Web Content Writing, Microsoft Office, and Article Writing. Strong media and communication professional with a Bachelor of Arts - BA focused in History and currently pursuing for Master of Arts.  Read full bio
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