For $48,375?! Really?
Well, sort of--chances are most folks will option the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG up to something nearer the $60,000 mark, but even then, the new AMG four-door coupe is a fantastic performance and luxury bargain.
Why? Because the 355-horsepower engine under the hood also turns out 332 pound-feet of torque, 0-60 mph runs conservatively stated at 4.5 seconds, and an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph. Because the all-wheel drive system, even though it's front-wheel drive in normal use, can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels--and it does it so smoothly, so transparently, you'll never think of it as a wrong-wheel driver. And, because the CLA45's mix of size, style, luxury, and equipment hits a sweet spot we haven't seen in the U.S. in a long time--if ever.
For less than the price of a decently-equipped BMW 3-Series, you can have more power, better looks, and an only marginally less-useful rear seat. The value is remarkable.
But so, too, is the CLA45's driving experience.
There's just a touch of turbo lag--it has to spool up 26.1 psi of boost, after all--but driven well, the lag is barely noticeable. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is nearly as slick as Porsche's PDK, but here it's available in a 355-horsepower all-wheel-drive car; you'd have to pay Porsche at least $105,630 to get the same mix. The CLA45 AMG's chassis is also very well-sorted and tuned, with predictable, mild power-on understeer, a willingness to rotate into a corner, and surprisingly good steering for a somewhat nose-heavy all-wheel-driver.
Head-to-head on track against the legitimate sports cars on this year's Motor Authority Best Car To Buy list (the Porsche Cayman, Chevy Corvette Stingray, and Jaguar F-Type), the CLA45 AMG is a tick or two off the absolute pace--but it's every bit as fun to hurl around, and still quick in its own right. Head-to-head on the road against the larger luxury sedans on the list (Mercedes-Benz S Class, Porsche Panamera, Audi RS 7, Cadillac CTS), the CLA45 AMG isn't quite as well-equipped or finished inside--but it's somewhere between one-half and one-third the price of most of them, and it still offers all-day cruising comfort.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMGEnlarge Photo
This dual-purpose nature of the CLA45 AMG, together with its small-premium packaging, make it one of the most intriguing new cars to hit the U.S. market in a decade. It's not just an improvement on a proven formula--it's a whole new recipe.
But does the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG have what it takes to overwhelm its larger, more expensive alternatives and win the Best Car To Buy 2014 award? We'll announce the winner Tuesday, November 12.