Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG: Track Review

After having driven the most affordable AMG in India, the CLA 45 AMG, on the road, we now take it to a race track



Mercedes Benz CLA 45 AG at the BIC




We have already told you how the new Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG feels on the road. You can read our detailed test drive review here. But, this is an AMG; a car focused on performance and  everything that comes with it like intuitive handling, quick and precise steering and of course, fierce braking. And what better place to put all this to the test than India's premier race track - the Buddh International Circuit.


It's a warm and muggy day. It's hazy. And though there's talk about a cooling shower, it's nowhere to be found. In the distance, ticking itself cool in fiery red, is the smallest of all AMG's sold in India, the CLA 45 AMG. It looks gorgeous, no doubt. And that Coupe roof line and pillar-less doors make it visually very alluring indeed. 


Mercedes Benz CLA 45 AMG rear


But the plan for today isn't to enjoy the beauty of the CLA; we are here to give it everything we have in terms of bravery, skill and boyish enthusiasm. We strap ourselves in and immediately the seats feel hard, supportive and purposeful. Fire it up, and there's no real drama from the engine or exhaust in terms of noise. So, in that sense, it's not really AMG. We roll out quietly out of the pit lane, and stamp on the throttle as soon as we join the track.


Now, the CLA 45 AMG has the world's most powerful four cylinder engine under its pretty hood. It makes over 350PS of max power and the torque at over 400Nm is excellent output too. It's also a turbocharged, direct injection engine. And, it is all wheel drive. However, just like the lack of noise, the acceleration too leaves you a little underwhelmed. It's easy to keep that right foot dug in thanks to accessible, and dare I say it, soft,  power delivery. So, we do; till it's time to brake hard for the right hand hairpin corner.



Mercedes CLA 45 AMG engine shot




The brake bite is intense, and the progression and feel, beautifully calibrated. So much so that one can lean on these brakes hard and fast and still manage to keep the ABS out of the equation. We hit the apex, get off the brakes and floor the throttle. And immediately, the ESP kicks in because we still have a little more steering lock than we should, resulting in understeer. So, even though the ESP doesn't cut in as an on/off switch - it's quite seamless, actually - you can feel it holding back the power. As the car straightens out and the steering lock reduces, however, there's an unexpected push from the rear of the car, and the first time it happens, it catches you completely unawares nudging you to the edge of the track with smile inducing pace.



Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG at the BIC




You see the CLA 45 AMG might have 4Matic written in its spec sheet - Mercedes' term for all wheel drive . But, the system only kicks in once it detects slip on the front wheels. So, if you drive the CLA AMG cleanly and smoothly, you'd mostly be driving a front wheel sedan. But, since I am not really a clean or smooth driver, I had all wheel assistance exiting nearly every corner! And, it's a good feeling. 


We are on the long back straight now and it is here that one wishes that there was more power to be had. Now don't get us wrong, the CLA 45 AMG is fast. According to Mercedes it dispatches the 0-100kmph run in under 5 seconds and has a limited top speed of 250kmph. And, even here, by the time we have to brake, we are already past 220kmph. But, the CLA doesn't get there with unrelenting velocity giving you enough time to pick your braking spot, line or what have you, which makes it feel a little regular than hairy chested.


Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG wheels




And when it is time to turn in, it's best to enter early for one must treat the CLA as a front wheel drive car and not an all wheel drive one as advertised. We, of course, fail to do it the first time. So all we get is lots of understeer and no option but to wait it out off-throttle till the car is back in line and ready to take on gas.  Next up is a series of quick direction changes, and the CLA's agility properly comes to the fore here. It's more than willing to be jinked left and then right and then left again without getting out of shape. Yes, its rear does move around slightly and there's some amount of off-throttle oversteer, but it is just so properly tied down, it's child's play to keep that rear end in check. It also feels properly grounded over kerbs and dips.


To us, the CLA 45 AMG, is an entertaining track car. But there's a trick to driving it fast around a race track. Slow in and fast out, of course, is key. And it's especially true here for when the CLA enters a corner, it is front wheel drive. But, on exits, if executed right, it turns into an all wheel drive car with 50:50 torque split front to back. And that gives you that entertaining push out of corners one looks for in a fast car.

Recommended Variant : CLA Class 200 CDI

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