The term ‘kissing cousins’ has a somewhat derogatory slant to it but its original meaning — which dates back to at least the mid-1800s in Virginia, USA — had a much more genteel meaning: A family member one knows well enough to give a kiss upon greeting.
However, the term perfectly suits the subjects of this two-car review – the Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG S and the A 35 AMG.
They share an extensive amount of core DNA, have similar looks (fromt the front) and almost identical interiors while, at the heart, both have 2,0-litre turbo-charged four cylinder engines with the 45 offering 310 kW and 500 Nm and the 35 a slightly tamer 225 kW and 400 Nm.
In the parlance beloved of football commentators who often remark “this is a game of two halves”, the CLA 45 is very much a car of two halves.
One half is a go-to-work, go shopping or just go parking lot posing at the newest place of choice for the ‘in-crowd’ car. The other half is a rip-snorting beast with the most powerful turbo-charged four cylinder engine the company has ever produced.
If you want to be the ‘poseur’ and arrive or leave that parking lot with the car in full ‘Rage’ mode, be warned it does not tolerate foools gladly and will chew you up and spit you out faster than you can book a Botox injection.
Over and above the regular Comfort, Sport and Sport+ driving modes, this car comes with Race and my private road, albeit suitably bendy, simply ran out of road long before the car fully expressed its performance potential.
I would have loved the opportunity to have spent a morning on a proper race circuit exploring each of the driving modes – and cerrtainly any buyer of one of these cars in South Africa should take full advantage of the AMG Academy instruction.
The relevant numbers show a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 4,0 seconds and a governed top speed of 270 km/h, yet fuel consumption can be kept to the low eights. My overall average, including a couple of runs in ‘Rage’ mode took that up to 9,2 l/100 km.
Visually, there is no mistaking the distinctive AMG look. The Mecedes-AMG 45 S range visual cues include an AMG-specific radiator grille, wider front wings with flared wheel arches to create space for the wider front axle, and a front apron featuring a ‘jet-wing’ design.
Wider AMG side skirts visually lower it, while the rear view is characterised by two pairs of round 90mm-diameter tailpipes with internal fluting and AMG lettering.
The S-models come standard with 19-inch light alloy wheels in a 5-twin-spoke design – with a width of 9 inches for the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4MATIC+. The aluminium rims are shod with 255/35 R 19 tyres.
With this latest version, the AMG developers reinforced the bodyshell and changed the track and camber. A lightweight aluminium plate bolted underneath the engine – the ‘shearing plate’ – increases the torsional rigidity at the vehicle’s front end.
The standard transmission is an eight-speed DCT. The standard Race-Start function allows maximum acceleration from stationary. Anyone who prefers to change gear for themselves can select the manual transmission mode in every drive program.
Quite frankly, unless you are actually on a race track and really know what you are doing, the auto box makes the up changes a lot faster than most drivers and is intuitive enough to be in the right gear at the right time to power out of corners.
All-wheel drive is included as standard, with AMG Torque Control in the new rear axle differential: This has two electronically controlled multidisc clutches, each of which is connected to a rear axle drive shaft. In this way the drive power can not only be completely variably distributed between the front and rear wheels, but also selectively between the left and right rear wheel.
The result is consistently optimum traction, even in adverse road conditions and during extreme cornering manoeuvres, for example on the racetrack.
Drivers can choose from six AMG Dynamic Select driving modes: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual and Race as a standard.
The new AMG suspension with specific spring elements and the new, frequency-selective shock absorbers provides the basis for high directional stability and highly dynamic cornering characteristics with low body roll.
The optional AMG Ride Control adaptive damping system enables the driver to choose between three different suspension control modes, from comfort focused to sporty.
It is all very well being able to get up to speed – and, be warned, a minor sneeze could rocket you into lockup territory if ‘Mr Plod’ can put his Kentucky Fried down fast enough to wave you down – but, the beast has to be stopped.
In the basic models, the 4-piston monobloc fixed front callipers act on 350 x 34 millimetre brake discs, while at the rear axle, 1-piston floating callipers act on 330 x 22 millimetre brake discs. The discs are internally ventilated and perforated to better dissipate heat and prevent brake fading, even with extreme use. The optional AMG Dynamic Plus package have an even larger braking system, with 6-piston fixed callipers and 360 x 36 millimetre brake discs at the front – and they are needed!
Tyre pressure management is vital as slightly odd pressures can result in a nastily uncomofrtable squirly braking experience from speed.
Inside, it offers high levels of driver comfort – the electrically adjustable seating including lumbar support and side bolster adjustment.
Users can choose between three AMG display styles for the instrument cluster: Classic, Sport, and Supersport.
The Supersport mode is quite striking, with a central, round rev counter and additional information presented in the form of bars to the left and right of the rev counter. With a three-dimensional perspective, they reach far into the background to an artificial horizon.
For those who fancy themselves on the race track, AMG Track Pace, the virtual race engineer, is standard equipment for the S-models. When negotiating a race circuit, it continuously monitors more than 80 vehicle specific data points, including lap and sector times. After putting in some fast laps, the driver can use the data to analyse and, if necessary, improve their driving skills.
|Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S 4MATIC+|
|Engine||2.0-litre 4 in-line with roller bearing twinscroll turbocharger|
|Max. output||310 kW at 6750 rpm|
|Peak torque||500 Nm at 5000-5250 rpm|
|Drive system||AMG Performance 4MATIC+ fully variable all-wheel drive with AMG TORQUE CONTROL|
|Transmission||AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8G dualclutch transmission|
|Combined fuel consumption||8.3-8.1 l/100 km*|
|Combined CO2 emissions||189-186 g/km*|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||4.0 s|
|Top speed||270 km/h***|
Ditto to pretty much everything from Big Cousin – the sedan shape and lower output obviously the major differences.
The numbers return a 0- 100 km/h sprint time of just 4,8 seconds for the hatch, 4.8 seconds for the sedan, and 4.9 seconds for the CLA 35 with fuel consumption claimed in the low sevens – my own overall average on the test cycle being 8,1 l/100 km.
While ‘Little Cousin’ does not come with the ‘Race’ mode setting, its ‘Sport+’ is still more than enough to satisfy the inner race driver of most people and the car responds diligently when called upon.
Suspension is taken care of by one wishbone below the wheel centre, one spring strut and one tie rod respectively. The special axle geometry reduces the influence of the drive on the steering for high comfort and agile handling. Adaptive Damping is available as an option.
The high-performance braking system has 4-piston Monoblock fixed callipers and 350 millimetre brake discs up front, and 1-piston sliding callipers and 330 millimetre brake discs at the rear. The discs are internally ventilated and perforated to better dissipate heat and prevent brake fading, even with extreme use.
For those who fancy themselves on the racetrack, AMG track pace is available as an option for the new Mercedes-AMG 35 4MATIC range.
|Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC Sedan|
|Engine||2.0-litre 4-cylinder in-line with exhaust gas turbocharger|
|Max. output||225 kW at 5800 rpm|
|Peak torque||400 Nm at 3000-4000 rpm|
|Drive system||AMG Performance 4MATIC variable all-wheel drive|
|Transmission||AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7G dualclutch transmission|
|Combined fuel consumption||7.3-7.2 l/100 km*|
|Combined CO2 emissions||167-164 g/km*|
|Acceleration 0-100 km/h||4.8 s|
|Top speed||250 km/h**|
Given the made race to electrify cars, these two cars are moving into the the last of a dying breed stage and deserve to be savoured.