Mercedes CLA 45 AMG, motoring review: In this car, the passenger's always right

 

PRICE: £42,265
ENGINE CAPACITY: 2.0-litre turbo
POWER OUTPUT: 355 @ 6,000
TOP SPEED: 155 (limited)
FUEL ECONOMY: 40.9
CO2 EMISSIONS: 169

Some cars are built for passenger comfort, and some are not. The new Mercedes CLA 45 AMG is the latter. In my mind that doesn't make the latest fast saloon from Germany a bad car, far from it. My girlfriend, I've found, disagrees.

In all honesty I'm almost certainly to blame for this, but a wet test drive out to Cambridge recently in Merc's new bruiser left her reaching for the grab handles, holding her stomach in the bends and dashing to the nearest loo when we arrived at our destination.

Given the wet conditions, I was driving very cautiously, but the CLA isn't an ordinary saloon – it's a Mercedes AMG GmbH. And that automotive alphabet soup means this little car has a peach of an engine, a sporty set-up and is, well, designed not to dawdle, but to get from A to B as fast as legally possible.

Unlike traditional AMG sports cars, which normally start a lot nearer £100k, this baby AMG doesn't get a mighty V8 or V12 engine, but instead a dinky little 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. That's the sort of engine you might expect in a VW Passat or a Ford Mondeo – not cars known for performance – but the boffins at Affalterbach seem to have realised that even dedicated petrolheads need to downsize their emissions.

They've also worked their performance magic on it. So much so that it is unnervingly fast in a straight line and in the bends, thanks to a four-wheel-drive system, which will help it stick to the road like a Scalextric car on a toy track.

From my long-suffering passenger, this power and a hard suspension set-up brought complaints (very fair ones) about a "bumpy" ride and a car that "likes the corners too much". Sadly I was far too busy enjoying the CLA's crisp engine note to take enough notice. Oh, how foolish I was.

My weak defence that the CLA has a softer set-up than many of its AMG stablemates didn't really do down so well either. Nor did my Scalextric analogy.

After all, we all remember holding the "trigger" too long on the plastic track and ending up flying across the living room carpet, don't we? I can only assume the lesson here for me is; always let my girlfriend drive.

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