Although their outside contours are different, both are closely linked, basically sharing the same powertrain and chassis and a lot of the insides. After the CLA45 hit the marketplace as a 2014 version, it bucked recent AMG norms by providing a turbocharged four-cylinder rather than among their brand’s vaunted V-6 or even V-8 units; the GLA45 followed suit as it arrived a couple of months later.
The CLA was updated for the 2017 model year, along with the GLA has received a freshening for 2018. Neither has changed radically, but particular attention has been paid to improving aerodynamics. New splitters, grilles, and LED headlamps decorate their façades, and both also get revised rear diffusers and spoilers. Inside, a new DINAMICA look package adds a revised steering wheel and a slew of decorative things such as microsuede seat inserts, doorsill protectors, and vibrant cabin accents.
To try out Mercedes-AMG’s premium pocket rockets, we headed to Budapest, Hungary, just an hour north of Kecskemét at which the CLA-class is constructed (GLAs are constructed in Rastatt, Germany).
In their part on the racetrack, the AMG-massaged compacts could extend their legs and exhibit their athleticism. Both handled lithely, with precise, well-weighted steering and suspensions tuned for greatest mischief. Out about the well-kept streets around Budapest, ride quality was noticeably stiffer than that of their non-AMG counterparts but nevertheless civilized enough to create either vehicle acceptable for daily commuting duty, provided the pavement quality is good.
Flashy, hot-rod styling for both fraternal twins is proper, as beneath their hoods lies what Mercedes proudly claims is the most effective 2.0-liter inline-four in series production. The hand-built mill utilizes a twin-scroll turbocharger to create up to 26.1 psi of boost and creates 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. The boost comes from late, but when the turbo spools up it is potent and certainly will knock occupants back into their seats like a shot of strong Hungarian pálinka.
With the Dynamic Select driving style set to Sport or Sport+, the engine emits a gratifyingly aggressive blat through full-throttle upshifts. Grab the metal-finished shift paddle to get a downshift and you’re treated to some similarly satisfying rudeness. We’d suggest leaving it in Sport or Sport+, as such racier settings make for quicker changes without hesitation than in the default Comfort setting.
From behind the wheel, racy cabin accoutrements such as a sport steering wheel, red-ringed HVAC vents, and a microsuede dash cover are hints that you are driving something much more special than a routine Benz. Aggressively bolstered sport seats provide more than enough squeeze to maintain occupants situated during high performance cornering. Nevertheless, the cabins of these 45s are as cramped and impractical as those of those CLA250 and GLA250. Front-seat space is sufficient in both cars, but taller folks would be smart to skip the optional panoramic sunroof; it steals precious headroom, and with it, back-seat passengers won’t find their lodging nearly as, well, accommodating.
Perched atop the shapely dash is the exact same 8.0-inch COMAND infotainment system that’s also standard issue on the opposite CLA and GLA models, but navigation, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto are all extra-cost choices. The system offers no touchscreen controller; instead, a tiny rotary knob on the center console is pushed, pulled, or spun to handle functions. It normally works well, and we prefer physical controllers, but with the accession of the above smartphone-integration menus, a touch-sensitive screen would make life easier.
The GLA45 offers marginally more rear-seat headroom and hatchback practicality, while the CLA45 is claimed to be faster, handles a bit skinnier, and sports a milder shape. But either of these siblings will provide lots of pleasure in your favorite back road. There’s a third comparative that blends together the best of this CLA45 and GLA45 however, regrettably, isn’t available in the States: the CLA45 Shooting Brake. Mercedes-AMG sells this perfect, albeit inquisitive, blend of practicality, rate, and enchanting bodywork in different areas of the world although not in the United States, where wagons are shunned in favor of SUV-like amalgams. Still, the smallest AMG specimens which we do get are delightfully sinful and take the bragging rights that come along with having the most effective production turbocharged four-cylinder in the world hammering off under the hood.