We love wieldy estate cars and we also love big power. Mercedes delivers on both fronts with the supremely capable CLA 45 4MATIC Shooting Brake. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
With a cargo capacity that ranges between 495 and 1354-litres, a 381bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine delivering drive to all four wheels and a beautiful level of fit and finish, the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG Shooting Brake ticks a lot of our boxes. It's not cheap at around £45,000, but it's hard to deny its sheer effectiveness.
Mercedes has some history with small, fast estate cars. Most of those have worn C-Class badges and there have been some corkers. The C36 and C43 models were lovely, the C32 was fast but a bit fragile, but Mercedes came back to form with the C55 and C63 variants. Times change though, and while there will continue to be punchy C-Class estates, the fact is that the C has edged upmarket to such a degree that many of us are priced out of the chance of buying a new fast one. Enter the CLA model. Originally a 'four-door coupe', this was actually bigger than a C-Class saloon. It subsequently spawned a five-door 'Shooting Brake' estate version and the ultimate model in that line is the hugely impressive CLA 45 4MATIC.
The CLA45 AMG carries some serious firepower under its bonnet, but with just 1991cc of cubic capacity you would never guess at quite how rapid it is. The four-cylinder engine leans heavily on a big twin-scroll turbocharger that runs at 1.8 bar to develop a heady 381bhp of peak power and 475Nm of torque. Aided by the tenacious grip of its all-wheel drive chassis, this catapults the baby Benz to 62mph in just 4.3 seconds. You don't even have to grab at gears either. The AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT-7 twin-clutch gearbox with comfort, sport and manual modes does all the heavy lifting for you. The top speed has been sensibly limited to 155mph and buyers get an AMG sports exhaust with an automatic flap for increased volume when required, and three-stage ESP stability control with Dynamic Curve Assist. Power distribution is fully variable: in normal driving, power is sent to the front wheels in the interests of optimum efficiency. When the driving dynamics so require, the variable AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive splits the torque between front and rear axle up to a ratio of 50:50 percent. The all-wheel drive system is ingeniously compact and lightweight, typically weighing around 25 per cent less than rival systems.
Design and Build
There's an understated muscularity about the CLA 45 4MATIC with just enough of Affalterbach's jewellery to clue the casual observer in that this isn't your usual shopping wagon. The 18-inch alloys are shod with 235/35 tyres, there's a twin blade radiator grille and cross strut in the front grille that are finished in matte titanium grey, big air intakes with aero flics and a set of beady bi-xenon headlights. Move round to the side and you can't miss the matte-grey detailed side sills, while the rear end is garnished with an AMG rear apron and chromed tail pipes. The 19-inch alloy wheel upgrade is expected to be selected by around 60% of customers but our advice - for the sake of ride quality - would be to stick with the 18s. The interior features trim elements which have been given an electroplated finish, resulting in brushed aluminium dash. The instrument panel is divided into a wing profile-type upper section and a solid lower section. Perhaps the most interesting design touch is what looks like an iPad sitting on the upper part of the centre console but which is in fact an integrated touch-screen system. Sports seats in ARTICO man-made leather/DINAMICA microfibre with red contrasting top stitching, red seat belts, the multifunction steering wheel with shift paddles, the AMG DRIVE UNIT and AMG door sill panels are all standard fitments. Thanks to a versatile luggage compartment with a maximum capacity of 1354-litres and the increase in headroom compared to the four-door version, the CLA 45 4MATIC Shooting Brake offers a decent degree of practicality too.
Market and Model
The question many of you might well be asking is whether this car is worth £10,000 more than that other ultra-quick all-wheel drive 2.0-litre German estate, the Volkswagen Golf R. Well, it is. Comparing Volkswagens to Mercedes models is like comparing Hondas to BMWs. They're not quite the same thing at all. As well as delivering another 80bhp, the CLA 45 4MATIC also offers a plusher interior and better residual values. It features as standard a radar-based collision warning system. Working with adaptive Brake Assist, which lowers the risk of rear-end collisions, the Collision Prevention Assist system gives a visual and acoustic warning to alert a distracted driver to identified obstacles, and prepares Brake Assist for the most precise braking response possible. This is initiated as soon as the driver steps firmly on the brake pedal. There are a number of options offered for the CLA 45 4MATIC including carbon fibre exterior and interior packs, 19-inch wheel upgrades, and an AMG Night package which includes privacy glass, black anodised beltline trim strip, black tailpipe trims in chromed finish, radiator fins in silver chrome, high-gloss black painted finish for front splitter, exterior mirrors, side sill panel inserts and rear apron trim.
Cost of Ownership
Clearly it's dependent upon how hard you trouble the right-hand pedal but you can't argue with the numbers. The Mercedes CLA45 4MATIC Shooting Brake returns some very creditable efficiency figures, recording 40.9mpg on the combined cycle and emitting just 161g/km of carbon dioxide. Perhaps some perspective is required to illustrate quite how outstanding these metrics are. Let's look at something fairly modest in comparison. How about a 2011 Mazda MX-5 2.0 for example? That would emit 181g/km and return 36.2mpg, while delivering 160bhp - considerably less than half the Mercedes' power output. Not all AMG models boast the greatest residual values but that's largely due to thirst and cost to keep running, two aspects which aren't going to be a big issue with the CLA 45 4MATIC Shooting Brake. You'll still need to keep a very keen eye on the options you build into it if you're to keep its pence per mile figure within check, but from what we've seen there's a steady demand for hot small Mercedes estates. Just look at how well C63 AMG wagons hold onto their value compared to saloons.
The CLA 45 4MATIC Shooting Brake pretty much does it all. It's respectably practical, yet is anything but boring. It's a car you'll easily be able to sell to your better half on the basis of its everyday utility, ease of use and all the sensible things like safety provision, fuel economy, build quality and strong residuals, yet it has one heck of a wild side too. You might need to keep that under wraps but temptation will soon get the better of you when you have 381bhp at your disposal. Downsides? You tell us. The styling perhaps loses a little of the saloon's boldness in the translation to a shooting brake, but it's still a handsome, and many would say less controversially-styled, car. It's not cheap but after you sample it, our guess will be that you won't deny that the price is, at the very least, fair. If you want virtually everything distilled into one manageably-sized package, this comes as close as we can think to ticking all the boxes.