Caraganza First Drive Review 2020 Mercedes AMG CLA 45 4Matic: Joy to the World


One phrase that has become popular in 2020, an enduring slogan perhaps, is “in these uncertain times.”  I personally hate it, and in fact cringe whenever I hear it. It’s become so overused that I simply try and ignore it, or to use another term that we didn’t hear until this year, I “socially distance” myself from it. That, for the record, is another term I hope I never hear again after this year is over.

Sure, this year as been rough. But I’ve always tried to keep myself mentally healthy (I gave up trying to be physically healthy years ago) by trying to find moments of joy in the world every single day. Though only part time these days,  I’m a psychologist who counsels military veterans suffering from PTSD or depression and advise them that by finding a moment or two of joy in each day, other things might not seem so gloomy. It’s something that I practice in my own life. Whether it’s a child’s laugh, a sunrise, a glass of good scotch, or something else, a moment, or two, preferably three, of joy a day we find in the world can help gets us through anything, like these un…well…I won’t say it.

This past week I had several moments of joy, many in fact, thanks to Mercedes. Because so much of my life is centered around the automotive world, I have a love-hate relationship with cars. Some weeks can be great, others not so much. Let’s just say that some cars make me want to socially dis… well you know.

However, there are a few that I know I will never have a problem with. High on that list is anything Mercedes. That’s why I knew that when they sent me a 2020 AMG CLA45 for a recent week it would be one that was filled with joy.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 is all-new for 2020. It’s a redesign, a second generation of the CLA-class. Perhaps the best thing about it, beside the AMG part, which is always great, is the newly developed hand-built 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 382 horses and 354 lb-ft of torque. Code-named M139, this new engine makes it the most powerful production I-4 engine, in the world.

There is a CLA35 which is a step down. The 2.0 under that hood makes 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The CLA45 is the higher trim and comes with standard features like 19-inch AMG wheels which it carries over from the 2019 model, keyless entry, a 10.25-inch Digital Instrument Cluster, and 10.25-inch MBUX infotainment system.

The all-wheel drive system is now upgraded to 4Matic Plus which is different than what is found in the rest of the Mercedes’ lineup. Instead of a system that defaults to front-wheel drive and sends power rearward only when demanded, the Plus system is completely variable and can shuffle 100% of the engine’s torque to the front or rear axle as needed, or dialed in.

My tester for the week, clad in white, showed off an aggressive stance with wide front fenders, with added aerodynamic bits, a flashy front grill and sloping roof that makes the CLA45 look all business, that business being pure speed. Inside there is ample room in the front and a nice enough layout surrounded with black faux-suede accents, highlighted by customizable ambient interior lighting that includes illuminated circular air vents in the instrument panel.

On the road… oh on that road.

In addition to normal tweaks of the suspension, and software provided by the Germans at AMG (god bless them everyone), the entire body of the CLA45 has been extensively reinforced to stiffen it up and make it more stable. My tester had the optional AMG Dynamic Plus Package that added bigger brakes and Race and Drift modes.

The power is put down to the road via an eight-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch transmission and while I am terrible at drifting, I was able to coax 0-60 in 3.7 seconds with little effort. The CLA45 stuck to the road and handled anything I could throw at it, while inside one of the nicer cabins I could only smile.

I found many moments of joy during my week with CLA45, a coupe that made me forget about these uncertain times. It’s gorgeous, fast, comfortable, and of course being a Mercedes with an AMG badge, something that is always good.

The CLA 45 is in a new class of car I just invented, because I can, a class I call “Joy on the Road.” My next goal will be to find others that belong in that same class so when we get behind the wheel, we can socially distance from the rest of the world, and find a moment, or two, of joy in these, these days we call, for a lack of a better term, challenging times.

The 2020 AMG CLA45 4Matic
MSRP: $54,800
MSRP (as tested): $73,665
Engine: 2.0 liter Intercooled Turbocharged I-4 382 horsepower @ 6500 rpm, 354 lb-ft torque @ 4750 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed Auto-Shift Manual w/OD
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 23 city, 30 highway, 26 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 32 mpg
Base Curb Weight: 3505 lbs.

Exterior Dimensions (inches)
Wheelbase:  107.4
Length: 184.8
Height:  55.4
Ground Clearance (max. load): 3.4

Interior Dimensions (inches)
Head room (front / rear): 38.5 / 35.7
Leg room (front / rear): 41.8 / 33.9
Shoulder room (front / rear): 55.1 / 54.0
Cabin Volume: 100.7(cu-ft)
Cargo Volume (seats up): 11.6 (cu-ft)

4 Basic Years / 50,000 Basic Miles
4 Drivetrain Years / 50,000 Drivetrain Miles
4 Corrosion Years / 50,000 Corrosion Miles
4 Roadside Assistance Years / 50,000 Roadside Assistance Miles

Greg Engle