The battle for supremacy at the top of the Indian luxury car market is fast turning into a street fight. While erstwhile leader BMW has caught up with the law of averages, Audi and Mercedes are happily trading punches. So even as Audi prepares itself for the compact A3 sedan, Merc fast tracked the launch of its own entry level sedan, the CLA class. However, the first variant to come is the AMG avatar, which would be too expensive to bother the A3. It is still a car worth taking note of.
The best looking sedan to come from a hatchback
Not a long time ago, Mercedes had a big problem to contend with. Its design had become too conventional — almost boring — and it wasn’t turning heads anymore which is a big deal in the car business. It forced the company to go back to the drawing board and the result — the A and B Class — is for all to see. The CLA which is based in the same platform as the hatchbacks may well be the icing on the cake. It gets a mesh grille which is similar to the A class. The headlamps are also similar to the hatch but bigger to cater to the vehicle’s larger profile which is highlighted by the 18” wheels. The curved tail lamps with the vertical air ducts and sports exhausts complete the aggressive tone. As we found on the roads, it is a definite head turner.
Inside... it is all A class
The cabin has many similarities to the A class, beginning with the dashboard layout to the instrument cluster and the air conditioning ducts. It is a sporty car so the black layout was mandatory though the brushed metal strip in the middle breaks the monotony. The only sore point is the command online screen in the middle that juts out like a sore thumb. The attention to detail is faultless with the leather seats getting a thin strip of red to match the seat belt. Being a low slung car, you have to really stoop to get in and space at the rear is also at a premium with the sloping roofline compromising the head room further. But these are a few perils of a compact sedan that you will find elsewhere too.
Ride and handling
The CLA would be the most affordable AMG to go on sale in India and it would also have the smallest engine — a 4 cylinder turbocharged petrol motor mated to a 7 speed automatic gearbox. And courtesy AMG, it develops 360 PS of power and a jaw dropping 450 NM torque. The result is a hyper active car that utlises its low weight and high aerodynamics get to 100kph in under 5 seconds. Fire the engine and you are g reeted with the AMG growl which dies down to reappear only when pushed hard. The suspension set up is obviously very stiff to keep the car in control but in Indian conditions it would need some care. Even the smallest bump filters into the cabin and larger craters threaten to tear the low profile tyres. It sticks true to its DNA of a car best suited for the tracks.
The AMG series of cars are not meant for everybody, either in terms of performance or the price that they come for. You can get a regular top end E class for its price and still have some change. For those with a thirst for performance, it will readily whet the appetite though. Even in terms of dimensions, it is not very compact. At 4.6 metres, it is in fact bigger than the existing C class which it will eventually replace. , The 45 AMG is only a turbocharged precursor to the regular CLA. And if looks are anything to go by, it sure is worth the wait.