Mercedes-AMG CLA45: Lots of Power, Lots of Problems

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YouTuber Doug DeMuro tests an older version of the CLA45 and discovers big flaws in Mercedes-AMG’s little road rocket.

When you were a kid, you probably heard at least one adult say, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That’s true. First impressions are key. But second impressions can have a powerful effect, too. Just take the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 as an example. When it first came out, popular Youtuber Doug DeMuro loved it. The 2016 model he rented from a person in Denver? Not so much.

On paper, his review vehicle has a lot going for it. DeMuro says, “It has all-wheel drive. It has a lightning-quick dual-clutch automatic transmission. And it’s not big or bloated. I love zippy little luxury cars like this.” Mercedes-AMG CLA45 Review

The CLA45’s design is a hit, too. Even though it’s an entry-level car for Mercedes-AMG, the CLA45 doesn’t look chintzy or boring to DeMuro. And he can’t resist the appeal of the hopped-up four-cylinder engine, which cranks out a stout 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque (DeMuro quotes the stats for the 2015 CLA45). Mercedes-AMG CLA45 Review

But things start to fall apart even before DeMuro opens the driver’s side door because his $50K Mercedes-AMG rental doesn’t have keyless entry. He also needs to insert the key to start the CLA45. Everywhere he looks, he finds disappointment. Below him is an unheated seat – an anomaly in Denver. In front of him is cheap trim, HVAC controls with no Auto setting and only one climate zone, and the absence of a navigation system and backup camera. Above DeMuro is a conspicuously missing sunroof. He sums up his feelings by saying, “This is probably the most depressingly optioned car I have ever been inside in my entire life. It has all of the ‘Look at me. I’m cool!’ options and none of the actual luxury features to back it up.” Mercedes-AMG CLA45 Review

The back seat is not much better. There are no rear vents or climate controls. DeMuro’s 6’4″ height doesn’t make things any easier. “I’m sitting back here with the front seat almost all the way forward and I barely have enough room for my knees and it’s even worse for the headroom in this car because Mercedes-Benz calls this a sedan coupe…thingy. They slope the roofline and so my head hits the top of the ceiling.” Mercedes-AMG CLA45 Review

On the road, the CLA45 is a mixed bag. Its power and handling make it a blast to drive…quickly. DeMuro says, “It is just a total thrill to throw this thing around.” It’s so much fun that he thinks of the CLA45 as a German version of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. At normal speeds, it’s a different story. The throttle response, particularly from stop lights, is hopelessly jerky. The ride quality is punishing over rough pavement. It’s enough to make driving the CLA45 in everyday conditions feel tedious and annoying.

Fortunately, subsequent updates to the CLA45 seem to have addressed complaints like DeMuro’s. And the CLA is all new for 2020. Perhaps that model will make a positive first – and second – impression on DeMuro.

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Derek Shiekhi's father raised him on cars. As a boy, Derek accompanied his dad as he bought classics such as post-WWII GM trucks and early Ford Mustang convertibles.

After loving cars for years and getting a bachelor's degree in Business Management, Derek decided to get an associate degree in journalism. His networking put him in contact with the editor of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, who hired him to write freelance about automotive culture and events in Austin, Texas in 2013. One particular story led to him getting a certificate for learning the foundations of road racing.

While watching TV with his parents one fateful evening, he saw a commercial that changed his life. In it, Jeep touted the Wrangler as the Texas Auto Writers Association's "SUV of Texas." Derek knew he had to join the organization if he was going to advance as an automotive writer. He joined the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in 2014 and was fortunate to meet several nice people who connected him to the representatives of several automakers and the people who could give him access to press vehicles (the first one he ever got the keys to was a Lexus LX 570). He's now a regular at TAWA's two main events: the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall.

Over the past several years, Derek has learned how to drive off-road in various four-wheel-drive SUVs (he even camped out for two nights in a Land Rover), and driven around various tracks in hot hatches, muscle cars, and exotics. Several of his pieces, including his article about the 2015 Ford F-150 being crowned TAWA's 2014 "Truck of Texas" and his review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, have won awards in TAWA's annual Excellence in Craft Competition. Last year, his profile of Wagonmaster, a business that restores Jeep Wagoneers, won prizes in TAWA’s signature writing contest and its pickup- and SUV-focused Texas Truck Invitational.

In addition to writing for a variety of Internet Brands sites, including and, Derek also contributes to other outlets. He started There Will Be Cars on Instagram and Facebook to get even more automotive content out to fellow enthusiasts.

Derek can be contacted at [email protected]

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