You get cars, and then you get what I like to refer to thrill machines. You see, most of your options on showroom floors, especially in the sports section typically lack in character and personality. Sure, some of these cars are fairly fast in a straight line and even through bends, but there’s always something missing. This was my frustrating predicament with many vehicles until the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S came along and flipped the script. Yours truly spent some quality time with the firecracker compact sports sedan, and boy was it intense, in a good way!

The CLA45 S looks the business right off the bat, like an apex sea predator with serrated teeth and a set of gills, ready to cut through the water with its sharp design. The front end is accentuated by the AMG vertical slat grille and a bumper with large air intakes, which gives the car a bold and attractive look. Swing over to the rear and you’re met with an equally striking design in that sloping boot embellished with a neat little spoiler. At the lowest point of this rear rests a gloss black portion of the bumper, which houses a tidy set of quad exhausts, and of course, a diffuser. It all rests on four 19-inch wheels with aluminum rims covered in Michelin Pilot Sport 4 rubber. The CLA 45 S’s design is difficult to find fault with, if anything, you catch yourself glancing back whenever you leave the vehicle.

When getting to grips with any new car I always like to take things slowly and understand the vehicle under normal driving conditions, before fully dialing in. The Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 S is what you could call a multipurpose tool. It’s a vehicle you can use on a daily with ease and without protest, and on the day your inner hooligan awakens, the CLA 45 S will happily indulge you. Powering this baby AMG is a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine which doesn’t sound like much but be warned, this petrol engine which is not to be sneezed at. In fact, according to Mercedes-Benz, this is the world’s most powerful turbocharged 4-cylinder engine to be used in a production car, and you fully understand this once you’ve driven the Mercedes-Benz. It produces a fiery 310 kW and 500 Nm – unicorn figures in this displacement class. With the brand’s 4Matic+ system, the vehicle is capable of delivering all that power to all four of its wheels, and hurtle this sedan past the 100km/h mark in 4 seconds flat. Acceleration in the CLA45 S is quick and instant. When you need to negotiate sharp or sweeping bends, it responds with precision and the agility of a dragonfly. Words cannot describe the thrill induced by its superior driving dynamics. It changes direction in an instant and accelerates like greyhound being assualted by angry hornets.

There are six engine maps available on-demand, and it simply boils down to your mood at that moment. Sports+ and Race are the two which bring on the most joy and excitement – while Race will not only give you dynamic performance and handling but also alters the exhaust soundtrack to produce a deeper, throaty tune accompanied by all the right pops and crackles. When cruising about in Comfort, you’re barely aware that you’re driving a sports car. The CLA45 S is light, easy to pilot, and hushed.

Adding to its multifaceted character is a launch control which kicks you in the back of the head, clearing up any fog leftover from your morning routine, as well as the new Drift Mode. Believe it or not, but this 4-cylinder AMG can now go sideways, following in the steps of its bigger, brute siblings. We can confirm that this feature (Drift mode) does work and you won’t be disappointed. When partaking in such adrenaline-inducing activities, the AMG seats will give you more support than your parents did at your first sports match in first grade, while still offering enough comfort for you to spend hours nestled in them.

R1.2 million may seem steep for a baby AMG, but the CLA45 S is an exceptional piece of engineering, offering drivers everything they could ask for, from a daily driver to an accomplished athlete and a sideways toy all in one car. You never get tired of driving this car.

By Gugu Masuku