What is it?
The CLA 45 S Shooting Brake is the sort of special car that comes along when a manufacturer follows its nose for longer than is normal or, perhaps, sensible.
The road that led to the creation of this expensive and unbelievably quick junior AMG estate began when Mercedes introduced the third-gen A-Class in 2013. It was a different car from the imaginative, original A-Class. The body had morphed into more customary two-box proportions and, as for the powertrain, rather than sitting obliquely beneath the front footwell in an ingenious feat of packaging that didn’t compromise safety, it now rested above the front axle, as with every other hatchback.
It was sad to watch the likeable A-Class fall to convention, but the new layout meant Mercedes could put into production an idea it had only ever dared toy with for those precariously tall early cars. That idea was to build an entry-level AMG that could fire the brand headlong into the hot hatch wars. And AMG being AMG, when that car arrived in the form of the A45, the 355bhp developed by its hand-built 2.0-litre engine really was, for a while at least, ‘world-beating’. And outrageous.
At the same time, Mercedes also took the opportunity to re-body its reinvented A-Class. The sleeker CLA saloon was born and it spawned an all-new shooting brake with added practicality and, in the eyes of many, added desirability. The arrival of AMG derivatives then gave us one of the most curious and rare-groove cars on sale at any price point in the form of the original CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake of 2015. It felt forged in the mould of the V10 BMW M5 Touring and Ferrari FF: fast but useful and quirky, even though, with limited space and route-one handling, it never appealed as much as it could or should have.
That car has now been revamped, AMG permitted to reprise the 45 recipe, only with more power and technology. There’s absolutely no mistaking the new car, either. In 2020, the CLA 45 S comes replete with almost comical motorsport-style canards, four 90mm exhaust pipes and AMG’s new 2.0-litre M139 meisterwerk powerplant unusually swivelled 180deg. It means the turbo now faces backwards, vacating space for a generous, Corvette-esque intake duct at the front along with better aero. The M139 also delivers 415bhp and 369lb ft and accelerates the car to 62mph in 4.0sec, making the CLA 45 S Shooting Brake quicker on paper than both AMG’s own V8-engined C63 Estate and even the Audi RS4 Avant. And now I suspect I’ve really got your attention.