Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 vs. Audi S3: Compact uber-sedans with 300+ hp

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No one needs a compact car with more than 300 hp. NONSENSE! The Audi S3 and the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 prove this urban legend wrong in first-ever comparison test via

A famous German footballer (Thomas Strunz) once said the most beautiful thing about Stuttgart is the motorway to Munich. A real advantage of the location is the immediate proximity to the more hilly regions at the southern end of Germany, ideal for testing compact cars with power to weight ratios between 4.2 and 4.9 kg / hp.

Now we are finally on the topic: two compact sedans, Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG CLA 45. Mercedes bills the four-door CLA as a coupe. Oh well. The Audi on the other hand is seen as a proper sedan, even if its stepped tail is more elegantly carved on the body than on the Jetta. The A3 sedan is prettier than the Hatchback S3 too. But we’re here to talk about power, not design. 310 hp, ten more than before, ten reasons to ask for the comparative test with the 381 hp Mercedes-AMG CLA 45.

More expensive, Mercedes-AMG
71 hp more and 12,000 euros more expensive, the CLA belongs in a different class, one could object. But the competitors are rare in this category, and the question is which of the two premium compacts offer more fun for the money. This is (at first glance) the S3, which is significantly cheaper (with manual transmission from 42.800 euro in Germany). The CLA can alternatively be ordered as a shooting brake, which is a round thousand more expensive than the four-door.

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Since we can already make the first evaluations in the underground car park: Those who travel more often with adult passengers can actually delete the CLA from the wish list. The access to the rear compartment is cumbersome, the leg and head room scarce. And once you’re inside, you can hardly get a look out: not forward, because the massive seats obstruct the view, and to the side we find the very small windows.

This will be less disturbing to someone who wants the CLA because of the strong engine and the expressive appearance. The more practical car is thus the Audi, offering more space for four adults, and the visibility is somewhat better too.

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Imposing CLA, inconspicuous S3
The test cars sneak out of the garage into the city traffic. The smoother impression is made by the S3, it springs more willingly over potholes and tram rails, but loses itself in the crowd like every other dark gray Audi. Here, the CLA is of another caliber. It rides stiffer in the comfort level of the option chassis through the city and roars via its exhaust, even if one does not want this at all. It is noticeable anyway, just because of the matte gray lacquer in battleship optics (Designo Magno Matt, 2.082 euros). At the front we see elegant air-wing wings, behind there’s a spoiler lip over the trunk edge – the AMG shows what it has.

Inside it looks like an A-Class, which had a cure and turned into a race-mad interior decorator. The CLA lifts from the AMG GT the selector lever, seats and steering wheel – all apparently synonymous. This all works due to the high-quality craftsmanship, but a full feeling of quality as in the S3 is not quite on offer. Functional quirks leave their mark: the DCT knob does not work so securely as the selector lever in the Audi and the Comand menu is not always coherent.

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However, after we enter the motorway, the Mercedes soon loses the Audi in the rear-view mirror. Almost. It goes simply a class better, thanks to the nearly one kilogram per horsepower more favorable power weight. In 4.2 seconds it speeds up to 100 km / h, bettering the Audi for a good half second.

The CLA is also more powerful in the upper speed range. On the highway, it also progresses somewhat better due to its more pronounced overtaking ability, which can also be noticed. The top speed is limited to 250 km / h in both cases.

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The Audi S3 is more economical
The S3 comes as standard with Sport suspension and Drive Select, the adaptive Magnetic Ride costs an extra 980 euros. This is a good investment because it is also the right compromise between a comfortable suspension and agile handling. Even better, the steering is direct, but somewhat reserved in the dialogue with the driver. Who now thinks the subjectively more comfortable Audi is slower than the more pointed AMG, is wrong.

Its performance offers little in fast cornering, both compact limousines can be easily and effortlessly driven very fast through the wilderness. When it gets too much, the electronic stability monitors the wild ride unobtrusively.

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The fact that the Mercedes can be controlled more precisely is due to the more communicative steering. Grip on the front wheels? Steering angles, ground irregularities? The AMG steering signals everything to the driver’s brain, which creates confidence. Only light-hearted you should not be, the CLA reacts rather roughly on aggressive gas inputs.

The S3, a more compliant mind, steers somewhat under-taxing and can be handled more safely. At the top, it appears slower, but it is clear on the test track that it is a bit more efficient when the lane changes twice. It should be noted that the Mercedes is only really faster when accelerating straight ahead. And when braking. Especially from higher speeds, it comes to a stand a few meters earlier than the S3.

At the end of the test drive comes refueling. The M-133 four-cylinder in the Mercedes makes more use of the fuel pump; The faster it is driven, the greater the consumption difference. The measured values ​​confirm the impression, half a liter more for the AMG – after all it is significantly more powerful and has to carry 80 kg more.

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1. Audi S3 Limousine 2.0 TFSI Quattro
431 points
The Audi is the cheaper, more sensible and more of an everyday car, so it wins this comparison. Moreover, it is more economical.

2. Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 4Matic
390 points
The AMG CLA 45 is more focused, more striking, louder and more attractive. The fact that this hampers the daily business, should become a deal breaker in any way.

The better car? Unquestionably the S3. The more fun? The AMG, of course.

Technical Data
Audi S3 Limousine 2.0 TFSI Quattro Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 4Matic
Base price (Germany) 44.800 € 57.209 €
Lenght x Width x Height 4466 x 1796 x 1392 mm 4640 x 1777 x 1432 mm
Trunk volume VDA 390 L 470 L
Engine Capacity / Type 1984 cm³ / 4-Cylinder 1991 cm³ / 4-Cylinder
Max Power (Max Torque) 310 PS (400 Nm) 381 PS (475 Nm)
Max Speed 250 km/h 250 km/h
Acceleration 0-100 km/h 4,6 s 4,2 s
Consumption 6,7 L/100 km 6,9 L/100 km
Test Consumption 9,6 L/100 km 10,1 L/100 km