Power-limo showdown: Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 versus Audi RS3

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Large engine, small car: the success recipe of hot hatches translated into the compact premium limousine segment. Which is the new king: Audi RS 3 sedan with 400 PS or Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 with 381 PS? First comparison test via auto-motor-und-sport.de.

They are still small enough to slip through narrow forest tunnels, but big enough to offer the family four usable seats and a practical trunk. In terms of styling glitz, the AMG is, by the way, clearly the winner here, but in the case of the space conditions in the interior, on the other hand, it is disadvantaged, because the low roof makes it difficult to enter the car. If you have finally pushed your body inside, you can hardly look out – the window surfaces are miniaturized.

RS3 and CLA 45 – limos for the curve star

The two power sedans are not sports cars, but everyday cars – for the small curve hunger between. Your one-for-all character relativizes the high price. The latter is worth considering. In places like this one is always looking for a handy transition as a scribe. In the way of “… the bridge between reason and driving pleasure …”.

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Astonishingly: with carbon fiber discs on the front axle, the RS 3 brakes very well. This round-neck accessory is by the way priced at 4,650 euros in the extras list – and while recommended in the test, it is not particularly needed in real life. But the RS sports seats are – they really strengthen the back so to speak. Only AMG’s counterparts are able to make a point even better: they can widen their side bolsters electrically or narrow them down optimally for better support. Of course, the Mercedes can also be efficient in the straight ahead, as it snaps in 4.4 seconds to 100 km/h, while the Audi does it in an even smoother 4.0 seconds. And we do not want to conceal the fact that this sprint involves a lot of drama too. So much so that the launch control will only be shown at short notice. For it is quite crude force that rips the body out of the resting position when the two power-limos jump ahead at full speed.

“RS3, this moment when…”

Until recently, owners of supersports cars could only enjoy such an experience. Now it is possible too at least halfway on the financial ground. This also applies to the cornering tempo. This is not so much about the laboratory engineering of standard maneuvers (here the Mercedes is a bit faster). No, it’s about awesome head shaking at the end of a swift apex shakedown.

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The RS 3 always tried hard and is now really ambitious. The curves are no longer coldly-regulated, now the Audis makes them come alive. You now have greater confidence in the front axle, because more power flows to the rear. Quite right: The Quattro drive prefers to send most power to the rear and thus relieves the front axle of the drive tasks. It can focus more than before on the steering, which makes it a pleasure to drive. The RS 3 takes in the weather, snaps to the radius and bites into it like a terrier, following the commands of its master exactly.

AMG CLA 45 – Restraint goes differently!

The relationship with the AMG is less familiar, as it does not tie up in the same manner as the RS3 with the driver. Still, the CLA is somewhat better in terms of suspension comfort – interesting for those who are looking for a first-and-only car. The 45 ‘s also feels light – footed, sufficient. Here, where a broad-minded super-sportsman would be relentlessly stuck in the woods, both compact sedans play their game mercilessly.

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To the point where the front tires of the Mercedes are overloaded; the CLA 45 then rubs discreetly to the curve exit. It offers a slightly less consistent feel than the RS 3 – which is not related to optics or acoustics. Because restraint is not his way. The test car’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo comes with exhaust flaps and body wings offensively and announces its appearance already from afar. If you want to be unobtrusively fast, you better take the CLA 250. Now the RS 3 is also not a child of sadness. Although his 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo engine is somewhat more sophisticated than the AMG four-cylinder, its standing and driving noises run a few decibels lower than the CLA, but its voice is loud and clear.

The diesel-like torque peaks reveal only half the truth: Both engines push only in the middle speed range, but quite strong so. In terms of fuel consumption, the Mercedes needs 10.1 liters of gasoline for 100 kilometers and the Audi 10.5. Small advantage for the AMG then.

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To speak of better or worse would be trivial. What we can do, however, is a talk of cheap and expensive. The entry into the ascent to the compact car top is a bit easier at Audi, especially as its standard equipment is more complex and includes 19-inch wheels and LED headlights. And the insurance companies favored it lower, which results in lower premiums. The RS 3 is therefore somewhat cheaper. This results in a victory – without defeat. In the case of competitors who are so close to each other, taste can make its own personal decision.

1. Audi RS 3, 433 points

The RS 3 curves nicely, tight and zippy. Its five-cylinder is full of life and pushes hard. You can not expect too much from suspension comfort, though.

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2. Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 4Matic, 427 points

The CLA 45 makes a lot of drama around itself, is very fast, but less precise in curves. It gets more points for safety equipment and braking. Typical AMG: high cost.

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Technical Data
Audi RS3 Limousine Mercedes AMG CLA 45 4Matic AMG
Base price (Germany) 55.900 € 57.209 €
Lenght x Width x Height 4479 x 1802 x 1397 mm 4640 x 1777 x 1432 mm
Trunk volume VDA 315 l 470 l
Engine 2480 cm³ / 5-Cylinder 1991 cm³ / 4-Cylinder
Power 294 kW / 400 PS at 5850 rpm 280 kW / 381 PS at 6000 rpm
Max. speed 250 km/h 250 km/h
0-100 km/h 4,0 s 4,4 s
Mixed consumption 8,3 l/100 km 6,9 l/100 km
Test consumption 10,5 l/100 km 10,1 l/100 km

Source: auto-motor-und-sport.de