2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 debuts AMG's most powerful turbo-four

Just how far can you squeeze a turbo-four? If you're Mercedes-AMG, then the answer is to record-setting levels, with the new M139 hailed as the world's most powerful series-production turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. That's found a home under the shapely hood of the new AMG CLA 45, where it's good for 382 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. For those keeping track, that's 7 hp more than the the first-generation CLA 45.

Mercedes-AMG saves the real monster for Europe, however. The images you see here are of the Euro-spec CLA 45 S, tuned even further for 416 hp. That, sadly, isn't coming stateside; still, what's on offer for those in the market should be more than sufficient, the M139 paired with an equally-fresh eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. 4MATIC+ fully variable all-wheel drive with AMG torque control helps get you from zero to 60 in 4-seconds flat with launch control.

While the CLA 45 isn't a sports car by a purist's definition, adding to the sportier driving experience is torque vectoring on the rear wheels. That allows for variable amounts of torque to be transferred to the front and rear, and then from left to right, according to traction, drive mode, and driving style.

A fast car requires equally effective brakes. The CLA 45 pairs its 235/55 R 19 tires with 13.8-inch discs with four-piston calipers at the front, and nearly-matching 13-inch brake discs with single-piston calipers at the rear.

The unique all-wheel drive setup allows for an optionally available drift mode, for those seeking an even more thrilling driving experience. It pushes all of the power to the rear axle, trading grip for fun going sideways. Having experienced the E63's rear-wheel bias on an ice track, I can first hand-attest to how much more entertaining it can be, just as long as you've got the right track to safely do so.

Top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph, though buyers have the option to unleash the engine's potent power for a higher top speed of 168 mph – and get adaptive dampers at the same time – by ticking the AMG Driver's Package. Peak torque arrives at 4,750 rpm to 5,000 rpm, and the engine redlines at 7,200 rpm. In AMG's eyes, the power band's on par with a naturally aspirated engine.

Differentiating from the A-Class, CLA owners enjoy more form-fitting seats – with red accent stitching to match the red seat belts – and an AMG steering wheel. Similar to Audi's RS line, the instrument clusters display additional info that more engaged drivers might care about. Opting for the Track Pace package adds additional telemetry data: g force, throttle and brake position, on top of engine/oil, selected gear and track time. It's all served up on the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, which is optional on the CLA 250.

Mercedes' dual display infotainment system is one of the best in the class. Alongside the driver's instrumentation panel is a 10.25-inch touchscreen, from which you control all aspects of the vehicle. One of my favorite features is the natural-language voice control, which can handle not only vehicle settings but answer general knowledge questions and more.

On the outside, the CLA 45 gets AMG's slatted Panamericana grille, with bigger lower air intakes integrated into the front bumpers. The wider-looking grille blends nicely into the the front fenders and new side skirts. At the rear, the CLA gets bigger diffusers with round-quad exhaust pipes, and a rear spoiler for more downforce.

Going on sale at the end of the year, pricing for the 2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 45, 35 and CLA 250 will be announced at a later date.