There are only a handful of jobs that one can covet when one’s own calling in life, as a sommelier, involves eating sumptuously and drinking copiously while travelling around the world, often at someone else’s expense. It may sound utterly unfair to most people, but I would love it, if nature were to allow me a second chance, to be one of the guys entrusted with the task of whizzing the wheels off a 450bhp monster while leaving badass skid-marks. That’s right; if I weren’t an absolute and utter gastronomist, I would have wanted to be an instructor at the AMG Driving Academy that Mercedes runs in select countries around the world to teach people how to get the best out of their AMG series cars. In short, they will teach you how to clock 250kmph on a racetrack without crashing your car.
I always thought they added the word academy to AMG to make it sound studious, as if it wasn’t all fun and games at 100mph. Well, after my recent attempt at driving the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG, a car that will go from stationary to 100kmph even before you have finished reading this sentence, around the Buddh International Circuit, in Delhi, my perspective has changed somewhat. Mercedes India conducted an AMG Academy training session to steer its swanky new addition into its stable. I must admit that while we Indians may think jumping a red light or spinning the wheels when we take off makes us driving pros, driving a souped-up car like the CLA45 AMG at top speed is no easy feat.
So, that would be my desired job: being an AMG driver. Imagine life if your morning chores comprised burning a new playlist while trying to recreate Picasso’s works in tyre marks as you drift across airfields and racetracks. Maybe I am glamourising it a bit, but when it comes to cars, especially sports cars, every boy is allowed some fantasy-leeway.
For the longest time in India, the choices were (A) own a family car (B) sell family and pay first instalment on a luxury/sports car and (C) upon receiving the first servicing bill, abandon both car and remaining family and move to an African country. Now, though, incomes are rising, people are marrying later and everyone wants a groovy set of wheels, even my generation, which still uses the word ‘groovy’.
Some years ago, Mercedes may have had a bit of an old-man image in India, but that’s changed recently. The CLA45 AMG is certainly no family vehicle, unless you are related to Captain Flash. It is based on the A45 AMG, but it’s not as if Mercedes just stuck a behind on a hatchback. A lot of work has gone into the design, and the result is a sleek coupe. The CLA45 has all the muscle and ripple you expect from AMG cars, including the most powerful four-cylinder engine in the world.
I won’t waste time on the electronically adjustable seats with memory function, the Electronic Stability Programme (ESP), the reverse camera, the bi-xenon headlamps or the tyre pressure monitoring system. These features are expected of a car in this range, but the active park assist (which can completely parallel park a car for you) and the COMAND touchscreen interface are new additions. Also notable are the double-exhausts, which deliver that powerful husky hum, the red brake callipers that peek out from behind the custom light alloys, the sporty leather interiors, the sliding sunroof, the illuminated door sills and panels and the spaceship-like steering wheel, studded with all sorts of controls, paddles and toggles.
As for the drive, the gears transit smoothly, climbing and falling like a well-orchestrated symphony, and the brakes are reassuringly refined — no tugs or pulls once applied, just a gradual yet firm deceleration. The roar of the revving engine is the stuff memories are made of.
Driving the CLA 45 AMG around a racetrack should be part of the rite of passage for every boy before he can be proclaimed a man. Any religion that introduces it will have my devotion for life.
Priced at Rs 68.5 lakhs, this is probably the cheapest an AMG will get. The car will be available in the market shortly. It is the first time Mercedes is launching the AMG version of a car in India before the regular one. In the meantime, if you manage to feast your eyes on this beauty, take a minute to stop and stare. As with all things sport, it looks better in red.
By Magandeep Singh