From afar, the CLA45 AMG never seemed to live up to the hype since launching in mid-2013 as the A45 AMG in Europe.
Under auto show glare, it can be easy to miss altogether why this car is so special or groundbreaking for Mercedes.
But up close, even between to its big E63 and S63 siblings, the CLA45's case starts improving dramatically. These are not only new styling themes for the ever-traditional Star brand. Not just a transition to a transverse, front-drive basis for a next-gen of luxury compacts.
This car really lays the future template for making Mercedes-Benz to crack open into new market segments by the dozen.
Yes, Mercedes has tried many expansion plans over the years -- but remarkably-few have stuck around for the second generation of those models.
With the CLA45 AMG, Mercedes is launching the car from the top of the range downward. That starts with this rip-snorting turbocharged four-cylinder, heard below.
The best part of the top-down strategy, of course, is that much of the CLA45's new tech, style and affordability can be had o the far-cheaper CLA250 Sport models that are finally arriving in the States.
As for this 4Matic-as-standard CLA45 AMG? Sold out until August at minimum.