Audi and Mercedes are using the New York motor show to launch high-performance saloon babies
S3 unleashes 300hp for a 4.9sec 0-100kph time; dual-clutch automatic has six forward ratios.
It appears premium compact saloons are on the rise...
Yes they are, my friend. It could have never been so timely, but Audi and Mercedes-Benz have opened the floor in premium compact saloons at practically the same time this year.
The four-door Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-class are essentially the four-door versions of their hatchback siblings (called A-class for the Merc).
And to give their new offerings an immediate halo effect, both makers are using the New York motor show to highlight the high-performance versions called S3 and CLA45 AMG.
In fact, the S3 and A45 AMG were launched in hatchback forms in Geneva earlier this year.
Which is faster?
First of all, it must be noted that these two saloons share many remarkable similarities on the mechanical front. Since the basic models are front-wheel drive, Audi and Mercedes have resorted to all-wheel-drive (Quattro in Audi speak and 4Matic in Mercedes tradition) for these performance-oriented variants to optimise handling.
Dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard in both cars (no manual option is being offered), although the Merc has one forward ratio more, with seven speeds, than the S3.
Both the S3 and CLA45 use a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol-turbo engine to crank power up to 300hp and 360hp.
By looking at those outputs, your question has virtually been answered. The CLA45 is 0.3sec quicker from 0-100kph, at 4.6sec, than the S3.
But to be fair to Audi, the S3 isn't a direct rival for the CLA45. You will have to wait later in the product lifecycle for the really uber RS3.
Okay. Which one's more practical?
To cut to the chase without going in numbers, the basic packages are fairly the same in dimensions, plus or minus a couple of millimetres.
The Merc might be a tad longer, but the Audi is a shade wider, as such. The more significant dimension is the wheelbase: the Merc's 2,699mm is 63mm longer than the Audi for a theoretical gain in cabin space.
Put it like this: the A3 and CLA are saloons roughly the size of mainstream C-segment players like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, it's just that the Germans compete higher up in the luxury sector.
Where's the BMW 1-series saloon?
It still doesn't exist, despite the notion being discussed by BMW's top brass for years. However, the European press is already speculating that a four-door 1-series is in the pipeline.
And not to be outdone by its two archrivals, BMW is reportedly looking at an M performance version producing power in the vicinity of the S3 and CLA45.
Wherever the future lies, driving enthusiasts craving for a quick saloon baby now have two options to look at.
Expect the S3 to cost around 5 million baht in Thailand and the CLA45 a higher 6 million when sales start in the second half of this year, most likely through unofficial channels.
CLA45’s 360hp makes it faster than the S3 by 0.3sec; seven-speed twin-clutch auto is standard.
About the author
- Writer: Richard Leu
Position: Motoring news Editor