2015 Subaru WRX STI vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

Shootout at Road America

2015 Subaru WRX STI vs. 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

Go ahead, complain. We get it; this is an unlikely comparison. Highfalutin’ buyers interested in the Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG are probably unwilling to consider the plebian Subaru WRX STI. Likewise, Scooby enthusiasts are almost certainly disinterested in anything graced with a gigantic chicken-foot logo in the middle of its grille.

Pricing is another area where these two vehicles diverge. The Mercedes kicks off at $48,375; the STI is considerably more affordable, wearing a base MSRP of $35,290.

On the surface they may seem as different as chalk and cheese, as dissimilar as foundry coke and non-dairy whipped topping. But consider for a moment their similarities. Both the Benz and the Subaru feature potent turbocharged four-cylinder engines; in each car power is routed to all four corners through a cutting-edge all-wheel-drive system; and finally they both benefit from the latest go-fast technology. Perhaps they’re a closer match than meets the eye.

Mercedes-CLA45-vs-Subaru-WRX-STI (4).jpg

The Boxer’s Knock-Out Power

Vital statistics matter; they’re just as important to gunshot victims in the ER as they are to vehicles in a dealer’s showroom. Suffice it to say, numbers count (literally and figuratively).

Starting with the Subaru, it’s powered by a brawny 2.5-liter boxer four-cylinder engine. This low-slung powerplant delivers 305 ponies with 290 lb-ft of torque. Variable valve timing, a block with semi-closed decks, a hardened crankshaft and 14.7 pounds of boost ensures ample muscle and long-term durability.

Subaru-WRX-STI (2).jpg

A six-speed manual transmission is the only gearbox on the menu. It’s been specially reinforced to handle the STI’s extra power. If you want an automatic go buy a Prius.

Like every Subaru save the BRZ, this menacing four-door features the company’s famous symmetrical all-wheel-drive system. Aside from providing extra grip and added confidence in foul weather this technology is also beneficial on the racetrack, enhancing the front-heavy STI’s handling.

For even more fun the STI features a Driver Controlled Center Differential, DCCD for short. The mechanical limited-slip diff features three separate driver-selectable modes and more customization options than you’d care to read about. Summing this technology up, you can totally tweak how the vehicle handles by futzing with the center differential.

Naturally this performance car’s chassis has been thoroughly reworked as well. The springs, dampers bushings and attachments have all been redesigned and are stiffer than the previous model. Brembo brakes bring it all to a fade-free stop, time after time.

Subaru has thrown down an impressive gauntlet with their all-new WRX STI, but the folks in Stuttgart are not ones to be outplayed.

Mercedes-Benz-CLA45-AMG (1).jpg

Pocket V2 Rocket

Killing its rival’s buzz, the CLA45 AMG is armed with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with the bores arranged in a more conventional configuration (read: inline). It may be down on displacement but this little wonder delivers 50 more horsepower than the Subaru and considerably more twist. Official figures clock in at 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to turbocharging, direct fuel injection and a little bit of AMG magic this hand-built engine delivers V8-beating performance. Unlike the Subaru, which is only available with a manual transmission, this car is offered exclusively with an automatic. That’s too bad because a proper stick would be so much fun. But if you’re going to saddle drivers with a self-shifting gearbox it better be good, and the CLA45’s is cutting edge. It features a seven-speed dual-clutch unit for rapid shifts and maximum performance.

To deliver such generous output figures turbo boost tops 26 PSI, nearly double what the Subaru’s blower puts out. To keep cylinder pressures one step back from insane the compression ratio is a fairly low 8.6-to-1. Redline is 6,700 RPM.

A forged crankshaft and similarly formed pistons ensure a long lasting rotating assembly and shocking performance. The dash to 60 miles an hour takes a claimed 4.5 seconds; top speed is electronically limited to 155 miles an hour.

Mercedes-CLA45-Interior (3).jpg

High-performance 4Matic all-wheel drive puts power to the ground and supposedly weighs 25 percent less than competing systems from other automakers, and less weight is always a good thing in a performance car.

As for the rest of the CLA45 AMG’s chassis it’s significantly beefed up as well. The steering knuckles have been made stiffer, the bearings more rigid and bushings have been modified to transform the driving dynamics of this small sedan.

Showdown at Road America

Given their dissimilar hardware it should be no surprise these two cars drive differently. What’s surprising is just how unalike they feel. We were fortunate to test them back to back at Road America, a VERY fast four-plus mile circuit located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, about an hour and a half north of Milwaukee.
Subaru-WRX-STI-Interior (3).jpg

Starting with the Subaru, it’s loud and proud, always grumbling like a piece of agricultural equipment, but instead of bailing hay or harvesting corn this implement is all about speed. The characteristic boxer rumble is as prevalent as ever but it’s also augmented by some sort of whining sound at high engine speeds. It’s interesting combination.

As expected, acceleration is very quick, though gear changes are BRUTAL. Even in “normal” driving it’s almost impossible to shift the STI smoothly; the racing-grade clutch wants to grab like an angry toddler, but one with the hand strength of a Doberman’s jaw.

On occasion while navigating corners something funky would happen with Subaru’s front end. It felt like the differential was shifting torque around, though it would transmit a weird nibble into the steering wheel. The oscillation and accompanying noise only lasted a second or so but it was disconcerting when it happened at speed.

Compare Specs

2014 Mercedes CLA45 AMG
2015 Subaru WRX STI
Vehicle 2014 Mercedes CLA45 AMG Advantage 2015 Subaru WRX STI
Engine 2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 - 2.5-liter Turbo Boxer-4
Horsepower 355 HP CLA45 AMG 305 HP
Max. Torque 322 lb-ft. CLA45 AMG290 lb-ft.
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch automatic - 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy 23 MPG city / 31 MPG hwy CLA45 AMG 17 MPG city / 23 MPG hwy
Weight 3,494 lbs. WRX STI3,386 lbs.
Rear Legroom 27.1"WRX STI35.4"
Rear Cargo Capacity 13.1 cu. Ft. CLA45 AMG12 cu. Ft.
Starting Price $48,375 WRX STI $35,290
As Tested Price $55,925 WRX STI $39,290

Compared to Mercedes’ offering the Subaru felt like it had more suspension travel and consequently more body lean, though it was hardly excessive. The car still stays planted on the road.

Subaru-WRX-STI-Interior (1).jpg

Other disappointing aspects of the STI include flat, tall and rather lifeless seats. This is a performance machine; it should cradle you in bolstering. Also, the car’s headliner looks awful, like a recycled cup holder you get from a fast-food restaurant, not that this is something that impacts how it drives.

Moving on to the AMG, its 50 horsepower advantage was obvious; it felt appreciably fleeter than the Subaru. It bursts ahead like a bottle rocket, just point it where you want to go, light the fuse and hang on.

Where the STI was raw the Mercedes was smooth, calm and daresay relaxed. The CLA45 is super easy to drive very, very quickly, just like other AMG models. It’s sort of a point-and-shoot experience though because the car’s ample technology can easily mask your mistakes making you look like a rock star even if you’re an American Idol reject.

Curiously the Benz sounds like it’s got gas. During hard acceleration up shifts are accompanied by a farting sound from the exhaust. We suspect it’s supposed to sound sporty but in practice it’s a little odd.

Mercedes-CLA45-AMG-Wheel (2).jpg

And so is the brake pedal, arguably the least impressive part of this vehicle’s driving experience. The decelerator is extremely mushy, like stepping on a morbidly obese person’s clammy cankle. Even though the AMG has tons and TONS of stopping power it’s not very confidence inspiring because the pedal sinks half way to the floor before anything happens.

Also, under hard braking the Mercedes’ binders like to growl; think Chewbacca enjoying a shower head’s pulse setting and you’ll get the picture. Like the Subaru’s symphony of racket this muffled warble is somewhat unusual.

The Verdict

Wrapping all of this up with a pretty little bow, the CLA45 AMG is more fun to drive at speed than the WRX STI. It feels a good bit faster around Road America, its handling is more neutral, plus it’s smoother and more refined.

Mercedes-CLA45-vs-Subaru-WRX-STI (5).jpg

Since it feels so raw the Subaru gives the initial impression that it is in fact the quicker machine, but after driving both of them back-to-back the Mercedes is definitely faster – particularily on this high-speed course. It wins you over with its predictability and ease of use, to say nothing of its sledgehammer punching power.

Still, the AMG is a lot more expensive plus you can’t get it with a manual transmission. If you want a performance bargain with a proper gearbox opt for the Subaru instead; it’ll reward years’ worth of smiles. However, if branding, outright speed and civility matter most, head on over to your local Mercedes-Benz dealer and check out the CLA45 AMG.

2015 Subaru WRX STI

  • Fedex

    Why Subaru uses the same 10 years old crap engine in new WRX STI model, which is called “revolutionary” ? What about very common head gasket problem, piston and sleeve cracks – still nothing ,Subaru did not make any modification till today. They base on good opinion and legend from the past, counting money and pissing on customers.

  • CLA45 owner

    I cannot drive for sh*t and didn’t even open the hood on my last car… not even once! however, i am lucky to have a job that pays me far more than i probably deserve so i just treated myself to a CLA45, a week ago… holy cow… I’ve never felt like i do driving this car…

    I’ve gone from driving the kids to school and to the office to booking an AMG driving school track day! last Sunday, i went for a drive just for the hell of it and actually turned off the (internet) radio, just so i could listen to the engine – and that’s all I could hear because the car is so aerodynamic that the bloody wind hardly even rates on the auditory scale!

    i haven’t driven a WRX (and basically, i’ll admit it, would quite simply never buy a Subaru) but I’m sure its got punch… all that technical skill to change gears smoothly and, you know, drive it, sounds like hard work to me though… my life is hard enough as it is and when it comes to my car, i want someone else to have done all the hard work; a race car that even i can manage.

    I guess you would say, i am in the CLA45 market and if you’re like me buy one… it is so awesome.

  • http://www.bigbangdissertation.com/dissertation-help/ dissertation writing help

    This car has given us the separate grace in front of the other people. It deals with the lot of things with the latest things as well. This can be more effective for the main side of the first purposely.

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked