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Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG review (2013 onwards)
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: summary
Mercedes' first ever hot hatch smashes all the boundaries with a 360hp 2.0-litre turbo engine, four-wheel drive and over 40mpg.
We like: blistering pace, ridiculous noise, agile chassis, big character
We don’t like: ride may prove harder to stomach in the UK than the price
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: first impressions
If the looks don’t immediately state the new Mercedes A45 AMG’s intentions, the noise it makes the moment you turn the key surely transmits the desired impression. In proper AMG fashion there’s an instant retort from the twin-exit exhaust, like an irritable dragon clearing its throat.
Anyone who was concerned that Mercedes in-house tuning arm wouldn’t be able to give its debut four-cylinder engine the correct kind of aural presence can rest easy now. The A45 is most definitely not for the shy and retiring.
That Mercedes' new hot hatch is rapid almost goes without saying – 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds makes the baby AMG baby quicker than an entry-level R8 or 911
This – in case you missed the memo – is Mercedes’ first true hot hatch. Although, if we’re being perfectly honest, ‘hot’ doesn’t really cut the mustard here; the A45 is a 360hp, four-wheel drive monster that’s aiming to do nothing less than stomp the Audi S3 into submission before swiping the BMW M135i into next week.
This isn’t hot. It’s absolutely scorching.
Point of order number one: 360hp makes this the most powerful ‘series production’ four-cylinder engine ever. No, cars like the Mitsubishi Evo FQ400 and the Subaru Impreza Cosworth don’t count – they were far, far from being regular production vehicles. This was not the work of a moment, we assure you.
Point of order number two: with an engine capacity of 1,991cc, it’s also the most power dense car currently available, producing 181hp per litre. The only upcoming automobile to exceed this figure is the McLaren P1. And that’s a million-dollar hypercar, not a distended family hatchback.
Point of order number three: despite both previous points, the A45 AMG still claims to return over 40mpg. It’s not just the muscle that’s class leading, in terms of mega-hatches so is the efficiency.
Then there’s the price. But even at a shade under 38 grand, it might just be worth it…
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: performance
That the A45 is rapid almost goes without saying – 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds makes AMG’s baby quicker than an entry-level Audi R8 or Porsche 911. What might surprise you is just how accessible this performance really is.
A twin-scroll turbocharger has allowed AMG to virtually eliminate lag – so there’s no waiting for a big bang here, just a mighty, mighty push from idle speed right to the redline. It feels like a much bigger engine as a result. It feels like an AMG should.
The A45 AMG's sheer capability and poise suggest the opposition may struggle to see which way it went
Sounds like it, too. Though if you option the Performance Exhaust be prepared for angry mobs wielding pitchforks, as the team responsible for fitting the silencing material was clearly throwing a sickie. Loud? It’s decidedly demonic.
The standard system should prove more than evocative enough for most people, cunningly valved for comfortable cruising yet hilariously raucous when you’re gunning it. Especially in the Sport and Manual gearbox modes, where a fantastic woomph accompanies every full-bore upshift. Glorious.
That gearbox is – inevitably – a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. A tactile pair of real metal paddleshifters brings a little more joy to the manual gear selection process, which, with a set of AMG specific internal transmission components, generally proves a snappy, positive affair. Despite some occasional disobedience.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: ride and handling
This disobedience usually occurs on the hurry into corners, when you go hunting for a downchange the gearbox doesn’t want to give you. Fortunately, the brakes and the chassis have both got the chops to safely see you through such occurrings – this is a very well sorted machine.
The specially AMG-fettled 4Matic four-wheel drive means traction in the dry is without question. Up to 50% of the A45’s prodigious 332lb ft of torque can be directed at the back axle, and while this doesn’t make it tail-happy to any major extent, the further you lower the stability control threshold the further the system increases the preload on the clutch that activates the rear wheels.
For all its unrelenting performance, it’s perhaps the A45’s efficiency claims that are the most incredible
Together with ‘Curve Dynamic Assist’, which brakes the inside rear wheel to propel the A45 harder into the turns, this makes for some extremely agile direction changes. But you need a bit of space if you really want to push the limits, as too much corner entry speed still scrubs easily into understeer.
Lucky for us, Mercedes provided this space in the form of the new Bilster Berg ‘drive resort’, a privately built racing circuit that carves an undulating path through the German countryside. It only officially opened at the beginning of June, so this was quite an eye-opening privilege.
Out on the road – which was admittedly thought-provokingly narrow in places – the A45 initially felt a little flat-footed. A few laps of the track brought it thoroughly to life, and meant another road session – on wider, better-sighted tarmac – proved far more rewarding.
Steering that seems a little dead at modest velocities starts to deliver more detail as your confidence and the speedometer climb higher. And if we retain reservations about how well the ultra-firm suspension will cope with UK surfaces, the A45’s sheer capability and poise suggest the opposition may struggle to see which way it went.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: interior
Should you find yourself magically transported to the interior of an A45 AMG – heavy night, was it? – you won’t be left labouring under any illusions of modesty for long. If the noise doesn’t alert you, the red detailing should do the trick; there is an awful lot of it inside the cabin. Including the seat belts.
This is nothing a wodge of (extra) cash and a visit to the options list can’t cure, however, and we’ve no complaints about the more fundamental appointments, such as the seats. We also like the bespoke AMG gear selector in the centre console, which replaces the daft column shifter used by regular A-Class models.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: economy and safety
The A45 AMG is as safe as any other A-Class – which means a five-star Euro NCAP rating and almost every modern electronic aid you can think of. The ESP stability control system offers a choice of on, entertainingly relaxed Sport and fully off as well. The uprated AMG brakes are 350mm big at the front, 330mm at the rear.
For all its unrelenting performance, it’s perhaps the A45’s efficiency claims that are the most incredible. The usual EU testing procedure returned 40.9mpg in combination with just 161g/m CO2. A stop-start system is standard, too. But prepare for much bigger bills if you use the rest of its potential to the maximum.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG: the MSN Cars verdict
This car is quite the statement from Mercedes AMG – everything from the engine to the price, to the outrageous (and optional) aero package styling screams for your attention, and for the most part the A45 AMG stands up to the scrutiny with a smirk on its face.
No, the steering isn’t the last word in communication, and yes, the BMW M135i is probably ultimately more playful. But this is a supremely effective piece of automotive escalation, and if you’ve got nearly £38,000 to spend on a hot hatch rest assured, you’re not just buying a very fast car but an addictive experience.
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