MERCEDES-BENZ A 45 AMG REVIEW
What’s hot: Amazing race-car capability, crackling exhaust, surprising compliance.
What’s not: On road, nothing. Inside, the screen display looks a bit naff.
X-FACTOR: Signed, sealed and delivered: the world’s best hot-hatch – bar none; and equally at home on road or on track.
Vehicle style: Small premium hot hatch
Engine/trans: 265kW/450Nm 2.0 turbo | 7spd DCT
Fuel consumption listed: 6.9 l/100km | tested: 11.0 l/100km
If you’re going to build a hot hatch, why not build the world’s best?
This is what Mercedes Benz has done with the A 45 AMG. It’s not just better; it’s head and shoulders above all-comers.
Right now, it’s the Bob Beaman of ‘hot hatches’ (Google it, if you don’t know), that’s what it is.
Slide in behind the wheel, nail the accelerator “when safe to do so” (yes Nanny), and this is what 265kW and 450Nm feels like in a car the size of a sandshoe.
It’s fast, brother, very fast.
Add AWD grip, twin-scroll turbo, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that rifles off an F1-style whip-crack with each upshift, crackles and growls on downshifts, and you’ve got the ingredients for some serious high-performance alchemy.
As Mercedes Australia Marketing GM Richard Emery said, “We’re confident [the A 45 AMG] will draw a mix of new customers to the brand.”
He’s right there. After two days in the saddle (and some scorching track time), this I declare: Mercedes Benz remarkable A 45 AMG is the best high-performance hatch ever made, ever offered for sale.
The best ever... simple as that.
With that twin-scroll turbo pumping 1.8 Bar (26.5psi), and piezo injectors, it is also the “most powerful production four-cylinder in the world”.
It’s on sale from September 1; it will cost you $74,900 plus on-road costs, and, yes, you DO want one.
The A 45 AMG is one out of the box. Get behind the wheel and prepare to be startled.
It’s a super interior, and tight as a drum, but who cares really. You’d forgive it if it were lined in Tupperware lids and butchers’ bags.
As it happens, it’s not, and feels every inch the premium purchase.
The seats are sumptuously trimmed in black leather with red stitching and ‘red-cut’ perforation; door rests also in leather, sporty carbon-weave dash facing, AMG-monogrammed kick plates and with leather and Alcantara steering wheel, the A 45 AMG looks and feels very smart.
With electric adjustment to the front seats and reach and rake wheel, it’s easy to get set for launch.
The only blot in the copybook is the screen display which looks like someone blue-tacked an oversized Garmin to the front of the dash.
It looks such a wonky after-thought you have to wonder if maybe it was (forgotten, then tacked on, that is).
The seats are sensational; deep, shaped for serious work against gravity, and beautifully trimmed in soft leather.
The ‘hollowed’ shifter is really neat, there’s a button beside it for switching between sport, manual, eco (which activates the stop/start function) and comfort modes; there are also shift paddles at the wheel.
Other features include 19-inch alloys, an intelligent light system, AMG performance exhaust and AMG drivers’ package, parking sensors, tinted glass, panoramic sunroof, AMG steering wheel with Alcantara grip, heated seats. COMAND online system and cracking Harmon Kardon Logic7 audio with DAB+ digital radio.
It’s smart, and well-equipped, but it’s on-road where the A 45 AMG’s brilliance emerges. And, really, what you’re paying for.
ON THE ROAD
Point this electrifying rocket at the road; it’s not just good, it’s historically good.
Even in ‘eco’ mode there is no disguising the neddies under the bonnet. In this mode it short-shifts on changes to keep fuel-use low, but will happily fire out of a corner or jump into a hole in the traffic.
In comfort mode the feel is similar; there is a little more urgency underfoot (barely noticeable) and the most compliant suspension setting.
In this setting, despite the guards-filling 19-inch wheels and fat-as low profile tyres, the A 45 is surprisingly comfortable.
It is free of the jitteriness and jarring that typifies Euro suspension settings – but even in sport mode you won’t need to worry about the fillings being shaken out of your head.
Punch in ‘S’ for sport, everything gets wired: it crackles and growls and strains at the leash and feels sharper everywhere.
Firing it through the hills is an absolute blast. The AWD grip is astonishing.
And when pushing hard through a corner, the transition – the sharing of the grip from the front wheels to rear – is imperceptible (just one single micro-second in it).
There are scant few cars that will allow you to get so hard on the juice so early into a corner.
It is beautifully balanced, holds the tightest of lines and is unshakeable no matter what the corner may throw up.
It’s also forgiving. Overcook it, and it just hangs on. Get on the nail too early, and there’s the barest of oversteer – not understeer – which tucks the nose tighter in.
Around a mountain road, hot-hatches don’t come much hotter, nor better nailed down, nor as predicable.
ON THE TRACK
If it’s a cracker on road, it’s even better on the track. We were lucky enough to be let loose around Phillip Island (face, get rid of that silly-arse grin).
Our first exercise put the launch control to work. If bragging rights at the red light derby is important to you, MB has your car.
To operate it: turn traction control off, select M (for manual), left foot on the brake, pull both paddles back simultaneously, confirm the ‘launch control’ message with a single pull of the right paddle, and nail the foot to the firewall.
Then, slide the left foot off the brake.
Do this, and it simply bolts. This thing goes like a scalded cat. Mercedes is claiming a 4.6 second 0-100km/h dash. I would think Blind Freddy could manage it.
Even with my glacial reaction times we were pulling 194km/h over the 1/8th mile track AMG had marked out for us.
And if it goes like a shower off the line, it’s even better on full howl around the circuit.
This is as much fun as you can possibly expect to have while fully clothed and upright in a chair. The A 45 AMG has track-day warrior written all over it.
And you’ll win races. You can brake it hard into a corner, let the astonishing grip carry you through on a balanced throttle, then nail it out of the apex.
It will go exactly where you want it; let it drift wide on exit, then line up the next.
Once you learn a track, if you can get the lines and braking points right, you’ll be doing some very respectable times in the A 45 AMG.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
How quickly we repent when shown the light. I will confess to having recently mused that we may have become a bit obsessed with power and torque numbers.
And that maybe “too much” is “too much”?
But alas, I sinned; shovel in the power Lord, and keep shoveling. This amazing rocket from AMG shows just how much fun, how engaging – and yes, how safe – a high powered small hatch can be.
Only the BMW M135i comes anywhere near close.
And as capable as the BMW is, it is not nearly as nailed, as brutishly quick, nor as ‘race-car-like’ in temperament as the A 45 AMG.
It’s got the nose of a boxer, and looks a tad awkward from some angles, but this car is irresistible.
Sure, it will set you back the better part of $80k by the time you’ve got it on the road - and that’s a lot of shekels for most of us - but, right at this moment, it is simply the best there is.
Mercedes-Benz is expecting to sell 250 to 350 before the year is out. You will need to get an order in early, I would think, if you want to be among them.
Word is going to get out very, very quickly.
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