Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division has boomed on almost every level over the past decade. I’m not referring to sales alone, but what it offers, how it has contributed to the Mercedes-Benz brand as well as in racing. And, with the A45 AMG, the subsidiary has released a vehicle that few people expected it would.
Design and interior
As the pictures testify, the A45 AMG looks rather different compared to the standard A-Class. The pictures above show the optional “Edition 1” package that is made up of stripes, different side mirrors, rear aerofoil, the AMG Night package, the aerodynamic package and the red brake callipers. To round it all off, there are also different wheels (19 inch) and tyres.
The interior is similar to current AMGs, with a part-leather, part-alcantara steering wheel and an AMG-specific speedometer and rev counter. Move to the transmission tunnel and the button for the three transmission settings accompany the short AMG gearlever.
Although the standard seats do a fine job in being comfortable and holding you in place, for R19 900 sport seats can be fitted which not only look a lot better (even for those sitting in the rear), but also offer more support.
On the road
Germany’s country roads are fairly narrow, so we didn’t push too hard, but what we could gather from the ride is that the suspension is stiff, and probably more so than any hot hatch’s in this class. I’ll lie if I say it is jarringly hard, but if you consider buying one in South Africa and live in an area that doesn’t have smooth roads, maybe take the car as is and don’t opt for the performance suspension.
The first leg of the launch route included a stretch on the autobahn. Here the A45 AMG quickly got up to an indicated 250 km/h – if traffic allowed, we might have gone a little quicker. I wasn’t driving at this stage, but the car felt solid and planted as we kept to this speed.
As with other AMGs, the speed limiter can be changed from 250 km/h to 270 km/h.
The 450 N.m of torque makes driving on the road extremely easy. In fifth gear, the engine will accelerate linearly from as low as 2 000 r/min. It makes sense, since peak torque starts from 2 250 r/min. Chase the redline and the needle swings with confidence past 6 000 r/min. This surprisingly urgent nature of the engine continues for the first five gears, at which time you are already past 200 km/h.
Finally, we arrived at the new Bilster Berg track, based outside Hanover. Here we could to experience this hot hatch on one of the most interesting tracks we know.
On the track
The cars we drove on track were fitted with the optional AMG sport suspension. Now, body lean was limited to a new level – not that the non-sport suspension model showed any significant lean – and you could really experience how the all-wheel-drive system works.
The 2,0-litre engine pulls strong and since up to 50% of the torque (only in extreme conditions) can be sent to the rear axle, you don’t experience wheel spin or torque steer through corners or when you pull away.
The A45 turns into a corner with a good level of confidence, but should you carry too much speed into a corner, the nose will run wide … a little. I say a little, as it is a whole lot less than something like Audi’s RS3, for instance.
The ESP obviously reins you in on the track, but press the ESP button once to activate the ‘sport handling’ setting and suddenly the car loosens up a little. It immediately understeers less, sends more torque to the rear axle than with the system totally switched on (still maximum of 50% though) and when you get off the throttle, it will allow the rear to get lighter and move around. Although we were on a track, you fortunately don’t have to drive like a maniac to experience these subtle changes.
The seven-speed double-clutch transmission responds quickly to inputs, and the pops from the exhaust when you change gears manually contributes to the level of in-car entertainment.
Should you be interested in track times, during dinner with the head of AMG let slip that the A45 did a 8:06-second Nordschleife lap time, although that is not an official time as yet.
Tipping the scales at 1 555 kg, this one of the heaviest hatches on the market. That said, the Opel Astra OPC we tested was around 1 560 kg with a full tank of fuel. On the road, and on the track, the A45 didn’t feel that heavy. That is definitely thanks to the quick steering, stiff suspension and that engine.
It is more enjoyable to drive than the all-wheel-drive RS3, but being rear-wheel-drive BMW’s M135i offers a totally different driving experience. It is maybe not quite as hardcore or involving as a Renault’s Mégane RS Cup, but for an everyday proposition it is one of the best.
Mercedes-Benz of South Africa will launch the A45 AMG in September.
Model: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
Engine: 2,o-litre, four-cylinder turbopetrol
Power: 265 kW at 6 000 r/min
Torque: 450 N.m at 2 250 r/min
0-100 km/h: 4,6 seconds
Fuel consumption: 6,9 L/100 km
CO2: 161 g/km
Top speed: 250 km/h (ltd)
Price: R555 000
*All manufacturer’s claimed figures