First Drive: Mercedes-Benz AMG A45
Mercedes' new approach to the hot hatch took the world by storm when it was first released. With a 0-62mph time of under four seconds and all four wheels driven by a four-cylinder engine, the A45 was a revelation in the hot hatch sector. Mercedes has recently updated it, adding more power to fend off rivals. Has it improved the formula? AOL Cars finds out.
What is it?
The AMG A45 is technically the baby of the Mercedes' performance cars, and sits at the top of the A-Class model range. Offering a high level of performance in a smaller and more useful package is at the heart of the hot hatch mentality, and this is Mercedes' own stab at it.
With tuning from AMG, including revised damping and steering over the standard A-Class, this really can't be seen as a souped-up petrol hatchback. It is a performance car, and one that is designed to be suited to even the slipperiest of British back roads.
What's under the bonnet?
The AMG A45 features a 2.0-litre, four cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, which produces 375bhp and 475Nm of torque. This gives the A45 supercar-scaring performance – 62mph comes in just 4.2seconds, and the car's top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
The ferocity is fed to the road through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, powering all four wheels and providing the very best traction. Despite this, it still has a claimed economy figure of 40.9mpg combined, and an emissions figure of 171g/km CO2. It's designed to still be useable on a day-to-day basis, and reasonable fuel economy comes into this.
What's the spec like?
The standard A-Class was famed for its funky and alternative cabin, and it seemed only right that AMG would take this to another level. Therefore we see a steering wheel with alcantara trim, along with AMG performance seats which provide a greater level of support thanks to huge bolstered sides.
The gear selector also drops from the steering column into the more traditional position in front of the central armrest – we can only thank AMG for doing this as it feels far more intuitive. For the £39,995 base price there's an impressive amount of technology on board, including satellite navigation and luxury automatic controls.
What really matters is that everything you lay your hands on feels solid, robust and of a quality that Mercedes used to be famed for. However, you won't have a huge amount to enjoy it, owing to the performance you have underneath you.
The premium hot hatch segment is a fiercely contested one. From Volkswagen, there's the excellent Golf R. There's also the new Focus RS to look out for, which does undercut the Mercedes price-wise. On top of this, there's Honda's Civic Type R, and even Subaru's WRX STI. As far as choice, this market offers an exceptional amount. This does give the A45 an even harder job, however.
What's it like to drive?
In two words, angry and shouty. Turn the rotary drive mode selector to 'Sport Plus' and you'll be greeted with all manner of pops and bangs that you'd usually associate with a rally car. Make no mistake, the A45 is a truly fast car, accelerating with ferocity no matter what gear you're in.
The ride is firm, but leave it in comfort and it does settle down. You have to remember that this is an all-out AMG – it isn't going to be a comfortable cruiser. Steering is artificial in feel, but does have a decent amount of weight to it. It's easy to carry a lot of speed through a corner, not matter what the weather. The car's four-wheel-drive system means that it slingshots itself out of corners, and the dual-clutch gearbox gives immediate downshift changes, though it can be a little sluggish on upshifts at times. Each downshift is accompanied with a fantastic crackle from the exhaust, which only gets better the harder you drive it.
That really sets the tone for the A45. The more you put in, the more you get back. Whereas some of its rivals begin to wobble as your push nearer the limit, the A45 becomes more composed and easier to live with. It's even easy to drive around town, thanks to its hatchback size.
As a practically-sized car that offers a decent boot and good rear legroom, the A45 is perfect. Add on to the top of that a ferociously fast engine and you've got a formidable recipe.
AOL Cars Verdict
The AMG A45 is an impressively rounded package. For a base price of £39,995 it offers a decent level of equipment and usability, mounted to an exceptionally capable powertrain. In any weather it is savagely quick, and gives a huge amount of enjoyment to the driver. Yes, the ride is hard and the gearbox can be sluggish at times – plus the layout of the controls in the cabin is a little sporadic. But when reduced to just car and driver, the A45 is a great deal of fun. Which is something that sits at the core of the hot hatch ideal.
Model: Mercedes-Benz AMG A45
Price (As Tested): £47,140
Engine: Four cylinder turbocharged petrol
Top Speed: 155mph
Economy (combined): 40.9mpg