Don’t be fooled by its diminutive size: the Mercedes-Benz A 45 is one of the maddest AMG models you can buy.
Base price: $94,900.
Powertrain and performance: 2.0-litre turbo petrol four, 265kW/450Nm, 7-speed automated dual-clutch gearbox, four-wheel drive, Combined economy 6.9 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 4.6 seconds.
Vital statistics: 4691mm long, 1416mm high, 2699mm wheelbase, luggage capacity 470 litres, fuel tank 56 litres, 19-inch alloy wheels on 235/40 tyres.
We like: Outrageous performance, tenacious handling, bursting with exotic character.
We don’t like: Outrageous pricetag, rock-hard ride at low speed.
How it rates: 9/10
WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW? The A45 is something completely different from AMG: a small car with a four-cylinder engine. But it’s also business as usual: a bespoke model thoroughly developed by Mercedes-Benz’s tuning division, with extreme outputs (the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder engine, in fact) and a highly aggressive character.
With all of that comes a price tag to match. At $94,900, the A45 AMG is almost twice the price of the entry-level A-class model on which it is based.
WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE? Don’t make the mistake of thinking a small AMG will be a milder experience than the company’s usual large cars. If anything, the A45 is the most extreme of all, with a snarling engine and rock-hard chassis.
As with any AMG powerplant, the A45’s 2.0-litre motor is hand-built according to a ‘one engine, one man’ rule. It drives all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.
Four-wheel drive (4Matic in Mercedes-speak) is not new to AMG, of course. It produces several SUV models. But it’s a departure for a road car and it’s there for two reasons. First, the A-class platform is front-drive and that will not do for a proper performance car. More importantly, the front wheels alone could not cope with 265kW.
It’s a simply ferocious car to drive, with an immensely strong engine and an arresting soundtrack. As a measure of this car’s no-holds-barred approach to life, it comes as standard for New Zealand with the Driver Package, which lifts the speed restrictor to allow maximum velocity of 270km/h.
You also get a highly effective launch control system. When engaged, the management computer will automatically co-ordinate the engine, gearbox and 4Matic system to get you from standstill to 100km/h in 4.6 seconds. All you have to do is keep your right foot planted… and hold on.
There is little of the understeer you sometimes get with powerful front-drive cars, but all of the traction. It powers away from the apex of corners like a car possessed, the engine crackling and the gearbox slamming through ratios at incredible speed.
Don’t come to the A45 looking for a posh city runabout. The ride is impossibly firm on urban roads and soon begins to grate. If that was the only kind of driving you did in this car, you’d go screaming back to the dealership and swap it for an A 250 Sport in very short order.
Oddly, the A 45’s ride becomes more fluent and comfortable the faster you go, even on bumpy backroads. More evidence that this car is born to go fast and will accept nothing less.
IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH? All of that money is buying you AMG engineering rather than a tricked-up cabin. The A 45 doesn’t look or feel dramatically different from a conventional A-class, although it does have some bespoke features: special AMG seats, a unique instrument cluster, a proper gearlever (other A-class variants have a column-mounted wand) and thumping Harmon Kardon audio system.
SHOULD I BUY ONE? On the surface, the A 45 AMG’s $95k pricetag seems outrageous, especially when compared with the $65k A 250 Sport – a similar-looking model that AMG had a hand in developing.
But the A 45 feels nothing like the A 250 or indeed any other A-class. It’s not necessarily an everyday car: its character is so extreme that you have to be a true enthusiast and ideally be doing the odd track day to really get the benefit.
In short, the A 45 has to be something really special to justify its pricetag and place in the AMG portfolio. And it is.
- Air conditioning: Dual climate
- Audio: CD, iPod compatible
- Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/yes
- Blind spot warning: Yes
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Cruise control: Adaptive Distronic Plus
- Driver footrest: Yes
- Gas discharge headlights: Bi-xenon intelligent light system
- Head-up display: No
- Heated/ventilated seats: Yes/No
- Keyless entry/start: Yes/Yes
- Lane guidance: Yes
- Leather upholstery: Yes
- Parking radar: Front and rear with camera
- Power boot or tailgate: No
- Power seat adjustment: Yes
- Rear ventilation outlets: Yes
- Remote audio controls: Yes
- Satellite navigation: Yes
- Seat height adjustment: Yes
- Self-parking technology: No
- Split/folding rear seats: 60/40
- Steering reach adjustment: Yes
- Stop-start: Yes
- Trip computer: Yes
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