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First drive: Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic
Mercedes-AMG's mega-hatch goes back to the top of the power class...

 



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Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Mercedes-AMG has boosted the power of its already pretty beefy A 45 mega-hatch in order to see off the Audi RS 3 Sportback, yet it's the added driver interactivity found in this upgraded machine that we find the most appealing.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic
Pricing: A-Class range from £21,065; A 45 4Matic from £39,995
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: four-wheel drive, seven-speed AMG Speedshift automatic
Body style: five-door hot hatchback
CO2 emissions: 162g/km (VED Band G, £180 annually)
Combined economy: 40.9mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited); option to raise to 169mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.2 seconds
Power: 381hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 475Nm from 2,250- to 5,000rpm

What's this?

Just the fastest, most powerful hot hatch in the world. Again. When Mercedes launched the A 45 AMG in 2013, its 360hp engine and 0-62mph time of 4.6 seconds elevated it to a whole new level above the rest of the competition. Then that pesky rabble down at Ingolstadt turned up the heat on the RS 3, with 367hp, 465Nm and 0-62mph in 4.3 seconds for the all-new model earlier this year wresting the crown from Stuttgart and Affalterbach.

Well, that just won't do, will it? So, with the third-generation 'W176' A-Class coming in for a mid-life facelift, the time was ripe to sock the Audi square in its 'Singleframe'-grille chops. Thus, with new badging as well - it's now known as the Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic, to fit in with the closer tie-up between Mercedes and its favoured skunk works - the A 45 for 2016 comes with an extra 21hp and 25Nm, with revised gearing and improved aerodynamics, all of which slashes four-tenths from its 0-62mph time... and crucially allows the Mercedes-AMG to pip the RS 3 to 62mph by 0.1 seconds. In your face, quattro GmbH!

Like the rest of the A-Class range, the minimal revisions to the A 45 amount to new lights, new bumpers, a new grille pattern and some new colours outside and in. However, we've always admired the A-Class' appearance and our opinion hasn't changed. Indeed, the A 45 remains an excellent example of restrained visual violence. Although you can ruin that by opting for the new hue, Elbaite Green, and adorning it with a load of black trimmings (go for the AMG Night Pack for £1,595, then you can have the £1,530 AMG Aerodynamic package that incorporates a gloss-black front splitter with side flics and a rear boot spoiler). The resulting car is overtly aggressive... and we absolutely love it in this specification. It looks bonkers and also youthful, unlike many of Mercedes' products. Go for Jupiter Red if the green is a bit too daring.

The interior remains a mix of the excellent and the annoying, like the strange ergonomics and the eight-inch infotainment screen that isn't integrated in any way, shape or form into the dashboard, but the AMG accoutrements - glorious bucket seats, carbon-effect trim, the beautiful steering wheel with Alcantara grips at a quarter-to-three and the bespoke instrument cluster - more than make up for that. The selective two-mode dampers are also drafted in for the Mercedes-AMG, costing £595 on their own or £1,395 as part of the AMG Dynamic Plus option, which also adds in a front axle differential lock.

How does it drive?

Fast. Very, very fast. Its benchmark sprint is as quick, for example, as the monster Mercedes-AMG GLE 63 S Coupé, which has 200hp and 300Nm more firepower to play with and if anything we'd say the A 45 feels the more rabid of the pair. It's a little rude to say that you can often forget about this stunning 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the interim periods between sampling it, but every time you're exposed to it, the unit reminds you just how incredibly potent and wonderfully mapped it is. Not only is it hugely punchy but it makes a superb racket for a blown four-banger - especially when you engage 'Race' mode on the Dynamic Select and the LOUD setting for the exhaust is activated. On the basic performance front, no one in their right mind is going to be complaining about the Mercedes-AMG hatch.

However, pace was never the A 45's problem. No, it was a lack of sizzle in the chassis department that let the Mercedes down. It was always a little inert, with too much understeer and a dearth of rear-axle playfulness both dominating the handling. Well, a few hot laps of EuroSpeedway Lausitz in the new one is an eye-opening experience. Race mode also loosens the ESP's electronic grip on the chassis and as a result the A 45 feels far more alive than it ever has done before. The front is a much less dominant part of proceedings, although it possesses keen turn-in and a lot of grip. Moreover, you can feel the Mercedes-AMG yawing underneath you with each minuscule lift or depression of the sharp throttle. That adjustability, coupled to excellent steering with plenty of feedback, makes the A 45 truly grin-inducing - and stupidly rapid and balanced through corners.

That it has mammoth brakes, a superb, quick-witted dual-clutch gearbox straight out of the top drawer and iron-fisted body control are all bonuses. It's also reasonably comfortable, considering its power and ultimate road-holding abilities, although many will still think it firm, even with the dampers in Comfort mode. Any drawbacks? Well, so capable is it that it does suffer from a problem that can affect ballistic cars like this - the most exciting driving is only to be had when punting it along at or near its limits. Which basically means that on the road, unless you fancy flirting with a prison term, it'll feel quite aloof for a lot of the time.

Verdict

The Mercedes-AMG A 45 4Matic may, on the face of it, have only received minor alterations and some output increases designed purely to win pub boasting competitions. Yet the 2016MY version feels agile and invigorating, where its predecessor felt clunky and benign. OK, you'll need to take it onto a track to unlock its ultimate abilities, but there's just enough pleasure to be had rowing it along at medium pace to make it well worth considering. Mind you, for £40,000-plus (which it will be with choice options), this ultimate hot hatch malarkey is starting to get very expensive indeed.

5 5 5 5 5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

5 5 5 5 5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 16 Sep 2015









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2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-AMG.



2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2015 Mercedes-AMG A 45. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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