Here we are, at a juncture in 2019 where the world demands more and more air to be rammed indiscriminately down a road car engine’s four combustion chambers, expecting it to produce over 300kW but be mild mannered and obedient enough to live healthily (at least over its warranty period), through traffic jams, even haul groceries and the general detritus of family life.
Mercedes-AMG have been slow-dripping the unveil of their 45 series of entry-level flagships, preceded this generation by the less potent 35 series because more variety is perceived as better. At the ongoing Goodwood Festival of Speed, Affalterbach pulled back the covers to both the A 45 and its three-box counterpart, the CLA 45.
Speaking of variety, AMG isn’t content with having just one version of the new-generation 45 series. Instead, as a buyer, and taking the CLA as the example, you have to now choose between the CLA 45 4Matic+ and the CLA 45 S 4Matic+.
Both feature a 2.0-litre turbocharged hand built M139 four-cylinder petrol engine that redlines at 7,200rpm, but where the non-S is saddled with 285kW, it’s the S that boasts the 310kW output. In terms of torque, the latter produces 500Nm while the former has 20Nm less, the effects shouldn’t really be noticeable in the real world. Regardless, an 8-speed dual-clutch transmissions is placed in charge of gear shifts.
At 285kW, even the base 45 series AMG delivers more shove than many V8 engines, even if the aural sensations aren’t up to scruff. And in terms of outright pace, they claim a 100km/h sprint from rest in 4.0 seconds (45 S) or 4.1 seconds (45), while top speed is pegged at 270km/h for both.
We won’t harp much about how both models differ mostly because, past the cosmetic differences, they really are the same vehicle underneath. Even visually, both the CLA 45 and A 45 share nearly identical styling, especially at the front end. The similarities continue with the aero package.
They include a modified front splitter and additional flics on the front apron, an additional diffuser blade, side spoiler lips on the rear apron and rear spoiler (A 45) or larger spoiler lip (CLA 45) in, finish in high-gloss black that’s more than bound to pick up scratches and abrasions like nobody’s business.
Overall, both cars have swapped the more conservative dimensions for flared fenders and wheel arches to accommodate the wider front track for more assured handling. The ‘shark nose’ fascia is given AMG’s signature Panamerica grille design too, further aligning its design with the entire high performance portfolio.
Clearly, this new breed of smaller AMGs have moved game ahead on output alone, but it remains to be seen how expertly the chassis has been engineered to cope with so much performance. The previous A 45 and CLA 45 (and GLA 45) were undoubtedly one of the quickest point-to-point road machines you could buy, but were criticised for being somewhat blunt instruments compared to its competitors.
Much of the optimism for the new generation being better driver’s instruments than they were previously boils down to the inherently improved dynamics of the cars they are based on - the W177 A-Class and the C118 CLA-Class. However, to add to the list of thrills, AMG have built in a Drift Mode, the subject of some controversy and many teasers prior.
It’s an option for the non-S variant and standard on the 310kW A and CLA 45 S. Because it can potentially be dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced driver, accessing it isn’t as simple pressing a button. Rather, the car needs to be put into Race, the traction control has to be turned off, and the shifts set to manual override.
There’s every reason to expect an Australian launch is coming, but it’s unlikely we’ll see these new AMGs arrive Down Under until very late in 2019 at the earliest. European markets, naturally, will a have first run at them and their insanely turbocharged engines.