The race for the title of ‘World’s Best Hot Hatch’ is over and the winner is the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG. Yes it’s pricey at $74,900 but the list of technology - including all-wheel-drive grip – the looks and the driving dynamics means the A 45 AMG more than deserves CarShowroom.com.au’s maximum five-star rating.
At the media launch of the A 45 AMG last year CarShowroom.com.au said we wouldn’t drive a better car in 2013 and we didn’t. Now we’ve spent a week in one and we stand by our enthusiasm for the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG – this is the hot hatch benchmark, it’s as simple as that.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Overview
The Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG is ground-breaking on many fronts – not the least of which it is the first compact segment vehicle to wear an AMG badge. Of course it also has a sedan brother - the equally fabulous CLA 45 AMG.
It builds on the A 250 Sport model with its turbocharged 2.0-litre AMG-sourced engine, unique AMG sports suspension and a comprehensive list of AMG goodies inside and out.
$74,900 is a lot of moolah for a hatchback but boy-oh-boy does it buy a lot of car in the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Engine
Like the 12-cylinder and V8 engines fitted to the other supercars in the stable, AMG hand-assembles each turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine for the A 45 AMG. The engines come out of the new AMG engine facility in Kolleda and adhere to the ‘one man, one engine’ regime and each gets a plate signed by the chap who put it together.
With 265kW at 6000rpm and 450Nm between 2250 – 5000rpm, this is the most powerful series production turbocharged four-cylinder in the world and it powers the A 45 AMG from zero to 100km/h in just 4.6 seconds. But, as you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz the turbo 2.0-litre is efficient too – combined cycle fuel consumption rated at 6.9l/100kms.
Part of the performance is a twin-scroll turbocharger with a maximum charge of 1.8bar – that’s a lot for road car. There’s also the AMG sports exhaust system with a flap which delivers a stunning bark/pop/bang on over-run and gear changes in the ‘M’ mode.
Drive is to all four wheels via the AMG Speedshift DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with sequential manual mode and steering wheel paddle shifters. There’s three modes, a double de-clutch function and ‘Race Start’ (we used the latter at Phillip Island and its remarkable stuff, straight from F1).
The latest version of the AMG 4matic all-wheel-drive system is up to 25 per-cent lighter than equivalent systems from rival manufacturers.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG The Interior
Open the door of the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG and you’ll immediately notice this isn’t your standard ‘Benz – the racy sports front seats in Artico leather with contrast red stitching, red seat belts, carbon-fibre look dashboard and glorious AMG sports steering wheel with alcantara grips are immediate clues. Red highlights abound – including the surrounds for round aircraft-style air-vents.
Instruments too get the AMG treatment and we liked the digital readouts for coolant temperature, oil temperature and gearbox oil temperature – they’re blue when cold, changing to white when the optimum temp is achieved.
To the left is the stumpy gear lever and 17.8cm colour TFT screen for the satellite navigation and audio – the latter an excellent 12-speaker Harmon Kardon system with Linguartronic voice control and DAB+ digital radio.
The driving position is superb (the usual ‘Benz door-mounted electronic controls for the seats and rake/each adjustment for the rear). There’s plenty of longitudinal adjustment for the front seats but lanky folk up-front do cut-into the legroom for those is the rear.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG The Exterior
‘Donor’ car for the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG is the A 250 Sport and although our test car wasn’t fitted with the ‘Aero Pack’ ($1,990) which mounts a large wing on the roof, larger front splitter and ‘flics’ for the front bumper corners, the standard version adds a number of AMG goodies to make sure you’re recognised.
The front scores the AMG ‘twin-blade’ radiator grille and front apron cross strut (both in matt titanium grey) and black ‘flics’ for the sides of the cool air inlets.
Side view is dominated by the matt titanium grey side sills and beautiful 19-inch AMG alloy wheels (titanium grey on our test car or you can opt for matt black with a high-sheen rim flange).
And the rear sees air outlets at the sides of the unique AMG apron and a diffuser (all in matt titanium grey) plus those glorious square AMG sports exhaust outlets.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG On The Road
At the media launch we drove the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG on the Phillip Island race circuit and some roads in the hills East of Melbourne – and that was a great two days – but this was our first chance to live with it for a week and drive over our regular high-speed mountain roads test loop.
And yes, our runs over the mountain were in ‘M’ mode so we could use the sequential seven-speeder in manual form (snappier shifts than in ‘C’), enjoy the outrageous pops and crackles from the exhaust and we set the ESP to ‘ESP Sport handling’.
The Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG runs a unique four-link rear end and AMG sports suspension with specifically tuned springs/dampers and thicker anti-roll bars. That means flatter cornering.
‘Blistering’ is the term which springs to mind. When required the AMG 4Matic all-wheel-drive system splits the torque front-to-rear up to 50:50 and when you’re pushing hard the A 45 AMG responds like, say the Nissan GT-R. You can feel the ‘pivot point’ and drive from the rear and the resultant mid-corner set, grip (and speed) is astonishing.
Then there’s the brakes – 350x32mm at the front and 330x22mm at the rear. We punished the A 45 AMG hard at Phillip Island and there was no discernible fade and the same during multiple runs over our high-speed mountain roads loop – brilliant.
And here’s the thing – just select ‘D’ and ‘C’ and the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG is smooth, tractable and refined (although the exhaust note reminds you you’re not driving an S-Class) in every-day life around the city. Compact, maneuverable and with the hallmark Mercedes-Benz reversing camera to make shopping mall parking a breeze.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Issues
Nope, there is no down-side with the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Verdict
In horse racing parlance the ‘Hot Hatch Race’ has been run, you can put down your binoculars, the judges have declared ‘Correct Weight’ and the winner is the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG. In a nutshell, you can add the A 45 AMG to the list of Mercedes-Benz vehicles which have been game-changers in just about every market segment.
Yes, it really is that good.
On the one hand you have the stunning looks, the beautiful interior, the scintillating turbocharged 2.0-litre engine with that raucous exhaust note and all the Mercedes-Benz technology, but the A 45 AMG’s edge comes from that all-wheel-drive chassis.
Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG The Competition
BMW’s M135i is a cracker, no doubt about, it and at $64,900 is a significant $10K cheaper than the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG. But the ‘Beemer’ is a tad short under the bonnet with 325kW/450Nm from its turbocharged 3.0-litre six and its driving dynamics while sensational are ultimately limited by driving only the rear wheels.
Audi’s S3 ($59,900) is superb however the 206kW/380Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre is a long way short of the A 45 AMG and drive is only via the front wheels.
Likewise Renault’s Megane RS 265 ($51,640 for the Trophee+) is a sensational drive but its 195kW/360Nm turbocharged 2.0-litre isn’t in the same league as the A 45 AMG and it drives the front wheels.