Does a 421hp hot hatch even make sense? Of course, it does! The question here is: can the A45s actually put that power onto the road in an enjoyable manner?
Back in 2013 Mercedes-AMG cooked up the first A45 (2013-2018), a car that was loved for its straight-line speed yet not so loved as a driver’s car. Fast forward to 2020 and the brand’s shipping out the all-new Mercedes-AMG A45 S. Instantly the question arises whether or not this car has progressed past the essence of its predecessor. We took the ‘baby AMG’ for a 4-day spin, clocking up 1500 kilometers to find out. And damn did it get dirty, maybe the drift-mode* had something to do with that?
But before we dive into how this thing handles, we’ll go full nerd-mode and drool on the tech fest the engine of the A45 S is. The first mind-bending thing you have to realize about this car is that AMG flipped the engine 180 degrees horizontally. Why? To position the turbocharger and the exhaust manifold on the backside so the air intake could be further optimized. Yes, this is how far they’ve gone to push out 421hp and 500 Nm from this engine. Imagine how many parts had to be reworked after they made that engine flip around.
The magic doesn’t stop there though, they’ve also adopted technology from higher up in the AMG hierarchy. The turbocharger benefits from bearings found in the AMG GT 4-Door (review here) for quicker turbo spooling. AMG has even mounted an electronically controlled wastegate so they could control the response even further. Last but not least is a nano-coating borrowed from the F1-division on the cylinder walls, reducing friction to a minimum.
Enough of the barrage of facts, for now, the rest will be woven into our experiences with this car. So let’s climb inside and talk about the interior. You won’t be surprised to hear that it is very much like an A-Class, meaning that the quality is on point for the materials, infotainment, and audio. But is it worthy of an AMG? The car we drove surely was as it’s opted with the lovely new AMG steering wheel and grippy bucket seats. The first mentioned comes with those sweet driving mode buttons ❤️. The red belts and the embossed AMG logo finishing it off. You do realize that spending extra money on options will only give you this interior, and feeling. Don’t opt for them and the interior is ‘simply’ that of a regular A-Class. The exterior follows the same logic, as the aero package makes the biggest difference compared to the other versions. The front bumper and quad-tip exhaust being the exception.
Since the AMG is a hatchback that weighs just under 1600 kilograms, you’re probably thinking that the weight distribution isn’t that ideal. You’re right, as 60% of the weight hugs the front axle and 40% on the rear. To compensate for that, the engineers have widened the front axle’s width by 20 millimeters. Hence the wider, more aggressive-looking arches upfront. When you drive it, there’s no telling that the majority of the weight resides up front though. The A 45 S in a car that seems to stick to the road no matter how hard you trash it, but not in a clinical way. There’s tonnes of grip, yet plenty of character too. As the four-wheel torque-vectoring works its magic through corners, it prevents the need for cutting the car’s power. Allowing you to carry speed like nothing any competitor currently offers.
Entering a corner, even at higher speeds, the car feels precise and you’re given a decent amount of feedback. Only rarely are you confronted with torque-steer. AMG seems to have put genuine effort into the way this car’s steering feels and made it stiffer than ever. That, in combination with the torque-vectoring, means you’re all too happy to press the throttle when exiting a corner. At that moment you realize why Mercedes-AMG asks nearly 70K base for this car. The 3.9 seconds for 0-100kph are impressive (we tested 4.1 seconds on wet roads with launch control), but it’s only on the move when it shows its teeth. This is a hatchback that hits 0-200 in under 14 seconds. And even above 200 it pulls and pulls. Braking is equally impressive as the calipers up front hug the steel with 2 pistons more than on the A35 (review here).
Power delivery in the A45 S is very entertaining and not only because of the 4Matic+ system pulling you forward. The engineers have calibrated the torque curve to deliver most of its power higher up in the range, meaning it almost feels like an NA engine. Only at some moments does the turbo lag show, albeit slightly. This character also translates into the engine and exhaust note you’re confronted with. Sure there’s pops and bangs like any other car out there, but the visceral high pitched note at higher revs is unique for a turbo car. We averaged 13l/100km during our trip.
But is the A45 S an overkill for public roads? Most definitely no! There’s plenty of roads out there that make this car come to life and even regular traffic offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the drivetrain. Don’t stare at the marketing around the drift-mode* too much either, most of the time the 4Matic+ system is a tremendous help rather than a gimmick. Slow drives are a bliss too, as it is ever so comfortable as regular A-Class. But sadly, the car has become such an efficient machine, that only a track or the de-restricted autobahn will make it show all of its worth.
*Disclaimer: okay that drift-mode is fun, but don’t try it at home!