Driven in SA: A45 AMG superhatch
By: Minesh Bhagaloo
Who’d have thought we’d ever see the words Mercedes-Benz and hot hatch in the same sentence?
While the upper end of the German carmaker’s new A-Class range (A250 Sport) fits that description, the range-topping A45 launched in South Africa this week takes it to a whole new level. It’s like the Merc boys said to their Affalterbach counterparts: “Forget ze hot hatch, ve vant ze AMG hatch.”
The baby Stuttgart-Stormer has just about every weapon the manufacturer could muster. Serious firepower and rorty vocals, check. All-wheel drive, check. Dual-clutch gearbox, check. Drop-dead looks, check. Wizardry and suspension set-up, check.
Powered by a powerplant that on paper sounds rudimentary – a 2-litre four-cylinder turbo – the A45 pushes an impressive 265kW and 450Nm. To put that into context, a Bugatti Veyron makes 92kW per litre, this Merc makes 133. Benz calls it the most powerful series production four-cylinder engine on the planet. Full stop.
AN AMG HANDGUN?
Drawn from the company’s decades of experience in motorsport, and meant to embody AMG’s “Driving Performance” slogan, the A45 hopes to attract the younger buyer who doesn’t need the space and pace of the bigger artillery in the AMG arsenal.
This handgun will get to 100km/h from standstill in a claimed 4.6 seconds before hitting its governed top-end of 250km/h, and with seriously restrained driving, should sip around 6.9l/100km.
To get to these numbers, the engineers moulded in a twin-scroll turbocharger, 1.8 bars of boost, better fuel injection and a sports exhaust with a bark that will have the hounds of hell running for cover.
On the cooling front, the A45 runs charge air cooling and an added cooler in the wheel arch. And even though this engine is built alongside other A-Class powertrains, it’s still hand-built on a dedicated line.
Paired to the high-powered 2-litre is AMG’s Speedshift DCT 7-speed transmission with software from the SLS GT. It runs seven gears, three driving programmes, a double-declutching function and race start. Keeping things civil on the handling front are the AMG 4Matic all-wheel drive system, the fancy ESP set-up and the AMG sports suspension.
The 4Matic technology is front-wheel drive biased, but will shove power to the rear wheels when necessary. The claws work in tandem with a three-stage ESP, which offers drivers on, off and sport modes. Taking it further is ESP curve dynamic assist, which acts as an electronic LSD. The suspension has been tweaked with stiffer knuckles and camber settings, harder spring and damper rates, stronger bearings and a new four-link rear axle.
THE KYALAMI TEST
Mercedes-Benz SA threw down the gauntlet by setting up a track/slalom launch at Kyalami, which included everything from grass to a skidpan in a single lap – followed by an afternoon of regular road cruising. I’ll let the pictures attest to the bring-it-and-kill-it look of the A45 and can safely say its manners follow suit.
Nobody bothered telling this powertrain its size is more akin to soft drinks than sports cars, and in terms of power, it could do with anger management classes. Grab a fistful of launch control and it will rev up nicely before smoking the low profile 18s up front and thrusting through the first few gears.
But it’s more about turning than burning rubber, and after driving the A45, you wonder why the bigger AMGs don’t consider a similar set-up. It’s not so much about being a safety system, the AMG 4Matic adds that element of balance. It keeps the car focused through corners – you’d have to just about slam on the anchors mid-corner to get something to go wrong.
In either environment, track or road, the AMG systems come together nicely.
The ride is a little on the hard side, but the steering is well weighted, the gearbox is crisp, the engine is manic, and the flaps in the exhaust turn the steering paddles into a piano you want to play all day long. But be warned – we did 200km of all the above and averaged 19.6 litres per 100km!
If you ordered the A45 when the order books opened, you’d have spent R550 000, but the weak rand has added R50 000 to that price tag. For R599 500, you get a six-year 120 000km maintenance plan and an advanced driving course.
And I suggest getting your order in soon – just 300 units are confirmed for South Africa at this point. -Star Motoring