There are two ways to look at this. One, is that Mercedes has stooped to a new level and produced a watered-down AMG with at least half its cylinders missing. The other is that it set out with a goal of clobbering the hot hatch hierarchy into submission with an Affalterbach-tuned wild child that’ll steal its playmates’ lunch money and use it for tattoos. But only one is correct.
True, AMG’s better known for the massage therapy it performs on V8s and V12s, and in its 45 year history it’s never touched a four-cylinder motor. This means nothing. The principles of power procurement apply regardless of engine size and layout, and if Mercedes wants to embarrass the market with its new A45 hyper hatch, then who better to turn to than the same team that tickles tappets in some of the heaviest-hitting saloons and sportscars around?
133 KILOWATTS PER LITRE
The end result is the world’s most powerful four-cylinder engine (yes we know your cousin’s Corsa holds a record at the drag strip, but we’re talking about series production here), and, until McLaren officially launched its P1 supercar, the A45’s 1991cc turbo, at 265kW/450Nm, makes more power per litre (133kW/l) than any other engine in history. The P1 is at 143kW/l by the way.
Most of the juice comes from a huge turbo blowing at 1.8-bar, but then there’s also fancy-sounding items like spectacle honing, gravity-die sandcast blocks, nanoslide piston walls and centrifugal pendulum flywheels. We won’t judge you for not understanding those things.
We’ve never heard of them either... And no, this is not a modified version of the A250 Sport’s engine. The A45 and that model share only a timing chain, and just like all other AMGs this motor’s built by hand in Germany and it gets a signed plaque on top to prove it.
On the surface the A45 AMG looks a lot like a normal, front-wheel drive A-Class hatch, except for some sporty bumper and side-sill add-ons, but almost all the hardware underneath is unique. There’s no way this much power could go through the front wheels alone without snapped sideshafts and forearms, so under throttle-provoked duress up to 50 percent of drive is sent off to the back as well.
Not only does all-wheel drive come in handy for those dastardly inter-robot dashes, but it also gives this A-Class a more settled and precocious driving characteristic than some of its high-powered front-driven hatch rivals. Zero torque steer means driver can relax and focus on more precise steering inputs, and in explicit track environments the added traction helps to skedaddle out of corners without time lost to wheelspin.
The seven-speed DCT gearbox is equipped with a launch-control feature, and combined with four-wheel grip the A45 can vamoose from the line in an extremely pugnacious fashion. When engaged, revs rise to around 3000rpm before power is suddenly discharged through the drivetrain. The A45 squats for around a picosecond and then begins its bound for the horizon, setting off a string of rowdy blaps between gears along the way.
Real-world figures at altitude have the baby AMG at 4.9 seconds from 0-100km/h (Merc claims 4.6) and the quarter-mile comes in a giant-killing 13.3. Impressive stuff for a 2-litre hatch. Out of interest, the next quickest 2-litre turbo in our Quarter Mile Kings listing is a Golf R at 14.4 seconds.
And yes, it’s a hot hatch so the suspension is firm. But I could happily live with this Benz on an everyday basis, and that’s more than I can say for plenty of other cars in this class. I’d even go so far as to say the A45 rides better than its non-AMG A-Class counterparts. The all-wheel drive system has necessitated a complete rear suspension overhaul, and the new multi-link setup offers an excellent ride.
It’s a practical car too, with four doors, reasonable rear legroom and a decent sized boot. I also liked the quality of materials used in the cabin, which give the A45 (and its lesser siblings) a high-class German feel. That German feel does come at a price though, and at R604 000 before options this is a very expensive hatch.
But then, there are two ways of looking at it... It’s a very expensive hatch, or it’s a half-priced AMG. I say it’s the latter.
The undisputed king of hatches. I’m not saying there isn’t a quicker competitor around the corner, but a more powerful 2-litre turbo is unlikely in the near future. Merc has pushed the power-per-litre envelope to a new stratosphere, and the A45’s fun factor has hitched a ride with it. -Star Motoring
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