The Mercedes A45 S AMG is the HOTTEST of All Hot Hatches
Most of us will know of the new A45 S AMG by now. Due to COVID Lockdown in NZ, my time with it was delayed several times. Finally drove it, and wow.
Let’s start off by saying this. I am not that keen on the term game changer. I have always felt this term has been done to death in the world of Motoring Journalism. Describing a car as a “game changer” to me is rather cliché and should only be used if the car in question, really has changed the game as it were, and only if absolutely necessary.
However, after a week with the new Mercedes A45 S AMG, I found myself struggling to substitute this phrase for something better suited to describe this hot hatch phenomenon. So, a “game changer” it had to be, and the A45 S AMG is certainly that.
The last few years has seen a resurgence of hot hatches across the automotive spectrum, however what those mad German engineers have managed to do from deep inside the skunkworks that is AMG, is staggering.
Starting with looks, the A45 S AMG is not what one would call subtle, especially with the optional AMG Edition One, and AMG Aerodynamics packages, as fitted to my test car. Handsome blacked out 19-inch AMG 5 Twin-Spoke alloys hide red brake calipers contrasting with the Sun yellow paint scheme look rather epic.
In fact, when you throw this together with that pronounced rear wing and aero flicks on either side of that aggressive mouth, the A45 S is very flamboyant indeed. It makes no bones about its intention to savage your senses on the road or track.
Now, you might be thinking “yeah, we can see it looks racy and all, but is it fast?” Yes, it is fast. Very fast. In fact, fast is a term too lenient, especially when you consider the numbers. Under the bonnet sits the M139 2.0L direct injected, twin scroll turbo four-cylinder engine. What makes this so special, is the AMG boffins have managed to extract no less than 310kW out of it. That’s 420hp in the old money. Oh, and around 500Nm of torque.
Thanks to this gargantuan grunt, the A45 S AMG holds the official title for most powerful production hot hatchback of all time. Sending the power to the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, is the AMG SPEEDSHIFT eight speed DCT gearbox. Add all this together, and you have a five-door hatchback which can reach the national NZ open road speed limit in 3.9 seconds, and reach 270km/h flat out. The most powerful hot hatch ever made, is also the fastest hot hatch ever made, all while returning 8.9L/100km.
Hop inside and your rear posterior is cocooned by some serious hip hugging semi bucket seats. The seats themselves manage to hold you tight while still retain levels of comfort which make them bearable for daily commuting. Extend your mitts and the suede wrapped AMG Performance steering wheel feels good in your hands.
The sides of the wheel have been pegged back to something a bit oval in appearance, very similar to what Aston Martin have done with the DBS Superleggera, but not as noticeable. The rest of the interior looks epic, with yellow stitching and lots of AMG badges, the latter found on the door sills even light up at night.
Cycling through the latest rendition of Mercedes’ MBUX multimedia system with dual 10.25-inch digital screens, we find the usual plethora of A-Class creature comforts and features. Also, simply saying “Hey Mercedes” is enough for you to treat the A45 as your four-wheeled SIRI, though the system is activated by the merest mention of the name “Mercedes,” which can become annoying. Especially as it tends to interrupt your Greta Van Fleet playing through that sublime Burmester Sound System.
One aspect of the tech unique to the A45 is AMG Track Pace mode. Here you can save and record your lap times of every track you drive on. Though I couldn’t imagine Mercedes Benz New Zealand being too impressed if I was thrashing their car around Mike Pero Motorsport Park.
You can also record your best quarter mile drag times and speeds, and keep a log of every time you tried to match AMG’s claimed 3.9 second sprint from zero to 100km/h. The best I managed was four seconds dead, which I was more than happy with.
While the front of the A45 is very spacious, and you can easily find a driving position to suit you best, the same cannot be said for the rear. While you won’t be folding yourself up to get comfortable in the rear seats, lankier folk may struggle. Boot space is average at best too. Then again, if you used an A45 as your weekend toy, it would make sense to drop the back seats entirely.
Press the start button and the M139 burbles into life. What amazed me was that in COMFORT settings, the A45 was unusually quiet. Ticking over at a snip above 800 rpm, it is remarkably civilised. Moving off and lo and behold, there is no earth-shattering ride to speak of.
You would think by glancing at the A45, that it would be as rough as guts around town, but no. In fact, its very decent indeed in terms of comfort. Nowhere near a Rolls Royce of course, but compared to other “hardcore” hatches of recent years, its very good.
Flick up to SPORT mode and things get louder. The throttle response is sharper, the steering quickens up, and the shifts get quicker. The M139 now sounds a distinctly turbocharged ballad. The sound of raspy forced induction can be quite addictive, especially when you shift up to SPORT Plus.
It is in this mode, and once you point it’s nose away from inner city commuting and towards that aforementioned hilltop B-road, that the A45 S AMG starts to reconfigure your understanding of what a hot hatch can do.
Two words. Drift and Mode. Yes, just like the Ford Focus RS, the A45 S AMG has Drift Mode. It works by sending power bias to the rear wheels, and when activated allows you to look heroic blasting sideways, but prevents you from facing the way you came, or worse, creating a new A45-shaped geological oddity. Drift mode is probably best left for track work however.
Flick up the drive modes once more, and you are in RACE. Now the dial is well and truly turned up to 11. Before experiencing the full extent of the A45 S unshackled, a dive into launch control was mandatory. It’s a simple system really. Left foot hard on the brake, floor the throttle with your right foot until the screen of race light appears, release your left foot, then wham.
You are pinned back in your seat violently as the 4MATIC all wheel drive, and everyone one of those 310kW, come together to give you the kind of acceleration best left to serious sports and supercars. Honestly, the A45 S AMG is in another league when it comes to getting going.
While the A45 S can rearrange your fillings with savage acceleration, and will keep on pulling like a steroid enhanced Jack Russell after a mountain of caffeine intake, where it really boggles the mind is it can carry said speed through the bends just as easily.
The A45 S corners almost telepathically. Every bend is a case of “blink and you have gone round.” I struggle to think of other cars in this segment which can negotiate the twisty stuff as effectively and as quickly as this can. With that M139 crackling and booming like a far-off battlefield, and pulling almost 1.5g in ever corner, the A45 S is an utter revelation.
Coming back down to earth, there is an elephant in the room with the A45 S AMG, and it needs to be addressed. The price. At $111,000, it is not what you would call inexpensive. In fact, its very pricey indeed. Also, the AMG Edition One kit is another $8k on top of that, so my test car came in at $119,000NZ. Ouch
The Mercedes A45 S AMG has boldly gone were no hot hatchback as gone before. Yes, its on the expensive side and yes, it’s not that spacious in the rear. However, the way it can deliver in spades the same no holds barred adrenaline fueled thrill ride as most supercars costing twice the price, while being comfortable for every day, is a strong testament to AMG engineers and their fanatical drive to create the ultimate hot hatch. A game changer indeed, there I said it.
Even a high price tag does not detract from this Hot Hatch Tour De Force