There’s a saying that goes “be careful of what you wish for because you just might get it”. Someone out there must have wished that the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG could use some extra power, because the red car you see here is exactly what that bloody person wished for – an A 45 with more grunt. Mind you, since its debut in 2013, the A 45 already has the world’s most powerful series production four-cylinder turbo under its bonnet, and now it packs an even bigger punch than before.
Preposterous? Absolutely. But why wouldn’t it be, since the A 45 has always been special for AMG because it was the result of their maiden effort at building a hot hatch. Fans weren’t quite sure when AMG first announced about the project, fearing it might dilute the brand usually associated with big screaming V8s. Fortunately, the A 45 became another success story for AMG and gained a cult-like following among petrolheads. Not bad for a first attempt, eh?
This rejuvenated A 45 is part of the updated W176 A-Class range which brings styling tweaks, additional driving modes and a reprogrammed transmission; and it even gets its name changed from Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG to Mercedes-AMG A 45. However, one thing remains unchanged is that the A 45 continues to be the brawniest compact hatch around, beating rivals with bigger engines such as the Audi RS 3 Sportback, Ford Focus RS, and the BMW M140i.
|Name||Mercedes-AMG A 45 4MATIC|
|Engine||1,991cc; turbocharged inline-four|
|Transmission||AMG Speedshift DCT, 7-speed dual-clutch|
|Max Power||381 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Max Torque||475 Nm @ 2,250 rpm|
|Price (OTR without insurance)||RM348,888|
The previous A 45 sold by the dozens here despite the fact one could get a much bigger Benz for less amount of moolah. The new one costs about the same as before, which is far from affordable to us Average Joes, but perhaps it’s easier to stomach the fact that it’s the cheapest offering in the AMG stable. We’re not talking AMG Line here but the full-blown AMG, and don’t forget that it’s now quicker and more powerful than ever.
Similar to the rest of the facelifted W176 range, the A 45 gets minor styling makeover which brings new front and rear LED lights and a new set of bumpers. Other than that, it’s pretty much the same as the previous A 45. The glitzy diamond grille on the standard A-Class has been substituted by an AMG-specific twin louvre setup, the bumpers are much more aggressive, and the wheels are 19-inch multi spoke AMG items are wrapped in 235/35 R19 rubbers.
To the disappointment of some, the new batch of the A 45 no longer sports the conspicuous Edition 1 livery, but that’s nothing that a local sticker shop can’t do nowadays. Although the Malaysian cars still get the Aero pack fitted as standard, I reckon the kit is more than enough to differentiate the A 45 from the lesser models.
As I’ve mentioned in the A 250 Sport review, I’m not a fan of the A-Class’ looks but I must admit that AMG has turned it into a real badass. It looks meanest where it matters most, which is the back, because that’s the view the majority of people are going to see on the highways. Those rhombus fake pipes still split opinions, but the devilish wing and the razor-edged diffuser combo means serious business they’re bordering on illegal. Subtle? Far from it.
If you thought the A 250 Sport’s interior was sporty, the A 45’s is, well, sportier than that. It’s essentially the same cabin with its black and red theme, and unfortunately it also means it inherits the inconsistent build quality.
Anyhow, AMG has cranked up the sport dial to 11 in the A 45. They’ve thrown out the front seats and replaced them with a pair of multi adjustable Recaro buckets, and the flat bottomed steering wheel with shift paddles is nicked from the AMG GT supercar. Through the steering wheel you’ll discover that the speedometer now maxes at 320 km/h, and AMG has sneaked in a lap timer in the multifunction display located between the dials.
The column mounted shifter has migrated back to the center console with a bespoke leather-topped AMG-stamped lever, and apart from the standard rotary knob for the COMAND infotainment system there’s another one near the gear lever to select the driving mode. Take a gander at the row of buttons on the dash and you’ll spot a button with a tailpipe symbol on it. That’s actually the “peacock strut” button.
Everything else is the typical A-Class affair, where most of the stuff that you find in the A 250 are here but with a few extra kit thrown in, such as the leather covered dash with matching red stitching (sexy), auto climate control (handy) and heated seats (pointless). It’s not spacious but it’s practical, so you still get Isofix mounts, rear aircond vents, the 60/40 split folding rear seats, and a boot that will accommodate 341 litres worth of cargo.
The turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder M270 has been thoroughly reworked until it received a new codename, the M133. Nicknamed “The Beast” for obvious reasons, the engineers could’ve just chilled out at the local pub since no other engines with similar configuration comes close to the M133’s output figures.
But that’s not how they roll. The good guys at AMG worked the extra hour to release an extra 21 hp and 25 Nm from the engine, making it a total of 381 hp and 475 Nm while retaining an average fuel consumption of 6.9L/100km. Funnily enough, for such a powerful engine, the bonnet is devoid of any holes or vents. Makes me wonder why would anyone think their B-segment hatch needs bonnet vents. Just saying.
The seven-speed AMG SpeedShift dual-clutch gearbox gets revised gear ratios from third to seventh and quicker shifts to improve acceleration. Getting to 100km/h from standstill takes 4.2 seconds, which is 0.4 seconds quicker than before, although the top speed is still limited to 250km/h. Drive is mainly sent to the front wheels, but the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system can divert up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when needed.
But wait, there’s more. Malaysian cars get the AMG Dynamic Plus package fitted as standard, consisting of front axle differential lock, sports suspension, and the balls-out Race mode.
If those performance figures didn’t get you salivating, maybe the noise will. It’s a complete cacophony ensemble of throaty rudeness that would make hair stand on end. Cold starts in the morning might irritate your neighbours, and they will hate you more when you come home late at night farting away on every upshifts. Then there’s that “peacock strut” button which will basically announce your arrival with crackles and pops on the overrun. If you want a quiet cruise in the A 45, you’re not going to get it. Sorry.
Like the A 250, you can’t cruise the A 45 in a leisurely manner with its taut suspension. In fact, the A 45 is less forgiving compared to its non-AMG siblings. You can try to convince yourself by twirling the knob to Comfort but in reality the different driving modes do very little in altering the damping characteristics; a Mk7 Golf R this is not. Rough roads translate to cabin tremors, so avoid potholes at all costs. Despite that and the weighty but direct steering, the A 45 does an okay job for city driving, but most of the time it feels like a wild animal in the city trying to escape the crowded surroundings.
As soon as it sees a tiny glimmer of opportunity, it will want to break free, and when it does, my God the A 45 is quick. The way it builds up speed is like nothing else in its class, and it does that with little effort. The M133 is a gem, there’s loads of torque down low, yet power is linearly spread once you get past the very brief spool (turbo lag). It feels very much like a naturally-aspirated engine that loves to be revved. The seven-speed ‘box responds to your command like an obedient Border Collie, swapping cogs swiftly without hesitating. Rarely you will see anything less than three digits on the speedometer unless you’re in a heavy traffic, and on the highways the A 45 will make a mincemeat out of most cars.
It feels even quicker on the backroads. When I drove the A 250 Sport I pondered, why would the A-Class require all-wheel drive, because traction was never an issue in the first place? But with 4MATIC, the A 45 devours every corner with ravenous appetite. Although it still feels nose-heavy most of the time, there’s that typical initial understeery moment in mid corner that might prompt you to lift-off in an effort to correct your line, but the 4MATIC and front locking diff will instill confidence, so just throttle away. Couple that with direct steering and pretty-damn-quick gearbox and you have yourself a super-effective mountain carver.
And that’s not even in Race mode. The most extreme setting in the Dynamic Select is best reserved for the track unless you’ve taken a brave pill, because everything from the engine mapping to the ESP will be in their baddest behaviour, so don’t say we didn’t warn you. If you just want to zip in and out of everyday traffic, Sport mode is sufficient, and it’s possible to return less than 10L/100km if you’re very careful with your right foot. Yours truly saw 9.5L/100km for a brief moment before it plummets to around 15L/100km. But should you be worried about the fuel consumption in a car like this? Of course not.
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
If you’re already set on buying the A 45, nothing would lure you away from it, really. Short of sounding biased, it is literally the formidable hatch you could buy right now in Malaysia. And it’s not like you have many options either, because none of the rivals mentioned earlier (Audi RS 3 Sportback, Ford Focus RS, BMW M140i) are on sale here, so the closest rival would be the Volkswagen Mk7 Golf R. It’s RM56k cheaper but it’s also 104 hp and 95 Nm less than the A 45. Although the Golf R fares better on the daily grind for its greater levels of compliance and lighter steering, and you won’t get as much attention for its low-key appearance.
Those who long for the spirit of old Evos and WRXs might fall in love with the A 45 too. While some claim that the absence of a manual transmission robbed a chunk out of the driving involvement, the A 45 feels like a tribute to those boisterous rally legends; wings, noise, and all the drama.
If you’re not a fan of the A 45’s shape like me but moonstruck by the explosive performance it has to offer, you can have your AMG 45 fix in a far sexier CLA 45 four-door coupe or in a more ruggedy GLA 45 crossover. How thoughtful.
WOULD I BUY IT?
After spending some time with the A 45, it’s easy to understand how the A 45 gained its fanbase. Its blistering performance is surreal, and AMG has transformed the A-Class into something quite special indeed. Still, an old friend in the name of Golf R springs in to mind again. I do miss the Golf R for its versatile talent but the A 45, she’s a different kind of friend. Loud, flamboyant, and at times she’s an agent provocateur, cheeky enough to get you into trouble if you’re careless. Yet, you’d still want to hang out with her because she’s simply mesmerising. Baby has gone bad. And I want one so badly.
Matthew’s take: I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time in the A45, both the pre-facelift and the current version. The one thing that routinely kept me wanting more was the sheer lunacy of its athleticism. Just like how you never get tired of watching Usain Bolt outrun the pack, the A45 unfailingly carves a smile on your face every time you get into the car for some unadulterated shot of adrenaline. The entire experience is backed by the best sounding exhaust system ever to be fitted to an inline-four. Never mind that it rides hard and guzzles fuel. There’s just no getting over the AMG magic. Just… take my money already.