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2016 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – Car Review – Track Focused Breeding

2016 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – Car Review – Track Focused Breeding

The A45 AMG is considered one of the most mental hot hatches in the market right now. As it’s a 4 door hatchback 2.0 engine and the ability to get to 100 km in 4.2 seconds, which is tough for even very high end performance cars that cost twice as much.

A good comparison to highlight how crazy this car is, is to compare it to my own Audi RS6. A 572 bhp / 410kw, twin turbo v10, and it only does 0-100 in 4.5 seconds. To the guys as the AMG factory, I tip my hat to your thinking outside the box philosophy. So far outside the box they probably can’t even remember what the box looks like.

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First Impressions

It’s black, and for once I don’t think it works. Black just really makes this car look boring. I personally think it would be so much better in every other colour option available, as you then get the contrast from the intakes, door sills and rear diffuser. This is the mid-life facelift for the third generation A Class, and it’s gone with a softer look and feel to its pre-facelift variant. I like it, but I prefered the pre-facelift more, as it’s more aggressive and sharper, almost sculpted, while this latest version is starting to drift between aggressive and elegant.

Either versions are a great looking car, and this one came with the not so common AMG cross-spoke alloys. I was a bit disappointed that this car was not spec’d out with the AMG Aerodynamics package, as I quite like the the huge rear aerofoil and front bumper winglets you get, which really beef up the aggressive image of the A45.

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The Inside

Once inside, you immediately know you’re in a special car, something a lot of other brands do not always hit right on the head. Yes I am thinking of you, the not very special, special edition VW Golf R Wagon. The seats feel like they are as close to race bucket seats as you can get stock, and a carbon textured dash and trim inserts give you that high performance feel. The steering wheel is not forgotten and is half leather and alcantara with the stitched in red leather marker for the wheel direction, just like a race car. Before I start up the car, I already get the sense that this car is willing me to take it to the limit. Sadly and I will always bring it up, until they fix or remove it. The COMAND Package media screen, which always feels like an afterthought ruins the overall  great lines and interior styling of the car. And it’s not just me, everyone who got in, pointed and said, “Aye what’s with this screen!!, a bit cheap and nasty looking isn’t it?”

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Right, back to these race seats. They look and feel great, lovely soft touch leather and they have so much adjustment too. You can move them up and down, back and forth, lumber in and out and even adjust the width of the side bolsters on the bottom and upright section of the seat, so you can get your perfect fit. This is great for when you take this car to the track, as you can make sure you are locked in and can’t move around when you are nailing the corners. The catch to this, as nothing is perfect in life, is that church pews are more comfortable. These seats are hard, and I mean really hard. Even pro race seats might have more give in them. After a week in this car, I had a bit of discomfort in my back. This was linked to the hard firm suspension, which we will talk more about later. Just think about it; a bump in the road gets transferred from the tyres, which are low profile already. It now travels along the suspension which is very firm, then into the chassis and into the seats. And if everything is hard along this chain, your body them starts to be the cushion for that bump, which it won’t like.

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Maybe I am getting old, but I imagine that only older people are going to be able to afford the almost $100,000, price tag. But hang on, context matters here. Let’s say you buy the A45 AMG and you only use it to go to and from work, and have the odd blast on the back roads. If this is you, I think you will find this car quite firm, and maybe even a bit too firm. But if you take it to the track for a blast on a regular basis, all this firmness suddenly does not become an issue. Oh no, it becomes a positive feature, and will transform this car into a very precises, nimble track monster.

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Unlike the other A class model, the AMG has the gear stick selector in the centre console and not on the steering wheel. I assume this it to make it feel more sporty, but I am not sure it does that at all. The odd little gear lever, which has come from the Mercedes-Benz SLS is a great touch. However the reason it’s so small was due to the centre console of the SLS being so high. Now in the A class this is not the case, and the small lever feels odd, and could have just been a normal height gear stick instead. This would then have given you the option to have a sequential-like mode on the gear stick, adding to the existing paddles on the steering wheel.

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The other strange dial under this was for the vehicle mode selection. You have Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Race. The problem with this was not what the modes do, but how the dail worked. It’s almost the same as the COMAND controller but a little lower and beside the driver. I found myself trying to use the COMAND system many times and before I knew it I was in race mode, not in the different menu screen I was actually after – so each time I had to look. I would be curious to know why they did not use the same performance switch they used on the C63 AMG to avoid such a similar interface as the COMAND controller. It would have also made the vehicle mode selections more exciting as the dial is a bit bland.

The boot was a decent space; 341 litres and 1,157 with the back seats down. Pretty good for a hatch, however I did feel that the opening for the boot might be a bit restrictive, due to the large rear taillights.

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The Drive

Before we go too far into how this car drives, we have to just run over the engine specs of the A45 AMG. Its running a 2.0L turbocharged, inline 4-cylinder, that produces 270 kw and 465Nm or torque and does 0-100 in 4.2 seconds. Just to give some more perspective, do you remember Group B rally cars, and the famous Audi Quattro that cleaned up the World Rally Championship back in the early 80s. Well the original rally competition version had a 2.1L inline 5 cylinder 224 Kw engine and a 0-100 of 5 seconds. This race spec car won the 31st and 32nd International Swedish Rally. Now that we understand why the AMG is so crazy; it’s a hatchback for bumbling around town, with race car like specs.

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Once you start the A45 up with the keyless push button start, the engine blips into life with a high rpm rev. And right from the start you notice: this car is loud. I even had to check what mode it was in; it was comfort and not sport or Race. I even double checked as it seems far too loud. After a few minutes of ticking over, the car quietened down. But I was surprised how loud it had been, but one look under the bonnet, and you can see why. Under the bonnet on cars like this you expect to see an engine with one or two turbos bolted to it. But in the AMG it felt more like a turbo with an engine bolted to it. The turbo is massive and the downpipe from it is bigger than a drain pipe on your house. Both are awesome, but a large pipe will always mean loud cold starts and the possibility of internal drone.

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Once you set off in Comfort you notice that this is one very highly strung engine. The RPMs need to be high to get it moving, and as a result you are left with a spongy dead space in the accelerator pedal, which you continue to feed and then suddenly get power like a kick in the back. It took a while to be able to feather this smoothly.

Pottering around my neighbourhood or around town, you do notice it’s a noisy car, all of which comes from the exhaust, drowning out any other engine noise.The noise is not unpleasant in Comfort mode, and it does tickle your interest into what the Sport and Race modes will be like. The only thing I concluded about the Comfort mode was that it was not as comfy as one would expect from a Benz.

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Due to the size of the engine, I found that even around town and on the motorway the vehicle used a fair bit of petrol. After the weekend I had it, in which I covered 300km, 50% motorway driving and 50% mix of city and back road driving. The consumption was around 11.5L per 100km, which is pretty high for a 2.0L 4 pot, but in the same token somewhat expected considering the figures they pulled out of it. The individual mode allows you the ability to make a custom mode, where you had access to a selection of suspension settings and engine modes. I didn’t use this much as the default ones seemed to be more than enough.

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Now to Sport, Sport+ and Race. Each one of these modes made the vehicle a little more exciting, and each mode getting a bit crazier. Personally I felt like it should have had Comfort and Race, as once you tried Race, Sport and Sport+ were a bit boring. But before I overlook the modes I now consider boring, here is what they do. If you go to Sport, like many cars it tweaks the throttle response. This makes the car a bit easier to control, as it start to remove the dead spongy spot from the pedal. Everything else seems to be the same as Comfort – no noise or damper change. Sport+ then gets a bit firmer on the suspension, increased throttle response and little bit louder exhaust. This is starting to become an exciting place to be. But both of these modes are scoffed on from a height once you put it in Race mode, which is instantly noticeable as everything becomes loud. Road noise is loud as the dampers are at their hardest setting, and the engine sits high in lower gears eagerly awaiting the lead foot. But the single signature item that says you’re in Race mode, is the exhaust. It’s amazing, and just like the group B rally car we spoke about earlier. As I came down the road to the motorway on ramp, I flicked it into RACE, and drop the pedal. The car rockets forward, and both the engine and exhaust are screaming. The engine note is just like a highly-tuned race car, and with each gear change you receive a massive pop and crackle from the exhaust. I would not have been surprised to see flames pop out, as the noise was so loud. It was great, and it made everyone who experienced it, chuckle like they were 5 years-old again. And that’s key for cars like this, it should make you feel happy and alive.

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Again there is a catch, and you find it once you reach the speed limit. Which the A45 does quickly, and the catch is a big one. Once you let of the gas, the cabin is suddenly filled with an massive and rather cheap boy racer drone. This does ruin the mood a bit, as it’s not to dissimilar to having a moose scream in your ear. And after a couple of seconds, you would just want it to stop. I found that I would flick to race, give it a blast and then back to comfort to avoid the drone. This was disappointing. As AMGs for me have always nailed the sound experience. Look at the C63; so much good noise. And on the latest model they even have a button just to hear the sport mode of the exhaust in the normal comfy mode – genius. The A45 had this button too, but it didn’t seem to do anything. I tried it in many modes, and the sound never seemed to change.

Apart from that drone, the A45 handles very well. It’s light at only just over 1550kg, and it’s so easy to point exactly where you want it, all thanks to that sporty suspension, focused purely on the more adrenaline fueled driving experience. You can have a lot of fun driving this car, go kart like agility with F1 like punch in the back power.

The brakes were sharp, and controllable, leaving you with complete confidence of when and where your braking points needed to be. The only thing I regret not being able to test, was it’s ability on an actual race track.

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What it’s up against

The hot hatch market is a steamy one, so much out there and for a wide range of pockets too. This is where the A45 starts to suffer, just like the RS3 from Audi, they are among the most expensive on the market by almost $20,000.

What this means if that you don’t just have other options, you can consider every other option available. So the question is, are they worth it, and do you really get that much more compared to something like the Golf R?

High Performance Hatchbacks

Brand / Model Engine Power 0-100 km Time Fuel L/100km Boot Capacity Price Highest to Lowest
Audi RS3 2.4L i4 TFSI 270kw / 465Nm 4.3 Seconds 8.1L / 100km 280 Litres $99,900
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG 2.0L i4 Turbo 280kw / 475Nm 4.2 Seconds 7.3L / 100km 341 Litres $98,200
BMW M135i 3.0L 240kw /450Nm 4.9 Seconds 7.5L / 100km 360 Litres $80,500
Renault Megane RS 275 R 2.0L i4 Turbo 201kw / 360Nm 6 Seconds 7.5L /100km 344 Litres $74,990
VW Golf R 2.0L i4 Turbo 221kw / 380Nm 4.9 Seconds 6.9L / 100km 343 Litres $74,890
Ford Focus RS 2.3L GTDi Turbo 257kw / 440Nm 4.7 Seconds 8.1L / 100km 316 Litres $69,880
Mini John Cooper Works 2.0L i4 Twin Turbo 170kw / 350Nm 6.3 Seconds 6.7L / 100km 211 Litres $53,500

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Pros Cons
  • Looks great and aggressive
  • OMG that Turbo is HUGE
  • Sounds amazing when on the power
  • Slick and modern interior, clean and ergonomic
  • So much power from a 4 pot
  • Such awesome exhaust noise, when on the power.
  • Great sound system
  • So track focused
  • Church pews are more comfy
  • Stupid stuck-on media screen
  • Suspension system too firm in comfort
  • Drinks so much fuel
  • A lot of coin for a hatchback
  • Too track focused for the day to day
  • Its an AMG, and will chew tyres

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What do we think?

To me the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG is a very impractical car for the everyday driver; it’s very powerful, very fast and very loud. All of these things I love (bar the nagging drone from the exhaust) and would honourably salute one as they zipped by.

The issue is that 80% of the people who can afford it, won’t like it as it’s too hard and uncomfy for the day-to-day. And it’s all because it’s missing that AMG float on a cloud comfort mode.

However, if you have 100K burning a hole in your pocket and you are looking for something that will stain your pants every time you take it to the track, this is probably the car for you.

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Rating – Chevron rating 3.5 out of 5

Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

Vehicle Type AWD Performance Hatchback
Starting Price $98,200 NZD
Tested Price $100,190 NZD
Engine 2.0L inline 4 turbocharged
Transmission AMG Speedshift DCT 7-Speed
0 – 100 kph 4.2 seconds
Kerb Weight 1555 kg
Length x Width x Height 4299 x 1780 x 1433 mm
Cargo Capacity 341 Litres
Fuel Tank (range extender) 56 litres
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.3 L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined – 11.5 L / 100km

ANCAP Safety Ratings N/A

 

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