The new burping hyper hatch from Mercedes, the AMG A45S, is everything the old car was with one extra feature – fun.
Now, before you kick off, the old car was fun, but not in the way I like. It was a bit like a mini Nissan GTR. Not the Nismo I’ve linked to there – that was amazing – but the base car is a bit…dull.
The A45 was hugely fast – yes. Tons of grip – it’ll rearrange your insides in corners. But dull steering, not much play in the chassis and a commitment to stick rather than slip made it almost boring. Great drag-racing and farting machine, though.
I always felt that drivers of other cars were having more fun, like the BMW M140i or M2 driver sitting next to you in traffic. I know those two cars would have found their way into my garage before the A45.
Now that both of those cars are dead or mostly dead – the M2 CS is coming for that car’s swansong – it’s down to AMG and Audi Sport to fly the hyper-hatch flag.
How much is an AMG A45S and what do I get?
$93,600 + ORC
Zoinks. That’s a big number, isn’t it? Especially when you consider the really rather good A35 is $69,300. So what does $24,000 get you?
Well, you get 19-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, ambient lighting, reversing camera, around view cameras, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, heated electric front seats, sat nav, auto active LED headlights, auto wipers, wireless phone charging and a tyre repair kit.
The second of the excellent massive screens in front of you hosts the brilliant MBUX media system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s such a great system, so much better than the old COMAND setup. Easily a match now for the BMW’s OS 7.0 and Audi’s MMI plus.
Safety – 5 Stars (ANCAP)
Just like the A35, there is a ton of safety gear. ABS, stability and traction controls (of course) are joined by nine airbags, active safety bonnet, forward AEB with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, speed zone reminder (GPS-based), reverse cross-traffic alert and road sign recognition.
You also get two ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchors.
Warranty and Servicing
Mercedes broke with its German rivals and now offers a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and that includes AMG models. Good deal.
Now the less good news – servicing an AMG A45S is not cheap, but the good news is that it’s cheaper than the old car. A three year pre-paid plan will cost you $3,000, $3,700 for four years and $4300 for five years.
The three year plan is $750 cheaper than pay-as-you-go capped-price servicing, so that’s a good deal. I think.
Look and feel
The basic, unadorned AMG A45S is fairly drama-free and that’s how I prefer it. The 19-inch alloys are restrained, the exhausts not too big and aerodynamic accoutrements subtle. You have to look for the Panamericana grille to know it’s an A45S, apart from the badges, obviously.
The two-tone seats are a bit Hasselhoff-era and the front seats aren’t much to write home about. I like the AMG shell seats (optional) a lot more, but these are fine and, if we’re being honest with each other, more comfortable day to day.
The rear seats are naturally a bit tight, but you’ve got cupholders front and rear and a decent-sized boot with 370 litres of space.
As I’ve already said, the two big screens are fantastic and the various configurations should suit just about anyone.
Based on the A-Class, the A45S picks up adaptive dampers which change with each and every mode to ensure it’s liveable while also stiff when you need it that way.
The front brakes are, as you can see, gripped by big boy calipers and the discs themselves are drilled for that boy-racer look (yes, they’re lighter, too).
Those lovely 19s are shod with with the tyre of the moment, the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S. Unusually they’re the same all the way around, measuring 245/35.
The M139 comes from Affalterbach’s dedicated factory with – and this is double-take territory – 310kW and 500Nm from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo is breathtaking. The trick, of course, is to make all that usable in all situations.
Peak torque is available between 5000 and 5250rpm, with 90 percent available from just under 3000. It feels more linear than the old car.
And, for me, it has to feel less highly-strung than the old car’s 280kW/470Nm unit. I know it doesn’t do this, but it always felt like it could come apart at any minute, at least to me.
The M139 has a twin-scroll turbo that is now on the firewall side of the engine rather than on the front, which is now where all the induction gear is, making the induction and exhaust ducts shorter.
The enemy of power is friction, so the cylinder linings are coated in Nanoslide, which AMG says delivers a mirror-finish to reduce power loss.
All four wheels are fed the power by 4MATIC+. The standard torque split is 50/50 but up to 70 percent can go to the rear, which is very promising. A clutch pack directs power left and right.
The new car has an eight-speed twin-clutch transmission AMG calls Speedshift DCT 8G.
Ten seconds after you grip that lovely Alcantara-wrapped AMG wheel, you know this car is way more interesting than the old car. The front points more positively, the steering weight is better and it’s less hyper on the throttle in the lower modes.
It’s almost undramatic in this naked spec and sadly the old console shifter has gone in favour of the cruddy stalk selector. But once you twist the steering-wheel mounted dial to Sport+ or Race, it’s on.
Everything winds up and gets ready to hurl you down the road. Despite weighing a chunky 1630kg (that’s almost two Series 1 Lotus Elises), it doesn’t feel like that.
And that’s not just because it has so much damn power. The chassis is way more playful than the car it replaces, with a bit less stuck-to-the-road and a bit more let’s-have-some-fun. With a more interesting all-wheel drive system sending more power to the rear than the front when you’re enjoying yourself (and even allowing for a Drift mode), you’re making more decisions than you used to.
It’s also more civilised as a daily driver, my wife asking me what all the fuss was about. She hated the old car with a passion, so things have improved a lot, then.
This car has turned me around on the A45. Setting aside the unfortunate reputation of this car, it just didn’t do anything for me. I get why people liked it – who didn’t want a sub-five second hatchback? But it wasn’t very rewarding to drive.
This car has changed everything. Like the A35 before it, it’s put the AMG at the front of the queue. While there’s no BMW to trouble it and the new RS3 is a while off, I’m happy to recommend the AMG A45S to anyone who loves driving.
I’d even own one…
Peter Anderson is the Editor and founder of the theredline.com.au. He’s been writing about cars for years and finds it difficult to talk about anything else.