Mercedes A45 AMG review
The Mercedes A45 AMG is a firebreathing version of the Mercedes A-Class with over 350bhp
When it comes to raw power, the Mercedes A45 AMG currently rules the hot hatch roost. Featuring a thumping 355bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, four-wheel drive and rapid-fire twin-clutch gearbox, it delivers performance to rival a supercar. However, this blistering straight-line pace doesn’t come cheap, as the A45 carries a hefty price tag.
There’s no manual gearbox option but the A45 is equipped with Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Our choice: A45 AMG
Engines, performance and drive
As you’d expect for a car wearing the AMG badge, the A45 delivers scintillating performance. Helped by four-wheel drive and launch control it will rocket to 60mph in just 4.3 seconds, although with peak torque arriving higher up in the rev range than key rival the BMW 135i, the Mercedes can feel a fraction sluggish low in the revs in the higher gears.
On the road it’s possible to work around this flatspot by making plenty of use of the slick seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox to keep the revs above 2,000rpm. Do this and the Mercedes really flies, and easily keeps up with the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi RS Q3.
Happily, the uprated chassis is more than a match for the engine’s explosive performance. The suspension is lowered and stiffened, resulting in rock-solid body control, while the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive transmission delivers limpet-like traction, even in slippery conditions.
The steering doesn’t offer huge amounts of feedback, but it’s extremely precise and well weighted. As a result, the Mercedes is a devastatingly fast point-to-point machine that carries huge speed through a series of corners.
The price you pay for this incredible agility is an extremely firm ride. Unlike its rivals, the AMG isn’t available with adaptive dampers, and the standard passive units are stiff at low speed and a little fidgety on motorways. On the plus side, there’s very little wind noise, while a tall top gear keeps the engine revs at a relaxed 1,800rpm at 70mph.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
With standard stop/start and emissions of 161g/km the A45 AMG is impressively clean for a car that produces more than 350bhp.
Cleaner than the BMW M135i, the Merc sits three tax brackets lower, although its high price tag means the cheaper BMW will cost company car drivers similar amounts of tax.
Mercedes offer monthly direct debit fixed price-servicing deals, which make it easier to budget for maintenance, while private buyers can take heart from the fact the AMG should hold on to 53.4 per cent of its value after three years.
However, watch out for the massive options list, as getting carried away here can easily add £10k to the bill and you won’t recover that expenditure come part-exchange time. Expect to average around 25mpg, while group 43 insurance means coverage will likely be costly.
Interior, design and technology
If you’re looking to attract attention, the Mercedes should be at the top of your shopping list. Even the standard A-Class turns heads with its bold styling, while AMG editions add a muscular bodykit, twin-exit exhausts and 18-inch alloys.
Nevertheless, some buyers will be disappointed that the racy A45 looks almost identical to cheaper and slower models in AMG and AMG Sport trim. However, it’s possible to opt for the expensive AMG aerodynamic Package, which adds a large carbon fibre tailgate spoiler and front splitter.
The sporty makeover continues inside, where you’ll find AMG branding for the dials, heavily bolstered sports seats, floor mats and illuminated kick plates. However, unlike some pricier AMG models, you’ll have to pay extra for the tactile metal gearshift paddles and bespoke gear selector.
Highlights of the standard A Class interior include circular, metal-rimmed vents for the air-conditioning and the tablet-style infotainment screen mounted on top of the dashboard. And while some of the plastic trim doesn’t feel quite as upmarket as its rivals’, the A45’s cabin is solidly built.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
Given its relatively humble hatchback roots, it’s no surprise to find the A45 delivers decent practicality. The interior is roomy, there’s plenty of useful storage and the boot matches the VW Golf R for carrying capacity, offering a solid 341 litres.
Yet while the AMG almost equals the Golf for rear seat space, the combination of shallow windows, high-backed front seats and dark interior trim means the cabin feels a little claustrophobic, with limited legroom. Also, the steeply raked roofline results in a low door opening, making it hard to load and unload children into their child seats.
The compact rear isn’t a problem for occupants sitting in the front, but the thick A-pillars have the potential to cause dangerous blindspots at junctions and roundabouts.
Reliability and Safety
The latest A-Class hasn’t featured in our annual Driver Power survey, but some of the brand’s other models put in a strong performance in 2013, suggesting the A45 should be dependable. It certainly feels solidly built and, like other AMG models, a lot of it is constructed by hand, for a quality edge.
Mercedes has a hard won reputation for safety, so it’s no surprise the A-Class received a five-star Euro NCAP rating. Every model gets seven airbags, stability control, adaptive brake lights that flash during emergency braking and Attention Assist that monitors the driver for signs of fatigue. Further safety kit enhancements to the AMG include upgraded brakes and four-wheel drive.