This is the new Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, the firm’s first hot hatch and, with 355bhp, the most powerful production hot hatch ever built. It will enable AMG and Mercedes to enter a new market as both firms attempt to attract younger buyers.
Based on the new A-class, the A45 marks the first time that AMG has produced anything smaller than the C-class, previously always its entry-level model and the vehicle that AMG boss Ola Kallenius describes as the firm’s “bread and butter car”.
The A45 will be significantly cheaper than the £58,000 C63. It will be priced at around £36,000, pitching it slightly above the M135i but below the next Audi RS3.
The A45 uses a four-cylinder engine, a first for an AMG-built car. It is a 1991cc turbocharged petrol with the highest specific output of any 2.0-litre engine yet fitted to a production car, developing 355bhp at 6000rpm and 332lb ft from 2750rpm to 5000rpm. Achieving the highest specific output was one of the goals of the A45 AMG project.
The A45 AMG is very much a bespoke car, unlike previous AMG-badged A-classes, which were essentially just trim and suspension upgrades. The all-aluminium engine, which uses a unique sand-cast block and a large twin-scroll turbo, is a new unit developed by AMG that will also be used in the forthcoming CLA 45. Each engine is handbuilt at AMG’s Affalterbach plant by a single technician, in keeping with AMG’s “one man, one engine” philosophy.
The high specific output is made possible by high cylinder pressures and advanced spray direct injection, which also helps to make the engine more efficient. Mercedes claims 34mpg and 161g/km of CO2, helped by the standard stop-start and alternator disconnect. It will reach 62mph in 4.6sec while top speed is limited to 155mph.
AMG decided early in the car’s development that the A45 had to be four-wheel drive. The car uses an AMG-tweaked 4Matic drivetrain, with Mercedes’ new seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, reworked to handle the power and torque outputs and capable of splitting drive equally between the axles. This is the first time the gearbox has been combined with four-wheel drive.
The transmission has three modes — Controlled Efficiency, Sport and Manual — and the ESP stability system can be turned off altogether or switched to Sport.
A new braking system has been fitted, with drilled 350mm by 32mm discs at the front and 330mm by 22mm at the back. The steering has also been retuned, while the suspension components have been heavily upgraded with lower, tauter springs and dampers and firmer bushings. The engine’s cooling system uses technology developed for the SLS supercar.
The car’s exterior receives plenty of AMG upgrades. A deep front splitter and an AMG-specific radiator grille come finished in matt grey, while the air intakes and sill skirts are finished in gloss black, as are the door mirrors.
The A45 rides on grey 18-inch alloy wheels fitted with 235/40 tyres.
Inside, the standard Mercedes front seats have been replaced by a set of thin-shell AMG seats, which will be standard kit on UK cars, and the instrument cluster has been swapped for AMG’s own design. The A-class’s ‘eyeball’ air vents have red bezels and the seatbelts are also red.
Optional upgrades include a carbonfibre package, which replaces the front splitter, sill inserts and rear bumper trim with carbonfibre items. Red brake calipers and 19-inch wheels are also optional.
Performance upgrades include a new exhaust system, lower and stiffer springs and dampers, and various aerodynamic extras, including a rear wing and a larger front splitter that, the firm claims, improve downforce.
According to Kallenius, the A45 AMG is aimed at buyers in their 30s and 40s who are after a car that combines “performance and technology” and are “successful early in their careers”. He also said that it could appeal to AMG’s more traditional, older customers who were looking for a small, fun car. During its development the A45 was shown to S63 owners, at the opposite end of the AMG ownership scale to potential A45 buyers, to gauge their opinion. Their reaction, Kallenius said, was favourable.
The A45 AMG received its first public outing at the Geneva motor show and it will go on sale in the UK in July.
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