This is the Mercedes A45 AMG: the first time Merc’s in-house tuning arm has tried its hand at building a hot hatch. Packing 355bhp, all-wheel drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch paddleshift transmission, the A45 AMG will outpace a Porsche 911, but cost less than £40,000.
It’s on UK sale from July 2013, but if you can’t wait that long, Merc’s baby barnstormer is appearing at the Geneva motor show from 5 March 2013.
Just how powerful is the 2013 Mercedes A45 AMG?
About as pokey as you’d ever want a hot hatch to be, we reckon. Under the bonnet is a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, good for 355bhp and 332lb ft. Mercedes claims the new motor is the world’s most powerful road-going four-cylinder engine, yet also quotes a 40.9mpg combined fuel consumption figure.
Like AMG’s famous V8s, the four-pot is hand-built and features forged pistons and a forged crankshaft. In fact, the A45’s cooling system shares know-how from the SLS AMG supercar.
Marshalling that power to the road is Merc’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. The A45 AMG stays front-driven in normal driving to reduce drivetrain friction, but should slip be detected, a hydraulic clutch engages, sending up to 50% of power to the rear axle.
The middleman in all this is the gearbox: a seven-speed dual-clutch unit that’s designed to be integrated with 4MATIC: Mercedes reckons the resulting set-up is 25% lighter than a regular all-paw drivetrain. Take that, Quattro…
Give me some A45 AMG performance figures
From rest, the A45 will charge to 62mph in 4.6sec, and top out at a limited 155mph. Unlike its CLS63 and E63 AMG stablemates, there’s no option of paying extra to unlock even higher top speeds.
A standard-fit adaptive exhaust allows extra noise to be pumped out of the twin tailpipes when the engine is under heavy load: when you’re just pootling, the valves stay shut. Upgrade to the AMG Performance exhaust and there’s a throatier sound during gearchanges, says Mercedes. Crackle and pop soundtrack ahoy.
Any other nerdy A45 AMG details?
The gearbox has a Race Start mode for the ultimate traffic light Grand Prix bragging rights. Once you’re underway, clicking a paddle in either Comfort or Sport mode causes the ‘AMG Speedshift’ gearbox to switch into manual mode temporarily, in what Mercedes calls ‘Momentary M mode.’ The manual changes are said to be as fast as those in the SLS AMG GT – good pub ammo, that last nugget.
There’s a three-stage ESP system, or you can turn the safety net off completely if you’re feeling handy. Steering components have been beefed up from the regular A-class, and the A45 rides on 18-inch wheels as standard, which cover larger cross-drilled brakes. The suspension has been reworked too, but there are no clever adaptive dampers here, just an old-school one-mode-fits-all set-up. It’ll be interesting to see how the A45 handles the sorts of UK roads hot hatch-buyers love to blast along…
Talk me through the A45’s visual makeover
Most of the aesthetic changes are familiar from the AMG Sport trim versions of the regular A-class hatch. There’s an AMG-exclusive one-bar front grille, plus sporty front intakes and side skirts. Rear wheelarch vents and dual exhausts appear at the back. Want the full Max Power look? An XXL rear wing and splitter combo are optional, along with C63 Black Series-style front bumper winglets.
Inside you’ll spot sports seats with contrast red stitching, a carbonfibre-effect console and sports steering wheel. Unlike regular A-classes which use a column-mounted gear selector, A45s borrow the stubby lever from the new SL63 AMG, as well as its driver-orientated mode selector dials.
Official prices and UK specs are still to be confirmed, but Mercedes insiders have confirmed the A45 AMG will undercut the now-defunct Audi RS3 Sportback. Audi asked £39,995 for its own all-wheel drive, 335bhp five-door hatch: the Mercedes outguns it but should cost from £35k.