Mercedes-AMG were, and still are to a large extent, known for producing monster V8 performance cars. They were also known for producing cars that only really go fast in a straight line. But you would be in complete and utter denial if you are not prepared to acknowledge that those days are long, long gone.
The AMG badged three-pointed missles can go around corners with the best of them now, and their compact offerings are one of the most popular choices available today. And to blow some of those awful lock down cobwebs away, we were invited to the Zwartkops Raceway to sample the new A35 and A45 S models at full tilt around the track. Oh, and for good measure, we got play on the skidpan in Drift Mode on the A45 S too.
I will start with the entry point into the Mercedes-AMG brand now, the A35. Offered in hatch, sedan and coupe-styled CLA guises, this dynamic trio are all powered by the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant that produces 225 kW/400Nm. This power and torque are channeled through an AMG SpeedShift DCT 7G dual-clutch transmission to the wheels via variable AMG Performance 4Matic all-wheel drive running on an AMG suspension. The claimed 0 to 100 km/h numbers come in at a rather quick 4.7 sec for the hatch, 4.8 sec for the sedan, and 4.9 sec for the CLA.
As much as this is the entry into the brand, it is the two AMG A45 S models, the hatch and the CLA, that stole the show at the launch event, and will probably do so on the streets of South Africa too. Ironically, as I say this, I need to add that for me, the biggest improvement to the A45 is in the dynamics department, and these cars will do more damage to their competitors in the twisties and on the track than in a straight-line.
Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 S
Make no mistake, the 2.0-litre four-cylinder powerplant under the bonnet is not said to be the world’s most powerful turbocharged engine manufactured for series production for nothing. Running a single turbo that is boosting a heady 2.1 bar, the 45 S produces 310 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque. This is said to get the hatch to a supercar-like 0 to 100 km/h sprint time of just 3.9 sec, and 4.0 sec for the CLA when making use of the Race Start function of the AMG SpeedShift DCT 8G dual-clutch transmission. Top speed is electronically limited to 270 km/h.
Just like the A35, the A45 comes with all-wheel drive, but on this top-of-the-range version, you get the likes of AMG Torque Control and this means the drive power can not only be completely variably distributed between the front and rear wheels, but also selectively between the left and right rear wheel.
This not only makes for a very composed and easy car to drive really fast, it also allows you to have some fun when you want via the standard Drift mode function. The work of driving slow, safe or fast is further taken care of by six AMG Dynamic Select driving modes: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport +, Individual and Race. Pick the one that suits the conditions best and the car’s electronics will allow you to extract the best out of the car for that situation.
You can take this one step further by going for the optional AMG Ride Control system that offers you adaptive damping and the choice of three different suspension control modes, from comfort focused to sporty. Braking is taken care of high-performance 350 mm front and 330 mm rear brake discs, and if you want more, you can delve into the options bin an tick the AMG Dynamic Plus package and get six-piston fixed calipers up front on 360 mm discs.
Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan
The standard AMG exhaust gives you the bark to match the bite on the A45, and if you are into piping the sound into the car, then the AMG Real Performance Sound option is for you. At the press of a button, you can adjust what you hear on the inside between subtle, to sporty to a powerful motorsport-type sound.
Mercedes-AMG CLA 35
Backing up my claim that the A45’s are fast in the corners, the AMG Track Pace, a standard fitment virtual race engineer, is there to continuously monitor more than 80 vehicle-specific data points, including lap and sector times, and once done with a track session you can use this data to analyse and improve your track skills.
Buying yourself into the AMG brand is no cheap exercise, but man, what they have on offer sure can put a smile on your face. Keep your eyes on this space as we put the A35 and A45 S to the test at Gerotek.
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