Not often but the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG is most certainly one of those vehicles. Not only does the A 45 see Mercedes-Benz embark on a new era by offering a high performance AMG compact hatch for the first time in the company’s history, it has also brought the world’s most powerful 2.0 litre four cylinder production engine to the market.
With a hefty maximum output of 265 kW of power and 450 Nm of torque on tap, and a power to litre rating of 133 kW/litre thanks to a heady 1.8 bar of turbo boost pressure, it is the strongest specific rated car to go through my hands in 10 years of testing cars.
As such this hot hatch promised plenty with a capital P. It also had all the technical goodies to back up its paper claims.
A rather quick AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT seven-speed sports transmission that has all the important software modules adopted from the SLS AMG super sports car offers three driving programmes, a double-declutching function and RACE START for optimum acceleration.
And then you also get the variable and performance-oriented AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive as standard for tenacious grip in everyday and, surprisingly, race track situations. This system sees the A 45 run in front wheel drive when there is not a huge demand on the power, and when pushing on or in race start mode the power is transferred to the rear wheels as well.
This car is firm on the road, but you expect it to be, and a very high level of grip and makes it easy to drive fast. It will be enjoyed by its owners when tackling the twisties or the odd track day and it will make you look good.
But for the performance junkies who measure speed in hardcore numbers, how does the A 45 stack up against the competition? Is it the hottest of the hot hatches?
Unfortunately there is no easy way to say this and the A 45 has the guns on paper – but it is a little disappointing against the clock in a straight line.
Sure it jumps off the line and gets to 100 km/h in a quick 4.99 seconds and the quarter mile in 13.30 seconds at 170 km/h. This is not at all slow, but from there the lack of decent 98 high octane fuel and the high altitude we live at gets to the Merc.
The one kilometre is run at an average speed of 215.66 km/h with a top speed that actually goes no better than 257.58 km/h.
To put this in perspective BMW’s lighter but less powerful run of the mill M135i runs almost neck and neck with the A 45 for a while but then starts to get away. Which could turn out to be not so funny out on the road where street cred is measured in who gets to the line first.
A more telling stat is that Audi’s now previous generation RS 3 is quicker than the A 45 from the word go. We are talking micro seconds here, but that is all it takes and for what it is worth the M135i is also mostly quicker than 1 Series M Coupe.
So it is a true wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Talking of clothing, I love the styling of the new A Class and the A 45 even more as it follows the tradition of aggressive looking AMG cars. But where the exclusivity falls flat is in that you can order your garden variety 180 A Class with the full AMG styling pack as on the A 45.
And I can’t tell you how many car people did not recognise A 45 for what it was. By the same token just as many thought the A 250 Sport that I was driving a few months ago was the real AMG deal.
Inside is good place to be, too, and the A 45 boasts all the hallmarks of a Mercedes-Benz AMG with seriously good sports seats in artico man-made leather and dinamica microfibre with red contrasting topstitching. The dashboard trim comes in carbon-fibre look along with the red seat belts and the AMG door sill panels to complete the sporty package.
You would think that buying the top of the range A Class for R599 500 would give you all of the bells and whistles. But, as is the trend these days, you can spend a fortune on optional extras like the AMG aerodynamics package, AMG exterior carbon-fibre package, AMG multi-spoke 19 inch light-alloy wheels in either titanium grey or matt black with 235/35 tyres, AMG performance suspension and the must have AMG performance exhaust system.
As with all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars the A 45 AMG comes standard with a class-leading six-year/100 000 km PremiumDrive maintenance plan with no customer contribution so your most of other motoring costs here will be taken care of for a long time.
I like the A 45 AMG and, despite its dislike of our low octane fuel with resultant average performance numbers and non exclusive styling, I would still pick it as the premium hot hatch to own at the moment.
As a complete package it is hard to beat.