Motoring | Road Tests
Jaco Van Der Merwe
In the late 1990s Mercedes-Benz’s first-time venture into the subcompact segment hit South African showrooms in huge anticipation. The new gateway into the German premium brand was an odd-looking machine by Mercedes’ design standard. It looked like a bread bin, some would declare, an observation still fairly accurate some two decades on.
The entry-level model into the newly-created A-Class had a A160 badge on the back and was powered by a 1.6-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine sending 75kW/150Nm to the front wheels. It got to 100 km/h from a standstill in 11.6 sec and had a top speed of 186 km/h.
It’s hard to get your head around the fact this duckling, whose ugliness took a back seat to its slowness, is related to the daring line-up of swans Mercedes recently rolled out as its latest A-Class AMG offerings. First up we had the CLA 45 S 4Matic which our Road Test Editor reviewed a couple of months back, and next up is the A45 S 4Matic Hatch. Not only is this racing-styled pocket rocket about as far removed from that A160 as Cinderella was from his stepsisters in looks, but also under the bonnet.
It all started with the A160…
According to Mercedes, the turbocharged 2.0-litre powerplant that does duty in the A 45 S is “the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine manufactured for series production”. It punches out a stupefying 310 kW of power and 500 Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via the AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual clutch transmission.
Mark managed to clock a very impressive 0 to 100 km/h time of 4.15 sec during The Citizen’s road test at Gerotek, which turned out to be 0.07 sec quicker than the CLA powered by the same hardware. The A45 S’ claimed top speed is 270 km/h, something we definitely don’t doubt. To see Mark’s complete road test data, click here.
Maybe the only area where the A 45 S does take a back seat from the sA160 is fuel consumption, as we achieved numbers in the region of 15L/100km for most trip, while averaging around 14L/100 km. And what the A 45 S has in grunt, it matches in dashing good looks and just the right amount of noise to complete an excellent package.
Our test unit was clad in Sun Yellow and we thought it combined perfectly with the striking black elements. At the front it features an AMG-specific radiator grille, wider front wings with flared wheel arches for the wider front axle, plus a front apron which features a “jet-wing” design.
Down the sides there are wider AMG side skirts, which give the car a very low appearance, while distinctive features at the back include two pairs of round 90mm-diameter tailpipes with internal fluting and AMG lettering plus a very mean-looking carbon spoiler. If an onlooker wasn’t entirely convinced yet of the A 45 S’ intentions after inspecting the rest of the exterior, the spoiler will most certainly clinch the deal.
The blacked-out 19-inch light alloy wheels in five twin-spoke design, which rides on 245/35 R 19 rubberware, and red brake callipers on our test unit was also very befitting of the overall design.
The sportiness continues on the inside, where the typical Mercedes layout gets an injection of bucket seats, metallic pedals, striking inserts of the exterior yellow colouring on the seat trim and steering wheels, and the usual AMG lettering. To add to the sportiness, there are three display styles available for the instrument cluster: Classic, Sport and Supersport. The Supersport display is an absolute feast with a central round rev counter and additional information displays in the form of bars to the left and right of the rev counter.
The amount of technology under the A 45 S’ skin is enough to fill an encyclopaedia. The highlights include the all-wheel-drive system’s AMG Torque Control, which controls power to specific wheels via two electronically controlled multidisc clutches.
The standard AMG Dynamic Select includes six driving modes with the optional AMG Dynamic Plus adding a Drift mode and also larger brakes, the standard Race Start launch control, the optional AMG Ride Control adaptive damping system offers three suspension control modes, while the standard AMG Track Pace gives you feedback from 80 different data points to help you improve your lap times.
But no mean-looking fast car is complete without the sound and the A 45 S comes standard with an exhaust flap which is automatically controlled depending on the engine speed and load. Should you be in the market for some louder engine noise inside the cabin, the optional AMG Real Performance Sound allows you to toggle between a more subtle Balanced, or more emotional Powerful engine notes.
While there are many little excellent sideshows that come with the A 45 S, you’ll ultimately be forking out R1 144 000 and likely a bit more for optional extras because of the drive, which is addictively superb. With all the technology on board, it’s needless to say that this car handles superbly well and is ridiculously easy to drive fast, not to mention serious fun.
But you’ll have to seriously consider burdening this little beast with rush hour traffic on a daily basis, as it simply wasn’t built for that kind of torture. The stiffer sporty suspension also means that everyday impurities on our inner city roads tend to make the ride a bit bumpy, while lots of little driving gimmicks are really not meant to be used on public roads.
If you can afford it though, don’t mind little impracticalities, or plan to go and play on the track over weekends, the sticker price is actually a bargain for the amount of street credit that goes with it.
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