The A45 is AMG’s first attempt at the four-cylinder performance concept and although lacking half the cylinders of a traditional AMG V engine the final result isn’t any different. You still get a hand-built mill replete with signature plaque and all the theatrics and styling garnishes expected from an AMG product. However, unlike the V8s and V12s that are brought to life at AMG’s Affalterbach HQ, the 2.0-litre is built at Merc’s Kölleda engine plant. Pumping out 265kW and 450Nm at 1.8bar boost pressure, the A45 is the most powerful production four-cylinder engine in the world, boasting a staggering power density of 133kW per litre – only the McLaren P1 produces a better figure with 142kW per litre. That’s seriously impressive and puts the A45 in the same company as the Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Zonda.
To run such high power and torque outputs however, the A45 employs a cutting-edge air-to-water charge cooling system to nullify heat soak and ensure optimal power delivery at all times – and it works. The resulting performance figures are off the chart – using Racestart, Mercedes-speak for launch control, 0-100kph will arrive in only 4.6secs while top speed is limited to 250kph, which can be upped to 270kph with the R22 900 AMG Driver’s package. On the autobahn, the A45 reached its top speed with consummate ease. It’s a repeatable exercise no matter which gear is selected thanks to the immediate throttle response and low-down rations of torque. However, attempting this feat culminated in a less-than-eco-friendly fuel consumption figure of 18.5ℓ/100km, but I managed to bring it down to under 10ℓ/100km during the slower and more civilised sections of road. Placing the three-mode DCT transmission in Manual gives the driver control of the entire driving experience – well, kind of. While the razor-sharp DCT dual-clutch transmission delivers instant up-changes, the same can’t be said for the downshifts that are annoyingly delayed by comparison.
The autobahn soon became a wildly twisting network of narrow rural roads, which proved no match for the A45’s handling dynamics but did reveal a hard and crashy ride not too dissimilar to that of the A250. Even on the smoother sections of asphalt, the A45’s standard suspension set-up relayed every bump and surface imperfection through its underpinnings. I can only imagine what the optional AMG Performance suspension feels like out in real-world conditions, but I’m soon to find out what it’s like on the Bilster Berg race track. It’s immediately evident that the A45 AMG was developed with this environment in mind. The steering is superb – quick, precise and rich in feel despite its electric assistance. It’s pretty dynamic through the bends, too. Turning off the three-mode ESP system does allow some degree of lateral exploration but it’s all rather civilised. And the AMG suspension? Well, actually it’s not too bad. It relays every bit of detail and grain from the track surface through the seats. And it’s here on the track where the stiffer suspension makes sense. There’s no body roll under cornering g-forces, just a surplus of all-wheel drive grip. Sure, the nose does tend to run wide if you carry too much speed into a corner but it’s easily avoided. At 1555kg, the A45 isn’t exactly what you’d call superleggera but you never feel its mass – neither during acceleration nor through the bends.
Interestingly, in normal conditions the A45 remains front-wheel drive but the 4Matic system can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels when slip is detected, which helps getting on the power early when exiting a corner. In a straight line the A45 is blisteringly quick – you don’t really feel the sensation of speed like you do in, say, an Audi RS3, but a quick glance down at the speedo may result in proptosis of the eyes. The brakes are good, too. There is a small dead patch at the top of the pedal’s travel but the stoppers are fade free and easy to modulate.
It’s difficult to find anything overtly wrong with the A45 AMG because it doesn’t have any real flaws. Sure, you could nit-pick that the ride quality is a little on the harsh side, but since when has an AMG vehicle been about comfort first and performance second? Then there’s that price – R555 000 buys you the base A45 AMG which is still over R50k more than the BMW M135 and R155k more than a Mégane RS. The A45 however, is a genuine AMG and the cheapest one at that, giving aspirational buyers access to an elite and alluring nameplate. It seems disrespectful labelling the A45 AMG a hot hatch because it’s so much more than that – it’s a hyper hatch capable of humiliating some supercars. From my brief 350km drive the A45 feels every bit as good as any other AMG product. It’s the new undisputed segment king… well at least until the new Audi RS3 and Ford Focus RS come knocking on the door.
MERCEDES-BENZ CLA45 AMG
ENGINE 1991cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged petrol, 265kW@ 6000rpm, 450Nm @ 2250-5000rpm
TRANSMISSION Seven-speed AMG DCT, all-wheel drive
SUSPENSION MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
PERFORMANCE 4.6secs 0-100kph, 250kph top speed (limited), 6.9ℓ/100km, 165g/km
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