This following article has been sponsored by Mercedes-Benz
As the lucky pundit who got handed the keys to this unassuming little beast, not much was expected when picking up the vehicle from our friendly minder. It was a luxury hatchback with a bodykit and oversized brakes. It even had baby seat harness points and sufficient cup holders front and back. “Don’t scratch the wheels,” was my parting warning from Mr. Minder.
Taking his advice, I pushed the engine start button and was proven wrong. Dead wrong. Over the course of two and a half days, the 2016 Mercedes-AMG A45 easily became the best car I’ve driven to date at this publication of gentlemanly pursuits.
German Power Trip
Let’s face it, Sydney is the worst city to test a car in let alone one with an AMG badge. This very notion brought us to the town of Wollongong, just an hour south of the city that is also home to the picturesque Mount Kiera.
Standing at 464m high, the short stretch of bitumen up the mountain presented us with near-deserted roads and endless bends to play with. We were told by an official that there was a street luge event going on but the other side of the mountain would be totally free. They weren’t kidding.
To get the specifics out of the way, the new 2016 A45 AMG is Mercedes-Benz’s top of the line model from the A-class range. It retains the overall shape of the A-class but leaves behind the front-wheel-drive layout for a more focused 4Matic all-wheel-drive drivetrain with optional front differential lock.
The engine is the real sweet spot of this astonishing hatchback. The A45 AMG is the world’s most powerful four-cylinder production vehicle to date and it’s not hard to see why.
A 2.0 litre turbocharged engine which makes 280kW of power and 475Nm of torque is simply mind-boggling. As a reference, the new Ford Focus RS heralded as the next purist road rally car only has 257kW of power and 470Nm of torque – on overboost.
This shows you how much attention Mercedes-AMG have paid to making this one of the quickest luxury hatchbacks in the world.
Cutting up the black stuff on Mount Kiera gave us all the right tingles beyond human expression. We attribute this to the advanced AMG Dynamic Select driving mode controller – and let me assure you, it’s no gimmick either.
The selector allows the driver to choose between Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and the no-nonsense Race mode with an engine/exhaust note that’ll have your knees trembling.
Each mode sets the steering, throttle, gearbox and adaptive suspension damping according to driving conditions.
What all this means is that you’ll be getting a finely tuned car which can trawl through city traffic in comfort and ease, helped by an automatic engine start/stop function to score a fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km. There’ll be no guilt to go racing the next day with the car in full song and supreme traction.
Never has there been a luxury hatchback so versatile and threatening on the track. We cherished every minute of driving it – in traffic and on the open winding roads.
Inside The AMG Beast
The previous model A45 AMG was noted for being a bit harsh on ride comfort due to the sporty nature of the car. Mercedes listened and in 2016, the face lifted model has none of this to complain about. What you’ll find instead is a plush and focused cabin worthy of Mercedes-AMG status.
Recaro racing seats wrapped in premium leather with contrast red highlights are electronically adjustable for head and lumbar support as well as being heated. The rear seats are spacious, easily fitting in three of our average sized humans. Rest assured the seats out back are also leather and take full advantage of the elegant moon roof.
Moving on to one of our personal favourites, boot space. At 341-litres in capacity it’s not the biggest boot, but you have to remember that this isn’t your average hatchback. There’s an AWD diff sitting under the boot. That said, the AMG A45 lugged two of our gym duffle bags, a 24-bottle case of beer, various shopping bags and a handbag. Filled to the brim, the car still wanted to move like race car.
For those craving connectivity on the go, Mercedes have installed their latest infotainment system that comes with Garmin’s Map Pilot for the first time. There’s also a smartphone integration package that includes the popular Apple Car Play for iPhone.
The Finer Touches
There were a few minor details that made this car one of our most memorable drives.
Small aesthetic touches like wrapping the mid-section of the steering wheel in suede for better grip during spirited driving, or safety features like packing the car full of sensors to warn you when you’re too close to another moving vehicle (not that we ever got that close). Mercedes call this cool little trick the Collision Prevention Assist Plus with partial braking.
The entire A-class range also receives a handy blind spot assist which means you don’t need to turn your head to see if there’s a car next to you while you’re merging. Just look at the LED indicator lights on the side mirrors and proceed with caution – red means don’t.
The styling of the A45 AMG is loud and in no way subtle, and that’s the point of this car. Buyers of this vehicle want something that sets them apart and this variant more than gets the job done down to a tee.
We want one. From the sublime engine to the supreme traction and efficient city-trawling credentials, it was really hard to fault the 2016 Mercedes-AMG A45.
If I had to pick on it, I could probably say that getting used to the narrow field of vision of the sloping windscreen will take a day. Also, other performance cars out there will try to race you. On last count I had four cars trying to line me up. Luckily I like my driving record untarnished (and my job).
The big spoiler, front canards, faux air vents and a rear diffuser of the A45 AMG also isn’t for everyone, but if you don’t mind compromising a bit of refined styling for bold fun, then you have nothing to worry about. It’s still sexy to us and the rest of the A-class range is much tamer in styling if that’s what you’re after.
In my opinion this car is setting the benchmark for the future of sports hatchbacks; cars which can conquer all manner of tedious transport duties and then go racing by knock-off time.
It may not be the best at one thing but it’s certainly the best at achieving them all in one tight little luxe package that can be driven on a daily basis with a big grin.
The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG retails in Australia for $77,900.