There was no hiding the fact that Stuttgart desperately needed its own premium hatch to compete with successful rivals, the BMW 1 Series and Audi A3, but the question some asked was whether Merc did enough to make an impact in this already very established market. It needed to make a big entry. With the A45 AMG, Merc has.
Let’s be honest off the bat, the A45 AMG is all about one thing. With a maximum output of 265kW and up to 450Nm of torque, the AMG 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine is the most powerful series production four-cylinder engine in the world. No need for more proof that Mercedes-AMG means business with this car.
Before the A45, the smallest Merc toyed with by the guys from Affalterbach was the SLK. But this is a completely different AMG product and a completely different hot hatch.
While, overall, the A45 is quite a subtle enhancement from the standard A-Class, it has much more impressive tech than the standard series. Besides the truly remarkable 2.0-litre powerplant that is assembled following AMG’s “One man, one engine” philosophy, it also gets Merc’s part-time 4Matic all-wheel-drive and a price tag that may surprise, albeit not in a good way.
Forgetting for the moment that the car’s asking price is a rather substantial R599 500, let’s consider what you’re getting for the cash.
The sensational power density of 133kW outstrips even the most powerful super sports cars. At the same time, the engine delivers notable claimed efficiency and fuel consumption of 6.9 litres/100km in combined mode, thanks to the BlueDirect technology employed.
Delivering power to the road is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is normally front-wheel-drive, apportioning power - up to a maximum of 50% - to the rear wheels, only once traction is lost upfront.
Surprisingly, the AMG suspension setup felt less harsh under test conditions than that of the previously tested A250. No explanation for it, but a welcome observation nonetheless.
The A45 AMG is truly, impressively powerful and feels the part when inside. In true AMG tradition, the standard interior trim options - which are already quite exciting - make way for bespoke seats, red contrast stitching and red-accented air vents and safety belts. While too much carbon-fibre-esque trim feels overwhelming at times, what matters in this car is the great seating comfort and driving position and the on-point feel of the multi-function steering wheel.
Mercedes-Benz has unleashed a mighty king of premium performance hatchbacks on the world. Between incredible traction, formidable torque and unrelenting power delivery, the AMG is nothing short of a marvel and has as much performance as you could ever sanely use on the road. At a decidedly insane 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.6 seconds and an electronically limited 250km/h top speed, you absolutely get what you pay for in A45 AMG. What you get for free is the unrivalled thrill of 46 years of spirited AMG performance.