I was trying to describe to an acquaintance the concept of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG A 45 S. After explaining some of the technical aspects which make that car so special, I simply said “think Impreza STi.’’
In broad terms the similarities are obvious, four-wheel-drive, powerful 2-litre turbocharged engine, big wheels and aggressive hot-hatchback body style.
Mercedes-Benz is no stranger to the hot-hatch concept which, as many readers will recall, is one of my favourite concepts in car design.
The A 45 S represents all those things we relate to in Subaru’s STi series, but Mercedes-Benz has gone to the extreme. The A 45 S incorporates the most powerful four-cylinder production engine the company has produced and is arguably the most powerful production four-potter of any manufacturer. It gets a 310kW unit which also packs a hefty 500Nm of torque. Together, these figures account for phenomenal engine performance.
Bear in mind, the A 45 S is manufactured for the performance enthusiast and you’d need to be hardcore. While it gets the Mercedes-Benz ethos of build quality, it is hard-riding, even in the comfort suspension settings you know you are sitting in a car that is far happier attacking the high country corners than dealing to uneven road surfaces.
Nevertheless, it represents all of the values you would expect from Mercedes-Benz, it is full of clever kit and tries hard to provide comfort. However, you are always aware that there is something hidden underneath, the A 45 S is fast and furious when unleashed.
Add in the performance aspects of an eight-speed direct-shift gearbox and the A 45 S has the mechanical ingredients that provide the performance edge. According to Mercedes-Benz it will accelerate to 100km/h from a standstill in 3.9sec, and it will also scorch through a 80-120km/h overtaking manoeuvre in 3.4sec.
These are stunning times, making it one of the quickest cars I’ve driven, the feel of acceleration holds you back into the seats and speed is ushered in without falter all through the acceleration process.
While all of this blistering speed is taking place your senses are also stimulated by an angry engine sound and barking exhaust on gearshifts, both up and down, there is a muffled explosion of sound; I like it that way, the A 45 S is truly dynamic in every aspect.
Because it sits low you also get quite a specific sensation of speed, it feels fast and, of course, it has great speed. I took the test car on my favourite high country roads, it provided one of the most enjoyable drives of 2020. It cruises those flowing roads with dignity, it is always hunting to go a little bit faster but even within the confines of the law it is a stunning open road drive.
Turbo boost through the mid-range is exciting, the engine is so responsive it is constantly willing the driver. There are many drive modes and adjustable suspension settings which allow the driver to select whatever is appropriate for the journey ahead, there is also an individual setting which you can program to suit your own driving style.
Even in the default comfort mode the A 45 S delivers swift performance and dignified chassis control. Pointed into a series of tight and demanding corners it steers with absolute precision and minimal body movement. The suspension can be felt moving even though the spring and damper rates are tightly firmed and you have many benefits from the electronic aids which are incorporated into the driveline to maintain stability and control. There’s even a setting if you want to do race track laps on a club day.
Huge sport specification and low profile Michelin tyres (245/35 x 19in) command grip and supply the driver with all the information he or she needs to make accurate, precise placement in a corner.
Acceleration out of a corner is vivid, the engine has great depth and mammoth bottom-end strength, you don’t need to have it revving fully, it will pull from nowhere, and with the paddle shifters, you can quickly usher in changes as speed is increased. Incidentally, the engine will rev to 7200rpm without complaint and take you to a top speed of 270km/h if you are brave enough.
Of course, wearing a full AMG badge you get the benefit of the performance company’s high-spec brake package, speed can be chiselled off quickly and forcefully, the A 45 S is nimble and agile, it dances on the road and feels such a delight to be control of.
The A 45 S lists at $111,000. For that money not only do you get a true performance car, you get all the ingredients that make Mercedes-Benz so special as a premium car maker.
The list is too comprehensive to detail, but I can report that it wants for nothing, and the interior detailing is structured so that you know you are sitting in something special. The dash display graphics are laid out so that you are thinking you could be driving Lewis Hamilton’s Silver Arrows/Mercedes formula one car.
This evaluation focuses mostly on the performance aspects of the A 45 S, I make no apology for that, it is a true champion when the twists and turns of New Zealand’s back roads beckon.
At its price, it comes value-packed, and if you want a hot-hatch that will satisfy you for many years to come and has an amazing reputation for quality then it will be money well spent. Even on a slow speed drive, the A 45 S fills you with warm fuzzies every time, and as soon as the engine starts to breathe a little you know you are in for a thrilling ride.
It is just another example of the versatility Mercedes-Benz has as a manufacturer, there is everything from the mundane to the extreme, quite simply the company manufactures a car for everyone. For me, it’s the A 45 S.