New car review: Mercedes AMG A 45 S 4Matic+

Pricey pocket rocket takes performance to new level.

At a snip under $100K the price tag on the A 45 S AMG 4Matic+ might seem like lot of coin for not a lot of metal, even allowing for the fact it flaunts the prestigious Mercedes Tri-Star on its over-sized grille. 

There’s no getting around the fact that it is indeed an expensive small car, but for those with the wherewithal to afford its high-performance delights this latest AMG-fettled A 45 model is something pretty special. 

The previous generation A 45 was, to put it politely, a tad ostentatious with its Boy Racer aero pack and bratty exhaust note. 

But this completely redesigned second-generation version, released in Australia earlier this year, brings with it a new level of maturity that delivers an even more exhilarating driving experience, while being less demanding and more liveable on a daily basis.

The overtly macho styling of the first-generation model has been dialled back for a slightly more understated look, although you can still option the aero pack if subtlety isn’t your thing. 

Even without that big wing there are still plenty of obvious performance cues, including over-sized red brake calipers and pizza-plate-sized vented discs behind 19-inch cross-spoke alloys. 

Other clues to the A 45’s intent are the pumped-out guards and a quartet of 90mm-diameter tailpipes that wouldn’t look out of place on an HSV V8.

Of course, without the horsepower to back up the swagger this could be dismissed as another woolly bleater masquerading as a wolf, but under the bonnet is Mercedes-AMG’s M139 2.0-litre turbo-four, which pumps out a scarcely believable 310kW and 500Nm.

That’s a hike of 30kW and 25Nm over the old model and, when hitched to a slick new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive system, the little pocket rocket scorches to 100km/h from a standing start in a claimed 3.9 seconds.

Mercedes AMG A 45 S 4Matic+

To give that some perspective, that’s 0.2 seconds faster than Audi’s $84K RS3 Sportback, which packs a turbocharged 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine. 

It’s also quicker than every model in the Porsche 718 line-up, and you’ll need to step up to the $275k Carrera S in the Porsche 911 range to show it a clean set of taillights. 

Mercedes-AMG claims it’s the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder series production engine and – as academic as this might be outside of a German autobahn or on a racetrack – that the new model’s top speed has been increased to 270km/h.  

With a range of driver selectable driving modes including Individual, Sport+ and Race, it’s a cinch to dial up just how angry you want the A 45’s engine, transmission-responses and accompanying soundtrack to be. Damping, ESC response and steering are also configurable.

All of the car’s electronic trickery and mechanicals combine to impressive effect in the Race-Start and AMG Torque-Control systems. The former is a launch control system for maximum acceleration from stationary, while the latter allows drive to be variably distributed between the front and rear axles, as well as the left and right rear wheels.

That equates to a drift mode, for those so inclined. 

If you’re getting the impression this is a road car that’s been designed with regular track days in mind, you’d be right, as affirmed by the AMG Track Pace setting that provides telemetry data, lap and sector times, and track-specific reference times.

With the tenacious grip from its 35-series Michelin Pilot Sport tyres, incisive steering and a defiantly flat cornering stance, the A45 feels utterly confident when carving corners with clinical precision. 

Power delivery on corner exit is instantaneous and potent, while the whopping 360mm vented front disc with six-piston calipers and 330mm rear discs provide unwavering stopping power. 

Mercedes AMG A 45 S 4Matic+

Harsh unyielding ride is a not-so-attractive characteristic of the hot hatch genre and here the A45 S displays some real maturity by managing to be quite liveable for daily driving when in its Comfort suspension setting.

Inside, driver and front passenger are well catered for with firm, but supportive heated sports seats. 

Like lesser A Class models, the new MBUX (Mercedes Benz User Experience) multimedia system is standard fitment, as is a Burmester surround sound system. MBUX offers an impressively high level of personalisation and includes intelligent voice control with natural language comprehension.  

Two cowl-less 10.25-inch tablet-like displays blend together under a shared piece of glass to form a distinctive “widescreen” cockpit, which incorporates the instrument cluster and MBUX display. 

Add in an array of turbine-style metal-finish dash vents and a 64-colour ambient lighting system, and the interior feels absolutely up-to-the-minute.

One of the few sour notes is the stalk-on-column gearshift, which takes some getting used to and seems entirely out of place in a hot hatch of this ilk.

Otherwise the sporty baby Benz’s high level of standard comfort and convenience items befit its luxury pricing and positioning, as do the safety and advanced driver assistance features.

Sitting like an apex predator at the top of the A Class food chain, the new A45 S AMG takes the idea of what a hot hatch can be to an entirely new level. 

It’s definitely one for the aficionados and definitely not for the faint-hearted, but its hugely impressive depth of talent does go a long way to justifying that sky-high price tag. 

Key stats

MLP: $93,235
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder  
ANCAP CRASH RATING:  5 stars (2018) 
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 8.9L/100km (202g/km CO2 )

For

Scintillating performance, all-wheel drive dynamics, excellent safety features, MBUX infotainment system. 

Against

Intrusive road noise, inflator kit in lieu of a proper spare, limited rear leg space, sips 98 RON fuel.