Su­perb lit­tle Mercedes

NT News - Motoring - - CARS GUIDE - By PAUL POT­TINGER

THE best car from hal­lowed per­for­mance house AMG is its new­est and cheap­est.

The $75,000 A45 is noth­ing less than a his­toric event.

Benz and its tun­ing part­ner con­spire to de­liver not only the great­est hot hatch but also ef­fec­tively fu­ture proof this line against the com­ing day when the V8 rear-drive au­to­bahn stormer is, if not ac­tu­ally il­le­gal, so so­cially ab­hor­rent as to make no odds.

That this partly all-wheeldrive but mainly bum drag­ging five-door is the fastest car un­der $100,000 is to some ex­tent only to be ex­pected. AMG was hardly go­ing to halve its cylin­der count and swap its drive wheels in or- der to bring the world a su­per­an­nu­ated Golf GTI.

This is a game changer, a par­a­digm buster, an ac­com­plish­ment to make any think­ing per­for­mance car buyer re­con­sider ev­ery per­cep­tion and prej­u­dice. VALUE The next rung up, the C63 AMG, starts at about $150K. The A45 not only opens AMG to pun­ters who would never pre­vi­ously have con­sid­ered this brand while sober but it also makes a pow­er­ful case for be­ing the best value car on sale.

All right, $74,900 is a few grand over BMW’s com­pa­ra­ble M135i auto but the lat­ter is not a fully fledged M car. The A45 shows that the A-Class was in no lit­tle part con­ceived with an even­tual AMG in­car­na­tion at top of mind, as mar­ket­ing types say. It is the whole 10 me­tres, a lit­er­ally fully blown AMG.

That ‘‘en­try’’ sum buys the com­plete pack­age. Only nice paint, sun­roof and a few fancy fid­dly bits are op­tional. You get Co­mand sat­nav, hugely grippy tyres on cool 19-inch al­loys, enough body kit to sat­isfy all but the ir­re­deemably kitsch, fire­works ex­haust and seven-speed twin-clutch auto with an ag­gres­sive sport mode and neck­snap­ping launch con­trol.

Fac­tor in the ca­pa­bil­ity of smok­ing al­most any­thing this side of a Porsche 911 S — but with sub­ur­ban com­pat­i­ble pas­sen­ger and load ca­pac­ity — and you have a pack­age that asks ques­tions of ev­ery­thing fromWRXSTI to HSV.

Ar­riv­ing soon at some $11K more is the de­cid­edly more stylish twin-un­der­the-skin CLA 45 AMG. TECH­NOL­OGY I am not over­joyed to dis­cover this ver­sion of 4Matic all-wheel-drive is not only part-time but also chan­nels only 50 per cent of avail­able torque rear­ward. How­ever, it rapidly ban­ishes vi­sions of the dull-wit­ted, in­sin­cere de­vices typ­i­cally at­tached to com­pact SUVs.

You’ll need to dial off the sta­bil­ity pro­gram (and find a track) to test the Pirellis.

The world’s most pow­er­ful four-cylin­der packs more kilo­watts than BMW’s six-pot turbo 135i and equals its torque. DE­SIGN If the ba­sic A-Class makes even those dis­mis­sive of hatches look twice, they won’t be able to take their eyes off this.

She’s pretty sick, mate, es­pe­cially from the rear three­quar­ters where the ris­ing waist­line is set off by haunches like an East Ger­man shot­put­ter. It’s a great cabin, rich and dark, with per­for­mance ac­cents that al­lude to its abil­ity.

The en­try sum buys the com­plete pack­age with only nice paint, sun­roof and a few fancy fid­dly bits op­tional

Even those dis­mis­sive of hatches will look twice at this

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