A HATCH AND A HALF

The orig­i­nal Mercedes-AMG A45 was un­doubt­edly fast, but was also un­re­fined, un­re­solved and un­re­ward­ing. Has that changed with this all-new ver­sion?

Evo India - - CONTENTS - WORDS by ANTONY IN­GRAM PHO­TOG­RA­PHY by ASTON PAR­ROTT

Mercedes-AMG’s new­est of­fer­ing, the A45 S comes in an up­graded pack­age and prom­ises an even big­ger dol­lop of fun!

‘THE WORLD’S MOST POW­ER­FUL TURBO FOUR­cylin­der engine in se­ries pro­duc­tion,’ reads the press re­lease for the new Mercedes-AMG A45 hot hatch and its dif­fi­cult-to-clas­sify four-door CLA45 brother. (Mercedes will tell you it’s a coupe, the most abused word in the mo­tor­ing lex­i­con just af­ter ‘sporty’ and just be­fore ‘emo­tive’.) Trou­ble is, the old A45 and CLA45 strug­gled to en­ter­tain with an al­ready-gen­er­ous 376bhp. Now that’s risen to 415bhp (non-S mod­els get 382bhp), but turn­ing up the wick alone is no guar­an­tee of new-found evoness. Luck­ily, the new 45s are off to a run­ning start. Ear­lier in the year AMG gave us the A35 and CLA35, giv­ing buy­ers a lower rung on the AMG lad­der, just as the V6 43s and hy­brid-as­sisted 53s have done fur­ther up the range. And those 35s are good – far bet­ter than the leaden old 45s, and more sporty and emo­tive (sorry) than a Golf R. The only pos­si­ble stum­bling block is that they’re so ac­com­plished, even with ‘only’ 302bhp, that last time I drove an A35 I was left won­der­ing why you’d bother spend­ing any more just for the sake of an ex­tra hun­dredor-so horses. What could AMG pos­si­bly do dif­fer­ently – without com­ing over all Black Se­ries and re­mov­ing seats – to jus­tify the ad­di­tional cost?

Well, it’s fair to say that it’s had a go. You can’t ig­nore the ex­tra power of course: 415bhp with 500Nm of torque is pretty healthy for any car, let alone a five-door hatch­back and sort-of-coupe. But AMG hasn’t just wound up the boost and left it at that. In fact, this is an all-new engine that’s been ro­tated by 180 de­grees, plac­ing the

twin-scroll turbo and ex­haust at the back and the in­take where you’d want it, at the front. The turbo it­self uses roller bear­ings for re­duced fric­tion, and has di­vided ducts to pre­vent ex­haust pulses dis­turb­ing each other as they flow through the tur­bine. There’s an elec­tron­i­cal­ly­con­trolled waste­gate, and the turbo is cooled by wa­ter, oil and air, the air be­ing aided by spe­cial ducts in the engine cover, a tech­nique learned from the hot-V V8s used fur­ther up the AMG hi­er­ar­chy.

Then there are be­spoke valves, two-stage fu­elin­jec­tion, two dif­fer­ent wa­ter pumps to meet the dif­fer­ent cool­ing re­quire­ments of the head and block, a two-stage in­ter­cooler to sat­isfy the de­mands of road and track use, and a baf­fled sump. Oh, and the 2-litre unit is a le­git­i­mate Af­fal­ter­bach ‘one man, one engine’ unit, as­sem­bled by hand.

Chas­sis-wise, to stiffen the A45’s un­der­side AMG has added enough scaf­fold­ing to build a new fac­tory, and the springs and fre­quency-se­lec­tive adap­tive dampers are new to the model. Both the front and rear sub­frames are rigidly mounted, as is the rack for the vari­able-ra­tio steer­ing. Power is sent through an eight-speed du­al­clutch gear­box, while the 4Matic+ all-wheel-drive set-up uses AMG Torque Con­trol, short­hand for a pair of mul­ti­disc clutches at the rear axle to divvy up power – and en­able a new drift mode.

You can’t see any of this when you first walk up to the car, and there’s not a lot vis­ually that sep­a­rates A45 from A35. It’s at its most dra­matic with the op­tional

AMG Aero­dy­nam­ics pack­age which our yel­low test car un­for­tu­nately doesn’t have; head to the AMG con­fig­u­ra­tor and tick all the boxes on an A35 and you’ll get a rough idea. The same ap­plies in­side. The firm but sup­port­ive bucket seats are nice and the wheel rim is fully en­wrapped by Al­can­tara, and it re­mains one of the most modern and stylish cock­pits in the class. But god help you if you ut­ter the word ‘Mercedes’ in gen­eral con­ver­sa­tion and wake the AI as­sis­tant, as I did four or five times in ten min­utes chat­ting with pho­tog­ra­pher Aston Par­rott about the F1. A few rat­tles here and there sug­gest build qual­ity could be im­proved, too.

The ba­sics feel as good as in the A35, how­ever. In Com­fort mode it’s re­laxed, with a bet­ter ride qual­ity than reg­u­lar A-classes (or at least a ride that’s more ap­pro­pri­ate in a hot hatch than a diesel fam­ily hauler), good sup­pres­sion of road grum­bles and wind rus­tles, and just a hint of ex­haust growl un­der light throt­tle to re­as­sure you of your pur­chase. As with the A35, don’t bother with the Sport mode. In­stead, twist the handy steer­ing-wheel dial an­other notch to Sport+. You can, if you like, back off func­tions such as the ex­haust noise or sus­pen­sion with an­other pair of wheel-mounted but­tons, but the 45 de­liv­ers its best ex­pe­ri­ence at its most ex­treme.

Con­fig­ured thus, ev­ery­thing tight­ens quite dra­mat­i­cally, apart from the ride, which seems barely any more un­com­pro­mis­ing than it does in Com­fort. The steer­ing takes on weight, the throt­tle re­acts more keenly, and gearchange­s click through with more vigour. Sink

the throt­tle and a loud blare fills the cabin – per­haps a lit­tle too loud some­times, as sadly this is an­other car to gain in­te­rior sound en­hance­ment, or Real Per­for­mance Sound in AMG-speak. Ig­nore it – maybe drop the win­dows – and the ex­haust it­self sounds fan­tas­ti­cally naughty, crack­ling on the over­run and whip-crack­ing on gearchange­s.

The A45 is cer­tainly quicker than the A35 too, though the gulf isn’t quite as large as I was ex­pect­ing. Per­haps that’s be­cause the per­for­mance is so ac­ces­si­ble lower down the rev range (the 5000rpm at which peak torque is quoted does lit­tle jus­tice to an engine that pulls hard from be­low 2000), so you ac­tu­ally spend most of the time a gear higher than might usu­ally be pos­si­ble, es­chew­ing the last thou­sand rpm to join corners with an an­gry surge of mid-range torque in­stead. Or maybe it’s be­cause the A45 weighs 80kg more than the A35.

Much like with the A35, the chas­sis also feels like a grand step for­ward from the old A45’s. Steer­ing is rel­a­tively light even in Sport+, but un­fail­ingly ac­cu­rate, and as you work the Pi­lot Sport 4 S tyres there’s even a whis­per of use­ful feed­back through the rim. Front-end grip is re­mark­able, from turn-in to cor­ner exit. Only on peb­ble-smooth sur­faces does the nose threaten to wash wide, but good bal­ance means this is eas­ily neu­tralised with a lift, or in some cases a harder press on the right­hand pedal to wake up the AMG Torque Con­trol diff. You can do this lu­di­crously early, the fronts dig­ging in and the rear feed­ing around to lock you to the cor­ner’s ra­dius. Push hard enough and the car will rotate a few ad­di­tional de­grees, re­quir­ing an eas­ily mea­sured in­put of op­po­site lock.

With the ex­tra weight be­hind its rear wheels the CLA45 seems even keener to turn, but per­haps for the same rea­son its steer­ing is just a shade lighter and more re­mote. Its brakes are equally strong, though – if a touch soft ini­tially – and both punch onto ev­ery straight equally hard. Of the pair, my eyes say CLA, be­cause the sleek mini-CLS vibe ap­peals more.

As for the drift mode, I’m not sure it adds greatly to the day-to-day ex­pe­ri­ence: Mercedes now knows how to build an en­gag­ing and like­able hot hatch­back (and equiv­a­lent not-a-coupe). But then the im­pres­sive A35 showed that too, if to a less ex­pres­sive ex­tent, and it also costs less… ⌧

MERCEDES-AMG A45 S 4MATIC+

Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1991cc, tur­bocharged Power 415bhp @ 6750rpm Torque 500Nm @ 5000-5250rpm Weight 1560kg Power-to-weight 270bhp/ton 0-100kmph 3.9sec Top speed 269kmph (lim­ited)

Price `96 lakh (est. price in UK, ex­clud­ing In­dian taxes and du­ties)

IT’S QUICKER THAN THE A35, THOUGH THE GULF ISN’T QUITE AS LARGE AS EX­PECTED

Left and above: Yel­low high­lights are unique to the S model. Be­low: 19-inch wheels are stan­dard, and cover 360mm brake discs at the front, 330mm at the rear

Above: CLA45 S is a tenth of a sec­ond slower to get from 0 to 100kmph than the hatch­back, although both have an iden­ti­cal 269kmph lim­ited top speed

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