Mercedes-amg A45 S

Our favourite four-wheel-drive hyperhatch receives a mid-life update – and continues to keep the RS3 at bay


IT MAY NOT LOOK LIKE IT BUT THIS IS THE facelifted AMG A45 S. Honestly. The press pack is staring me in the face telling me about the new headlights, the Amg-specific grille, and how the badge above said grille is no longer a three-pointed star but the Affalterba­ch coat of arms. The AMG Performanc­e steering wheel is new too and there’s been a serious upload of new software, but the hardware remains untouched.

This means the A45 S continues to be powered by the M139 turbocharg­ed 2-litre engine, which is still the most powerful four-cylinder production engine in the world, with a specific output of 209bhp per litre. Its unchanged 415bhp peak beats the Audi RS3’S five-cylinder by 21bhp, yet both generate 369lb ft of torque for their four-wheel-drive systems to manage, the A45’s 4Matic+ providing a dual-clutch pack on the rear axle to allow for the de rigueur Drift mode.

Alongside the RS3S, Golf Rs and Civic Type Rs of the hyperhatch world, the A45 S has always delivered the biggest performanc­e punch, along with a look that gets close in terms of in-your-face aggressive­ness to the Honda’s. Front-end dive planes, a prominent splitter, deeper sides sills, a rear diffuser and a roof-mounted spoiler are the AMG’S signature uniform, along with a set of 19-inch black alloy wheels. It doesn’t do subtle.

For all its punch the engine isn’t the dominant force you might expect, because the whole package is so well strung together. The engine and exhaust sound have been toned down and the latest particulat­e filter results in a flatter-thanantici­pated soundtrack when you leave the drive mode in Comfort; if you weren’t sitting in a wingedback seat and gripping that new steering wheel you might not even realise you’re driving an AMG. Thankfully, where Sport settings once were best left to the circuit or ultra-smooth road surfaces, today their calibratio­n provides a far greater operating window, and the A45 S is no different.

Engaging Sport tightens the dampers, loosens the engine’s shackles, tenses up the gearchange­s, opens the exhaust and starts to relax the stability and traction systems, although the steering remains untouched. And the A45 feels much closer to its maker’s intentions as a result, its engine more alert and response times more befitting of a 400-plus bhp hatchback, the opportunit­y to crash into the hard rev limiter in lower gears more forthcomin­g. The additional tightness through the body dials in more confidence, the firmer damper rate complement­ing the set-up without crashy results. It’s the A45 as expected: sharp, decisive and blistering­ly quick.

Happy to be bullied into a corner or placed with a sports car-like deftness at the apex, the rewards are the same either way: grip from the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 S tyres seemingly unbreakabl­e at the front, the rear mobile on command but with an ability to remain calm under immense pressure, with clean transition­s from grip to low-level slip. As with its predecesso­r, with each passing mile thoughts of mid-nineties and early noughties Japanese Group A road warriors flood your imaginatio­n; you can’t help but wonder if AMG’S R&D centre has a handful of RA Imprezas and Mitsubishi Evos under dust sheets having served their time as inspiratio­n for the A45.

Where a Golf R starts to feel numb the harder you push, an A45 bubbles with a next level of enthusiasm, and where the latest RS3 relies on its oh-so-clever RS differenti­al to bring fun, the A45 feels more organic, the more natural at wanting to leave a corner with a quarter turn of corrective lock as you feed in the throttle as the nose locks in on the apex. It uses its tech in a more natural way, blending it with a clarity rivals can’t match.

When you want more from that explosive engine,

Sport+ and Race deliver the feral responses to the throttle, but both introduce a chassis setting that’s too much for the road, so you’re thankful for the Individual mode. Looser traction and stability settings arrive here too and allow more freedom from the rear axle, but this only highlights the lack of meaningful steering feedback, which leaves you to place a lot of faith in the tyres’ performanc­e as opposed to providing the detail to make clearer decisions. It’s an oversight on AMG’S part to overlook such a performanc­e parameter.

As the hot hatch as we know it continues to fade away, the A45 S remains a blazing advertisem­ent for the sector. It’s bold and brash, and uncouth for many. At £63,285 it’s also far too expensive: that sum could buy a previous-generation M2 Competitio­n (manual or auto) and leave you with £20,000 to spend on rear tyres. But the call of a new hyperhatch is stronger for some, and for those who don’t like the Civic Type R’s looks, the A45 S is waiting under its wing. ☒

Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1991cc, turbocharg­ed Power 415bhp @ 6750rpm Torque 369lb ft @ 5000-5250rpm Weight 1560kg (271bhp/ton) 0-62mph 3.9sec Top speed 168mph Price £63,285 + Point-to-point performanc­e, unexpected ability

- Steering lacks detail, looks lack subtly evo rating ★★★★ ½

 ?? ?? Above and opposite: exterior changes will take a very keen eye to spot; inside, the new AMG steering wheel features a pair of rotating dials beneath the spokes, enabling quick access to chassis and engine modes
Above and opposite: exterior changes will take a very keen eye to spot; inside, the new AMG steering wheel features a pair of rotating dials beneath the spokes, enabling quick access to chassis and engine modes
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??
 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom