I Mercedes-AMG is currently experiencing a purple patch both on and off the race track. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team have won the Formula 1 Constructor’s Title for the past three years and look likely to continue that dominance in 2017.
Off the track Mercedes-AMG can do no wrong. Every car that they bolt the bi-turbo V8 engine into is an instant hit and in Australia this has been reflected in the sales figures. In 2016 Mercedes-AMG outsold Porsche, something the brand is quite rightly very proud of.
In 2017 Mercedes-Benz will open the first AMG Performance Centre in Sydney with a total of ten standalone Mercedes-AMG dealerships planned for throughout Australia. This makes perfect sense considering Australia has the highest per capita sales figures in the world for Mercedes-AMG cars.
Recently I got to drive the baby of the AMG family the Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC at the invitation of Mercedes-Benz Australia and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the little rascal.
The A45 is like a tenacious little pup that spends much of its time barking loudly and pulling at the lead urging you to go faster. The noise is thanks to the AMG performance exhaust and the pull thanks to the inline 4 turbo charged engine.
The A45 may just be the ultimate hot hatch, but unfortunately it has a hefty price tag. The Polar Silver car I drove had a MRLP of $AUD80,305 and was fitted with the optional AMG DYNAMIC Plus Package that includes a Front Axle Diff Lock and Tyre Pressure Monitoring System.
On the road the AMG A45 will cost somewhere between $AUD85,000-92,000 depending what options you select. But like all AMG models that hit Australian shores there are only a few options to choose from as everything else is standard equipment.
A quick scan of the Specifications List shows that apart from the AMG DYNAMIC Package the only other options available are matt black wheels and the AMG Aerodynamic Package that includes a rear aerofoil, additional flics in front apron and a larger front splitter. I liked the look of the car I drove without the aero package, as it was a bit of a sleeper and didn’t scream ‘girl racer’.
But rather than thinking of the AMG A45 as an expensive hot hatch, think of it as a half price Mercedes-AMG C63S, but with on par performance and driving experience, because that’s essentially what it is.
This car is quick! 0-100km/hr in just 4.2 seconds, only 0.2 seconds slower than the bi-turbo V8 AMG C63S. It has 280kW and 475Nm. The official fuel consumption figure is 7.3L/100km for the combined cycle. In the real world I got 9.7L/100km for normal driving and 11.7L/100km when I partook in some spirited driving.
Last year I had the pleasure of sampling the AMG A45 on the track at Sydney Motorsport Park (Eastern Creek) driving on the tight twisty South Circuit and it was a real blast. The car felt planted the whole time so I could just concentrate on finding the apex and getting on the power out of the corner as early as possible.
I was also told by a good friend of mine who spends a great deal of time out at Sydney Motorsport Park that the A45 is quicker around the Gardener GP circuit than the C63S. The reason being the C63S cannot get all its power to the ground and so loses out through the corners.
Back in real world driving there was some turbo lag at low revs when the car was driven in Comfort mode. However the car shakes off this little problem once you engage Sport or Sports+ mode and drive it the way it’s meant to be driven, hard!
It really feels like a go kart that you can throw into a corner and thanks to the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system the grip on offer is tremendous. The steering feel is a bit on the heavier side, but I prefer this as it makes you feel more connected to the car.
If you engage manual mode in the AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed gearbox and time the gear changes right before the car hits the redline, you will be saying ‘what turbo lag’? I found the gear shifts up the box to be snappy and fast. But on a few occasions particularly coming down from third to second gear, the gearbox didn’t change down when I asked it to.
In addition to enjoying the acceleration of the car you also get a lovely soundtrack thanks the AMG performance exhaust. There is plenty of popping and banging as you go up and down the gears. You can press a button to choose between driving around quietly or scaring pedestrians as you drive past. My daughter approved of the load exhaust mode and her first reaction when I picked her up in the car was ‘mummy this is a race car with kiddie seats’.
AMG RIDE CONTROL sports suspension and enables you to choose between comfort and sport suspension modes. In reality this choice is between hard and bloody hard suspension. One of the perceived downsides of the car is the firm ride, but this is what you would expect in a performance car and if this is not something you can live with then the AMG A45 is not the car for you.
Being an AMG car luxury and performance are a given. The car comes standard with many features you find on more expensive AMG models such as heated front seats that are fully electric and offer memory settings for three positions on both the driver and passenger side. The seats are ‘race style’ and hold the driver in firmly and I don’t think they would be comfortable for a larger framed person.
The cabin is a nice place to be apart from the red highlights around the air vents.
The fantastic Harmon Kardon surround sound system has 12 loudspeakers and Dolby Digital sound. My test for a good sound system is simple, can I turn it up load enough so that I cannot hear myself singing because even I don’t enjoy my singing. The answer was ‘yes’. The good sound system also means that you don’t have to listen to the annoying squeak in the seat belt height adjustment lever.
Adaptive high beam assist, ESP, Distance Pilot DISTRONIC cruise control and passive lane keeping assist all come as standard. While the fun stuff includes the AMG driver’s package meaning it has a top speed of 270km/hr for when you take it to the track for a bit of rest and relaxation petrol head style.
The back seats are large enough to accommodate small children up to the ‘tween’ age, but teenagers or adults would find the legroom to be a little cramped on longer journeys. There are two fixing points for child seats and installation of these was quick and easy.
Rear legroom is suitable for smaller members of the family.
The boot is big enough for a small pram and the weekly shop and it also has a small hatch between the two rear seats behind the fold down centre arm rest. My children thought this was a very cool feature and it kept them amused for some time. This would be used for transporting long items when you had rear passengers and could not fold down the rear seats.
Being an AMG owner also gives you exclusive access to participate in events offered by Mercedes-Benz. These include driving events tailored at different levels of driver ability from novice to experienced. In Australia you will also be invited to premium hospitality events at the Bathurst 12 hour race and the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
There were only a couple of things I didn’t like about the A45 and these were both aesthetic. I didn’t like the red highlights around the air vents and this is something that you can’t option out when you purchase your car. I also didn’t like the rear diffuser ‘scythe’, it looked pointless to me and silly.
If you can get over the price of the Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC and not think of it as an expensive hot hatch, but rather the cheapest AMG model on the market I don’t think you will be disappointed with this car.
The rear diffuser looks like a scythe for cutting grass to me.