Mercedes AMG A 45 S First Drive Review: India’s fastest hatch tested!
If there’s one type of car that’s always eluded the Indian car market, it is the hot hatch. While we have had a few lukewarm ones, there’s never been a proper fire breathing hot hatch available on our shores. Enter the Mercedes AMG A 45 S. Featuring the world’s most powerful production series 4-cylinder engine, it is the definition of a pocket rocket, if you ever needed one. Now we did get the 45 series in India with the previous generation of this car, it was only available with the CLA sedan and the GLA SUV. Mercedes India, obviously and probably rightly think that our market is now mature enough to accept a hatchback with the kind of performance and luxury that the A 45 offers.
The new A-Class has been on sale in India for a while, but that’s been in the sedan or limousine body style, as Merc put it. And there’s also the AMG A 35 available with that body type, providing an entry level to the world of AMG. But with the A45 S, that experience is about to be elevated and then some. Let’s start with the most obvious difference then, the styling.
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S Styling
Right from first glance, you know the A 45 S means business, with its hunkered down appearance. Upfront you have the signature AMG-specific Panamericana grille, along with plenty of functional cuts and slats on the bonnet fenders to aid aero. While the effect of all this might appear subtle in isolation, when you see an A45 S next to an A35, the differences are more striking, with an overall lower stance too. The A 45 S has a more aggressive overall body than its lesser powered sibling. Over at the rear too, the quad exhausts and compact styling make it look very sharp. There’s no doubt that this AMG model will stand out on our roads, attracting many eyeballs, especially in this shade of yellow. It’s pleasing to the eye from almost all angles, well-proportioned and ticks all the right boxes on the styling front. You get matte black 19-inch alloy wheels as standard. What isn’t standard is this shade of Sun Yellow you see in our pictures from the brief first drive that we had. It is an optional extra. Internationally, you get the A 45 with an AMG Performance add-on package that adds the dive plane canards and wicked rear wing. However, we won’t have these options available to us here in India. What we do get though as standard is that mad two litre turbocharged engine!
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S Engine and Performance
Although the engine shares components with the A 35, it is far from being just the A35’s two litre turbocharged engine with an ECU remap. The A 45’s power unit is effectively all-new. What the AMG engineers have done is turn the whole thing 180 degrees compared to that of the A 35, so in effect, it’s still transversely mounted now. The exhaust ports and turbocharger are now on the firewall side, while the intake is at the front, to provide better airflow. Mercedes also claim that this enables a more aerodynamic front end design and helps with cooling. The turbocharger too is different, now featuring roller bearings for reduced friction. The twin scroll turbo runs on roller bearings, pressurising up to 2.1 bar. New lightweight construction and low friction measures in the engine result in a redline of 7200rpm. There’s plenty more gadgetry and trickery, no doubt lessons learned from AMG bigger engines, to maximize performance from this smaller capacity engine. The engine also follows AMG’s philosophy of one man, one engine, which means the whole thing is put together by one individual in Affalterbach.
So what does all this amount to? Well it’s 415bhp and 500Nm of torque! What that translates to is the fastest series production 4 cylinder engine in the world. 0-100kmph in a claimed time of 3.9 seconds. In a hatchback! Mental! Now our time driving the A 45 S was very brief and only around the high speed track at Natrax, so our impressions are limited to the performance around there, since the surface is absolutely perfect and you can keep the A 45 S pinned at it’s limited top speed of 278 kmph.
The engine is super urgent throughout the rev range. While I drove mostly non Race mode, I did briefly try out a couple of the lesser modes, which also provided frantic performance. You wouldn’t expect any less from an engine that has specific output of 208 bhp/litre. The 8-speed dual-clutch transmission does a great job keeping up with the engine’s crazy abilities, providing you snappy gearshifts, up and down the rev range.
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S Dynamics and Handling
It isn’t just the engine gearbox combo that makes the A 45, the spicy little hatch that it is. The four wheel drive system does a fantastic job of putting all that power to the road. If you have driven the previous generation cars of the 45 series, you would know that the system on those cars were more front wheel driven, until slip was detected. This new 4Matic system, however, is far more sophisticated. The system calculates a bunch of values like throttle input, steering angle among others, from the various sensors and then distributes power accordingly. It’s a 50:50 split most of the time between the axles. There’s the Drift mode, which can be activated when you maximise every setting and put the ESP off completely. It essentially limits torque to the front axle provided you’re giving it maximum sideways attack with the steering and throttle.
On the handling front, I can tell you that it turns left very well, even at high speeds on a test track. But that’s about it, since our drive didn’t allow us the chance to test the ride or handling capabilities of the A 45 S. We’ll reserve our judgement on this when we do a proper road or track test. From what it felt like, I’m pretty sure we won’t be left disappointed.
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S Interiors and comfort
The A 45 features a pair of great looking and well-bolstered, supportive front sports seats. They hold you snugly in place as you hang on to that beautiful AMG-specific steering wheel. I also think AMG is one of the few manufacturers that makes paddles shifters the way they should be. They’re well sized and positioned, while operating with a tactile click. Now seen on almost all modern Mercedes cars, the 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system dominate the interior. What is unique to the A 45 is that Mercedes’s MBUX infotainment system adopts a new role in the A 45 S, acting as a data logging and telematics system in addition to its usual navigation and entertainment functions. Maps for several of racing circuits come preloaded in the system. It can use the car’s front facing camera and project a live feed of the track onto the infotainment display, complete with the ideal racing line for each corner. You also get a panoramic sunroof and a Burmester surround sound system as standard. Overall, it does have an environment that wouldn’t look out of place in something a lot more sophisticated.
Mercedes-AMG A 45 S Verdict
The engineers at AMG probably had a simple brief while building the A 45, to make it go fast and be fun. And they’ve done a damn good job of that. The A 45, priced at ₹79.50 lakh ex-showroom, can hit a pretty big sweet spot in our market, which has actually never been explored by manufacturers. It looks great, is luxurious inside, and goes properly fast when you demand it. Even a very brief drive has made me fall completely in love with it. It all syncs well together. The 415bhp engine, the 4WD system, the stiffness of the body and the electronics that support everything, all are very well integrated. I can’t wait to get my hands on one for a real world road test.