Test Drive: Mercedes-AMG A45 S: Big spades of fun

The kings of drift and counter-steering won’t probably be impressed reading this AMG A45 S  spec sheet. A small 2.0 turbocharged four pot engine ; four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox will surely never wake up an enthusiastic driver in the middle of the night. And yet… we would have spent days and nights behind the wheel of this characterful car, being so addictive is verging on witchcraft.

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421 BHP! Back in 2003, a Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale offered as much power. The A45 S being 4-wheel drive, you would expect ecstatic feelings in droves. Yet, the smallest AMG can be discreet on start-up, without a deep bark. That’s a real contrast with its built-up body, even if our test car deep black colour does not highlight its aesthetics too much. If the roof spoiler is unmistakable, then the front bumper’s small fins are hard to see. Fortunately, the front grille leaves no room for doubt and the red brake callipers add a welcome touch of colour.

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Inside, the non-standard bucket seats are highlighted with yellow lines. Yellow dominates the whole interior, mainly in the dashboard stitching as well as on the door panels. The dashboard is the now standard Mercedes fare, with screens in front of the driver that are pretty easy to use.  Some well- placed switches still give direct access to essential functions like the aircon. The three-spoke flat bottom steering wheel is pleasant to handle and harmoniously mix leather and suede elements.

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I like it

Of course, the engine is this A45S’ piece de resistance. It is entirely hand-made on a new, and dedicated assembly line in Affalterbach. It replaces the old M133 four pot that powered the first generation A 45 AMG (W176).  This new engine weighs only 160 kg without fluids and displays a host of clever details. For example, compared to its predecessor, the M139 rotated 180° in the engine bay. The turbocharger and exhaust manifold are now located at the rear of the block while the intake system was moved up front. The new layout means better aerodynamics. It’s got a really deep breath, with a 211 HP/l specific power and 500 Nm maximum torque. This gem of an engine will soon be under the bonnet of the new Lotus Emira…

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Quite clever

On the road, this baby-AMG offers fiery performance. It pushes all the time and negotiating the bends at its help is a real pleasure, knowing there’s strong braking power, should you ever need it. Unlike a certain Audi RS3, provided there’s enough space to do so, the Mercedes will let its rear end roll around corners or slide generously when you push on the loud pedal. We were blown away by its ability to soak up any type of road surface, even though that understandably means comfort gets more notional than anything else. Efficiency and cornering abilities and speed come first. The dancing rear axle is a marvel and induces a control feeling in your mind, even though electronics monitor everything and would never let you end up in a dangerous situation. There is even a Drift mode but… we didn’t even think about using it…

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I don’t like it

The front end is a bit lazy, but as the rear axle moves about perfectly it’s never a real problem. Of course, fuel consumption will soar if you trash the engine (more than 20 l/ 100 km is possible). However, welcome to the brave new world of our crowded roads! Which means that such a situation will be a rare occurrence and it should not be a cause for concern. On a daily basis, the A45 S can be pretty frugal and make do with about 8 l/100 km.

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Why I buy it

Once you know how it works and how to use it, the A45 swivels in, slides out and remains precise! It’s a real toy… We discovered it a few months ago during an AMG test day on the Zolder track. Our road test confirmed that day’s positive feelings. Once the apex point is reached, accelerate hard and the 4 wheels will slide safely and take you through the next corner. This is sheer, pure fun and this car will most likely be our sports car of the year !

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+ (2019)

Why I don’t buy it

As mentioned above, fuel consumption can easily get through the roof when the car’s potential is fully exploited. The AMG A45 S starts at € 69,400€, but ticking the extras’ list will inevitably end up in a steep bill… even more so with the heavy taxes that burden powerful cars in our country. Eventually, if you chose a Mercedes for its comfort attributes, you’re in the wrong place here. This AMG A45S chassis is a good compromise, however its firmness and suspension harshness will not please everyone. (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)

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