March 29, 2016 @ 04:04 PM

Review: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – The start of a superhatch?

If your typical A-Class has (wrongfully) depicted you as a poser, try the AMG and you will feel so much better

There is obviously nothing wrong with the A-Class, in fact, it can be seen as the start of the modern renaissance of Mercedes-Benz. A plethora of new and exciting cars have emerged from the brand thereafter and all (if not most) of them are winners. Don’t take my word for it; just take a look at their soaring sales figures locally and internationally. And these are supposed to be lean times by the way. While an A-Class is a good way to whet your appetite into a better world of motoring, it may or may not suit everyone. Forget about what it is for a moment, because most buyers and owners are more concerned about… image.

In general, the hive mentality (rightly or wrongly) defines the A-Class as a good entry point into premium motoring. Now that word… “Entry point” denotes “making it by the skin of your teeth”; hence not the most flattering picture one can paint for himself or herself. While it is great for a 20- or 30-year old to be seen in one… it is not so great for a 40- or 50-year old. But oddly, once you hit your 60s, it becomes okay again, because you are seen to be practical, but affordability is not an issue for you.

Regardless, having driven all of them, the A-Class is a gem, whatever society wants to peg. Of course, there is that model that sits higher at the top end of the class, just like in school. The A45 AMG 4matic is one such machine.

The first time I laid eyes on it in the flesh was at a resort in Kuantan some years back. It was a sneak peek and caught most of us completely by surprise. I must admit, it bowled me over. I could not remember wanting a car that badly in such a short time of introduction. I did the necessary and sent pictures of the car to the “home minister” and she said “let us buy it, so we can enjoy it… together”. Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for sharing… but a car… is rather personal. It’s like an intimate piece of clothing; you don’t make it a habit of wearing someone else's underwear… do you? In any case, we were both sold but could not narrow down the terms of usage to an amicable one. But yes, it was, and is, that attractive a car.

As a comparison between that and the base A 200 BlueEFFICIENCY, the AMG variant has 204bhp more at 360bhp, 200Nm more at 450Nm and 3.7s faster to the century at 4.6s, 396cc more engine capacity at 1991cc and the price difference is RM138,409.91 at RM 323,738.21. Any way you look at these numbers, it is significant, and rightly so.

While there are strong hints at differentiation of models on the exterior like rear diffusers, 19-inch rims and red brake callipers, the interior is where most drivers will feel it with red accents on black leathers, red seatbelts, carbon fibre patterned dashboard, sleek front row seat and an absolutely rocking steering wheel. In essence, being decked out in AMG styling and parts… is a good thing.
Having visited the AMG factory in Germany recently, I can appreciate the work and design that goes into every AMG unit. It is made to be special and the signature on the engine cover is not pure aesthetics, but rather a commitment.

Put all that eye-candy aside for a moment, get in, start the engine and you will realise this A45 AMG means business. The angry bark is enough to wake you up every morning and this means whatever savings you manage on the coffee can be funnelled into the gas (too American?) tank.

A good sense of how a car is designed mechanically in a sports variant can be felt when you push off from a standstill, and I don’t mean flooring it either. There is a tautness in the way it moves, and it demands you be more forceful and sure in your input to the car. You need to know what you want to do, you need to be… assertive. This AMG feels like the part.

The first thing you will note is it rides even harder than the “entry-level” A-Class. And this is a significant level of “firm”. That in itself will limit the love for this car to someone more in tuned with speed and everything about going fast, which is a good thing, mainly because when you buy this AMG, you will know exactly what you are getting yourself into. So look elsewhere if you are looking for that traditional comfort levels that Mercedes-Benz is known for.

Once we have cleared that initial barrier, the AMG will deliver everything else in spades as I discovered on my test drive. It looks so “now” and if looks could kill… you would, at least, be in a coma. Once on the move, you get all the feedback you will need to track this A-Class within three millimetres (give or take) in accuracy. See it as a laser-guided missile, with the driver as the laser. The more accurate you are, the more accurate the car will be.

The aforementioned engine and exhaust note can be seen as an integral part of the experience, and this is why traditional petrolheads like me will never get the Formula E gibber. If it is fast, it has to sound in a corresponding fashion. There was a reason why we progressed from silent movies in black and white to HD with stereo and surround sound, right?

Steering feel is tight but not too heavy and the gas pedal gives a pushback that you will need to feed the needed amount of fuel into the combustion chamber. And in essence, this is all you have to “worry” about, as the rest is taken care of by the good folks in AMG.

The A45 AMG is naturally incredibly fun to drive and in a very usable way too. This is not something fragile that you need to baby as it is so well made. It was designed to be used and abused. The interior design makes you feel like you are flying a fighter jet, which you must admit, is kind of cool. Just get yourself a wingman and you are set to soar, just make sure you get a good set of walkie-talkies and you are good to go.

Straight line speed is phenomenal and just a tick under “I don’t want to die” level. Even when you are already on the move, the torque is on tap to bring the A45 AMG to the speed that you need it to be at. The very good news is there will be no more slow pokes to slow you down, as overtaking them will quite literally be a walk in the park.

In addition, the brakes are remarkable units and could take on the Genting Highlands stretch with zero fade… after two round-trips. Steering and shifting are 'real-time' as you get and don’t be surprised if the only thing that will actually slow or stop you is a visit to the petrol station. Then again… maybe it’s just me.

Just understand that there is no such thing as a perfect car. While the chassis is super taut, there is that little give that is required to make it a liveable space. At hard and fast corners, the G-forces will be closer to significant, and ample warning is suggested for the uninitiated passengers. This is also a good… no, great way of selecting and de-selecting your friends.

The A45 AMG is a completely engrossing ride that can be used on a daily basis. It is both at home in the slow and the fast bits of your drive, and even if you are stuck in a jam, you have the alternative of listening to the beautiful bass of the exhaust or the other pretty nifty sound system inside the car.

So here is the challenge. Go have a look at the A45 AMG. And tell me what you dislike about it. I have been through it with a fine-tooth-comb both visually and experientially, and I can’t for the life of me find anything that leaves me cold.

Sure, it is a bit hard with 19-inch rims and low profile performance tyres. Sure, it can get quite greedy with the fuel when pushed. So what? What are the other options out there that can deliver the numbers and the feel at this price? I can’t really think of any.

As I said, it is not for everyone, but it is special in many ways and will undoubtedly please the right owner. You just have to ask if you are the right one.

SPEC: Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG

RM343,888.00 on-the-road without insurance

1991cc, in-line 4, twin-scroll turbocharged, 381bhp @ 6000rpm, 475Nm @ 2250-5000rpm

AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed sports transmission, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive

0-100kph in 4.2s, 250kph top speed, 7.3-6.9l/100km, 171-162g/km CO2


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