REVIEW | The 2020 Mercedes-AMG A45 S is fast and fearsomely pricey
There is nothing understated about this Mercedes performance hatch. From its loud yellow paintwork to its red brake calipers and prominent boot spoiler, everything about this car suggests it has an imminent appointment with a waved chequered flag.
There is no subtlety in the R1.1m price tag either, making the Mercedes-AMG A45 S the country’s most expensive hatchback by quite some margin. And that’s without optional extras like a parking camera, wireless smartphone charging or the Edition 1 cosmetic package which alone adds R144,500 to the price.
One could criticise this cost of entry as being too steep even for a car wearing the prestigious three-pointed star, but the fact is this junior AMG model is able to gallop at a pace that until recently was reserved for the type of exotic cars with horses on their badges.
The Merc’s compact but highly-tuned 2.0l four-cylinder turbo engine summons a class-leading 310kW and 500Nm when the throttle’s pressed in anger, allowing this car to scorch the 0-100km/h sprint in a claimed 3.9 seconds. We put the claim to the test at the Gerotek test centre near Pretoria, where our Vbox recorded 4.1 seconds, very close to the factory-quoted figure.
The car can reel off these quick times all day long — if you can afford the fuel — thanks to an auto gearbox with a Race Start function that makes off-the-line sprints a simple task. It involves left-foot braking while letting the revs spool up to a predetermined level, release the brake, and off you go.
The all-wheel drive car scoots to its imagined chequered flag with a satisfyingly firm shove into your seat, and it’s a well-mannered sprinter without the smoking tyres or torque steer that afflicts some front-wheel drive hot hatches (we’re looking at you, Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy).
The Merc’s performance is instantly accessible throughout the rev range, aided by a slick-shifting transmission that keeps it in the power band without significant pauses.
A few laps of Gerotek’s handling track revealed the A45 S to be nimble but also surprisingly well-mannered for such a powerful car. The 4Matic drive keeps wheelspin at bay, but the rear-biased system also keeps in check the understeer that afflicted earlier all-wheel drive systems, giving the A45 has an enjoyably edgy and “chuckable” nature.
It’s a fairly forgiving car that doesn’t easily lose traction during aggressive driving. Apart from the all-wheel drive, also to thank for that is the stability control and the AMG Torque Control electronic limited slip diff which selectively distributes power between the left and right rear wheels.
It all keeps the powerful hatch from getting too wayward during hard cornering, but the car comes out to play if you really want it to if you select Drift mode which disables the stability control and allows experienced wheelsmen to test their powersliding skills.
Adaptive damping is an extra-cost option that wasn’t fitted to the test car, which has a firm and choppy ride set up more for carving mountain passes than commuting. The ride’s not as spine-juddering as the previous-generation A45, but it’s still a car that hankers for a racetrack.
Inside, occupants are ensconced in a modern digitised landscape embellished with sporting AMG fare like yellow-accented black bucket seats, metallic accents, an Alcantara-clad steering wheel and the essential aluminium pedals.
There are switchable drive modes that progressively enhance the car from comfort to foaming-at-the-mouth, and in its sports and race settings the car adopts an entirely more eager nature, with quicker responses and a louder, more resonant sound. A separate button opens the exhaust flaps and allows you to experience the racier sound and crackling in any driving mode, and for a four-cylinder this car produces an exuberant war cry.
The one somewhat subtle aspect of this car is its 11.9l /100km fuel consumption if you drive it at normal commuting pace with the occasional burst of enthusiasm, though this figure rises dramatically if the car’s high-performance capabilities are regularly tested.
Until the new Audi RS3, packing a rumoured 331kW, arrives some time next year to give this hot Benz some competition, the Mercedes-AMG A45 S has no direct rivals. It’s the country’s most powerful hatchback and lives up to the billing with its scorching performance, hearty noise and handling poise.
Whether that justifies the R1.1m price gives pause for thought.
Type: Four-cylinder petrol turbo
Type: Eight-speed dual clutch transmission
Type: All-wheel drive
Top speed: 270km/h
0-100km/h: 3.9 seconds (claimed); 4.1 seconds (as tested)
Fuel Consumption: 8.4l/100km (claimed); 11.9l /100km (as tested)
Remote central locking, climate control, electric windows, electric mirrors, MBUX infotainment system, cruise control, dynamic select, active brake assist, automatic wipers, automatic headlights, ABS brakes, stability control, front and side airbags, AMG performance steering wheel, AMG suspension, ambient lighting
Warranty: Two years/unlimited km
Service plan: Five years/100,000km
Lease*: R23,760 a month
* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit
Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch 4Matic, 225kW/400Nm — R850,000
Renault Megane RS 300 Trophy auto, 221kW/420Nm — R799,900
Honda Civic Type R, 228kW/400Nm — R741,900
VW Golf R, 228kW/400Nm — R727,400
Mercedes-AMG A45 S hatch 4Matic+
Performance, sound, handling
Price, expensive cost of extras
SA’s hot hatch king, in pace and price
***Value For Money