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Wednesday 13th February 2013


OFFICIAL: MERCEDES A45 AMG

360hp, four-wheel drive, four-cylinder engine - how many sacred cows can AMG hit with one shot?


So, we've had Chris Harris's view from the passenger seat of a test mule. And though you can - and we have - argued the merits of such exercises it actually told us quite a lot about AMG's entry into the hot hatch market with its new A-Class-based A45 AMG.

It's an AMG, just not as we've known it
It's an AMG, just not as we've known it
This is radically new ground for AMG. It'll be the most attainable 'true' AMG ever built. It has a four-cylinder engine. Haldex-based four-wheel drive. A double-clutch auto. Can it still be a real AMG though?

Well, as of today we know a lot more about it. Like that its 360hp 2.0-litre makes it the most powerful series production four-cylinder in the world. One that'll go more than 10 miles without needing a service, before any FQ400 owners pipe up. No Evo ever managed 40.9mpg either, which is what AMG is claiming for the A45. CO2 is a trifling 165g/km too.

But you're probably less interested in that than how the essential AMG character manages to survive a halving of the typical cylinder count, drive predominantly to the front wheels and being closely based on a glorified hatchback.

Brave new world or bastardisation of a brand?
Brave new world or bastardisation of a brand?
AMG isn't daft and realises it's going to have to over-deliver in many respects in order to maintain credibility. On paper it sounds like it has done just that. So, we've got an excess of power? Check, that 360hp matched with 332lb ft of torque and good for a 4.6-second 0-62mph sprint and limited 155mph top speed. Dual-clutch transmission is not unexpected in this day and age and AMG has already used it in the SLS, claiming lessons learned here have been directly applied to the A45. And it's not like there's a history of manual AMGs either so no emotional trauma there.

Haldex-style four-wheel drive though? Yes, power goes to the front wheels most of the time. But as much as half can be transferred to the rear via an automated clutch in the rear differential - placed there to shift a bit of weight backwards in the powertrain. AMG claims the 'always on' pump is an improvement over rival systems and allows a near-instantaneous response, the variable drive torque apportioned by sensors monitoring steering angle, wheel slip, throttle position and more. Not long ago tech like this was the preserve of Skylines and other exotica - now it's available on a family hatch.

Hatchback for now, CLA-based saloon later
Hatchback for now, CLA-based saloon later
AMG also claims its 4Matic system is 25 per cent lighter than rivals' due to the power take-off being integrated directly into the gearbox, rather than a separate component. As demonstrated by AMG chassis man Tobias Moers, the A45 would seem to react positively to throttle lifts and other provocations too. OK, smoky powerslides are probably out but the rear axle is about more than propping the back bumper off the ground.

At which point the BMW M 135i raises its head. Which it manages to do in pretty much every story written about cars in the sub-£40K price bracket since it burst on the scene, and not without reason. That is still available as a manual and rear-wheel drive of course, if not as fast on-paper as the AMG - despite an identical torque fibure, the BMW's 40hp down. It looks like it'll have a headline-grabbing price advantage, though, will probably more than offset this in many eyes, so the A45 is going to have to do something pretty special to beat it. And if the whole hatchback thing doesn't do it for you bear in mind there'll be a CLA version too at some point.

This is probably what the Germans call 'sportlich'
This is probably what the Germans call 'sportlich'
Can a four-cylinder AMG really compete aurally with a silky BMW six? There's been a lot of work to make sure it does, a continuously variable flap apparently monitoring your mood (well, throttle inputs and other parameters) and delivering a soundtrack to suit. A louder optional system is also going to be available.

Chassis and brakes have also been AMG'd, though anyone who's experienced the uncompromising shake, rattle and roll of the regular A-Class may shudder further at phrases like 'stiffer', 'more precise and direct feedback' and 'more rigid' that pepper the press release.

So, a big step for AMG and one that stretches the brand's DNA thinner than ever. There's certainly lots of on-paper bluster but the proof will be in the driving and we look forward to telling you more about that after the A45's Geneva debut. Hopefully we'll also have an idea of what it'll cost too.





 

Author: Dan Trent
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