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RE: Mercedes-AMG A45 facelift: Review

RE: Mercedes-AMG A45 facelift: Review

Tuesday 4th October 2016

Mercedes-AMG A45 facelift: Review

Adaptive dampers, new gearing and a front limited-slip diff among surprisingly wide-ranging update package - does it work?



If the Golf R laid the groundwork for the four-wheel drive premium 'mega hatch' format then the real beneficiaries have clearly been Audi and Mercedes. They took the idea and ran with it, busting through the £40K threshold with the A45 AMG and RS3, many owners reportedly happy to push on to £50K with a few choice options as well. Capable cars both, but does the hot hatch format really stretch to this price point?

Well that's dark and moody sorted then
Well that's dark and moody sorted then
If it does the stage is now AMG's own, RS3 hatch production having now finished as the emphasis shifts to the newly announced RS3 saloon. The A45 hasn't rested on its laurels though, a range-wide A-Class update last year including surprisingly extensive additions to the AMG version as detailed in our launch drive. In brief though these included a power bump from 360hp and 332lb ft to 381hp and 350lb ft, shorter gearing and an optional Dynamic Plus package. This latter feature is the most interesting, bundling two-stage adaptive dampers with a mechanical limited-slip differential on the front axle to complement the existing Haldex-style four-wheel drive system.

All we needed were some suitably bumpy and greasy roads to put these new features to the test, not something one would usually struggle to find in the middle of the Pennines. The rain never came and the tarmac remained resolutely dry and grippy; if we wouldn't be getting the best from the diff we'd at least get to put the damping through its paces.

More of the same
Previous experience of the pre-facelift A45 on these very roads indicated a superficially fierce low-speed ride that'd have more consumer-minded road testers digging into their bag of cliches for 'rattled fillings' and 'chiropractor fees' complaints. Here at PH we're made of sterner stuff though. And pushed harder the A45's original set-up showed real class, the fierce compressions and mid-corner lumps on these roads swallowed without fuss and letting the fearsome turbocharged thrust of that 2.0-litre engine and the four-wheel drive traction really prove their worth. We've said it before but AMG's first hot-hatch is no half-hearted effort - new to the genre or not, the A45's sheer ferocity successfully makes good on that premium over a Golf R and is more intense than the RS3's torque-rich power delivery from its more charismatic five-cylinder motor.

Yep, definitely a new school AMG
Yep, definitely a new school AMG
Closer gearing and the extra grunt are claimed to flatter the power delivery but it'd take a back to back drive with a pre-facelift car to really spot the differences. Certainly it pulls harder than ever, the transition from off-boost to on dramatic and hugely exciting when it comes. With over 190hp per litre from a four-cylinder engine there's no hiding the forced induction and AMG's motor feels boostier than the more linear Golf R; catch it in the wrong gear and the lag is noticeable, but you're not left waiting for long.

The seven-speed dual-clutch has satisfyingly chunky metal paddles if you want to take control yourself but, even in manual mode, has some annoying quirks. Chief among them is a habit of dropping two or three ratios when you only needed one, an overly dramatic block downshift from fourth to first on one occasion a typical example. It's a common feature of all AMG transmissions from GT down and no less annoying for it - one tug on the paddle should mean one gear down, and the inconsistency of the response as it tries to second guess your motives can result in an ugly battle between man and machine just when you don't want it.

Rotary club
Other niggles include the duplicated rotary dials buried down low in the centre console; the one behind the gear selector controls the driver modes while the one behind that is your main interface with the infotainment, meaning it's easy to select Race mode (additional with the Dynamic Plus pack) when you were meaning to phone home while sat in traffic. Or switch radio stations when you wanted maximum attack mode for an enticing section of moorland road. A tiny boot and yawning quality gap between standard A-Class switchgear and pimped up AMG-level trim also irritate, the latter a dropped ball against Audi that Mercedes can't really afford at this price point.

Remember when 190hp per litre was madness?
Remember when 190hp per litre was madness?
Which is a shame, because the substance is good. The seats are fantastic, AMG is among the few to realise Alcantara trim on the wheel should be where your hands go, and the engineering is more than sound; it's cracking.

Little details but the linear steering rack AMG insists on over standard A-Classes gives the wheel weight and bite rare in this day and age. This informs much about the handling balance too, which in the Renaultsport style is all about a very positive front end and options beyond that point. It's still a nose-heavy, hatch-based car but the A45 has been set up to reward an assertive, confident driver with an aggressive driving style ready to exploit the traction of its four-wheel drive powertrain.

Different strokes
Obviously the addition of a diff at the front puts more emphasis on the front axle, any drive from the rear subtle in its contribution, at least on these dry roads. You get the impression it'll be just as confidence inspiring when the going gets slippery too, the all-weather cred an important part of the A45's sell over conventional hot hatches. Let's be realistic though; it may have the power of an Evo, but don't expect it to dance like one on the limit.

Won't be to all tastes, but it's a fascinating car
Won't be to all tastes, but it's a fascinating car
The AMG Ride Control adaptive dampers are a welcome extra feature though. Damping is constantly adjusted according to inputs from the sensors and there's a fluidity over the bumps that wasn't present in the previous car. It's still not shy but there's just enough to take the edge off and make the A45 flow with the road rather than take it on in a fight to the death. If you want a taste of that previous character you can pre-select the general 'mood' of the damping with a Sport setting but it's best left to its own devices in the configurable Individual setting.

And this is about the only softening of the A45's otherwise rabid character. The looks still won't be too tastes but in the (expensive) matt grey paint and without the excesses of the optional aero package it pretty much lives up to the premium billing. And if you don't like the hatch the extra power and chassis options carry over to the CLAShooting Brake and GLA variants too.


MERCEDES-AMG A45
Engine
: 1,991cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): 381@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 350@2,250rpm
0-62mph: 4.2sec
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
Weight: 1,555kg
MPG: 40.9 (claimed)
CO2: 171g/km
Price: £40,695 (£51,470 as tested, comprising AMG Dynamic Plus pack with front limited-slip differential and two-stage adaptive dampers £1,395; AMG Night Package with 19-inch black wheels, privacy glass and black trim £1,595; AMG Performance Exhaust with manual override £510; Premium Package with power-adjustable front seats, Harman Kardon surround sound, Keyless-Go and panoramic sunroof £1,895; AMG Exclusive Package including Red Cut leather and contrast stitching £895; Driving Assistance Package £1,695; Comand Online infotainment £995 and Designo Magno Mountain Grey paint £1,795)

 

 

 

 

Author
Discussion

slk 32

Original Poster:

834 posts

118 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Seems odd mbuk would spec this car so highly yet omit the aerokit?

If they were going for the Wolf in sheep's clothing look I would have thought they'd have chosen another paint colour too

MikeGoodwin

1,079 posts

42 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Shame to see the gearbox is still suffering the original problems. Said it before but the main problem i had with the CLA45 (other than its ludicrous price) was its gearbox and rev limiter in lower gears meaning downshifts didnt happen when you expected. They may have made improvements to the gearbox over time but it sounds like the original issue is still present from this review, one I felt absolutely ruined the driving experience causing rage, disappointment and frustration all at the same time to the driver.

fatboy b

7,669 posts

141 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Looks like the facelift didn't iron out those wrinkles down the side then rolleyes

GranCab

1,024 posts

71 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
This "facelift" A45 has been available since January 2016 .....

MDMA .

3,784 posts

26 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
matt finish looks horrible. like it's been wrapped, badly frown
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RedTrident

8,290 posts

160 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
I use the previous version as err our family run around. Its a very good car but very boring to drive, which suits its role perfectly I suppose. If I could change things on it it would be mainly around the gearbox. I've tried to use the paddles and drive it this way but it feels like a novelty rather than a performance option. Especially with how small the paddles are! The rest of the car is pretty much flawless if I'm honest. Visibility could be better I suppose but you get used to it. On a normal road its at least as fast as anything else I've driven.

When it comes time to upgrade it'll be a choice between the saloon version of this and the rs3 saloon.

David87

4,594 posts

137 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Is it really worth so much more outlay over the Focus RS?

Vyse

978 posts

49 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
What is with the Aldi special 6" screen?

Otispunkmeyer

8,928 posts

80 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Front doesnt look so bad now they've smoothed some of it out but the back end on the A-class in general is absolutely awful. Its a mish-mash of round shapes thats been squashed a bit too much. I mean it looks a bit 90's ... where it seemed like they'd cracked making things round, so made everything round.

Janesy B

2,519 posts

111 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
The interior gives me nightmares, tacky and chintzy.

Ozzie Osmond

21,189 posts

171 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
£50k for an A-class? You'd have to be mad.

Roma101

434 posts

72 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
I'm slightly confused. Is this a review of a car that came out a long time ago? Or have they only just facelifted the A45 version?

QuattroDave

486 posts

53 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Took one of these (pre facelift) ones for a test drive in August and was left deeply unimpressed, both on power delivery and standard of finish.

Rattles everywhere (b pillar a well known issue apparently) and the sort of power lag I thought I left behind when I sold my ur quattro - 35 year old tech!

Also took out an S3 (completely uninpiring and devoid of character) and an M135 (I don't do golfs, say what you will!)

Ended up ordering an M140i which I should take delivery of next week. By no way is it a better car on all counts but for me it was the most involving to drive and sounded sooo much better than the others!

Time will tell if going from bigger performance cars (RS6/S8 etc) to a diddy will be the right move for me or not!

Chiefbadger

306 posts

123 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
I'm still struggling to work out why these leave me so cold. Despite its foibles, the RS3 still struck me as a refined and quality piece of kit. Granted I have an S4 now and would love an RS3 if I didn't need an estate, but If it worked financially I'd take a new C63 in an instant. The A 45 just seems to wildly miss the mark though. I still can't really work out who it is supposed to appeal to?



Cupramax

6,794 posts

177 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
GranCab said:
This "facelift" A45 has been available since January 2016 .....
Just what i was thinking, have they facelifted it again????

Ali_T

3,246 posts

182 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
QuattroDave said:
Took one of these (pre facelift) ones for a test drive in August and was left deeply unimpressed, both on power delivery and standard of finish.

Rattles everywhere (b pillar a well known issue apparently) and the sort of power lag I thought I left behind when I sold my ur quattro - 35 year old tech!

Also took out an S3 (completely uninpiring and devoid of character) and an M135 (I don't do golfs, say what you will!)

Ended up ordering an M140i which I should take delivery of next week. By no way is it a better car on all counts but for me it was the most involving to drive and sounded sooo much better than the others!

Time will tell if going from bigger performance cars (RS6/S8 etc) to a diddy will be the right move for me or not!
I did the same and came to the same conclusions but, er , bought a Giulietta QV instead...haha! The BMW was the best of them but the stock suspension was badly damped so go for the adjustable setup. The Merc was entertaining for 5 minutes but I couldn't live with the burping and farting all the time, not to mention the dire gearbox. And I can't really remember etc S3 or Golf R, that's how memorable they were. I seem to remember thinking they were "nice" with all the good and bad connotations that word carries. I might look at them all again but I've pretty much decided to take leave of my senses and order a Giulia QV this time.

Löyly

15,811 posts

84 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
A colleague of mine has recently bought a CLA 45, I am in love with that engine. It's a seriously impressive piece of kit.

WhiteAMG45

356 posts

84 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
I am going for a test drive in next month and replace my car with facelift version

I will have had mine for two years in janaury and I love it

I am not sure where you can get bored with it

I went for stealth mode no aero kit

Edited by WhiteAMG45 on Tuesday 4th October 19:35

RenOHH

6,872 posts

123 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
When idling, does it still sound like a Vauxhall Nova with a cheap Halfords back box?

QuattroDave

486 posts

53 months

Tuesday 4th October 2016
quotequote all
Ali_T said:
I did the same and came to the same conclusions but, er , bought a Giulietta QV instead...haha! The BMW was the best of them but the stock suspension was badly damped so go for the adjustable setup. The Merc was entertaining for 5 minutes but I couldn't live with the burping and farting all the time, not to mention the dire gearbox. And I can't really remember etc S3 or Golf R, that's how memorable they were. I seem to remember thinking they were "nice" with all the good and bad connotations that word carries. I might look at them all again but I've pretty much decided to take leave of my senses and order a Giulia QV this time.
Oooh, you lucky bugger. Saw one at Goodwood and it looked amazing and from what I've heard of it sounds an absolute peach too. If you're ever in the Hampshire area I'd welcome a passenger ride in it smile

I think if I was prepared to put more savings into a car I would have made the same decision as you. We've just sold our spare car, a 147 after four years of absolutely zero issues ownership and would happily have another Alfa