For a first effort at a hot hatch, for a first effort at a four-cylinder car no less, the original Mercedes-AMG A45 was a devastating device. Not without flaws, sure, but blessed with a great engine, superb brakes and phenomenal cross-country pace. Now we have a new one, alongside a CLA45 saloon, ready to build on the success of the old car and set a fresh precedent for what can be achieved with a series production hatchback.
The engine is of course the big news, the 2.0-litre turbo four available in two states of tune: 387hp for the standard car, and the 421hp S. Even the very slowest derivative of the new model - the base CLA45 - is capable of 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds, the A45 S carrying the honour of dipping below four seconds for the benchmark sprint. All will do 155mph; with an optional AMG Driver's Pack the standard cars will do 168mph, the top speed of the S models.
You might remember that AMG is so proud of what's been achieved with this new engine that it released all the key details recently. So if you want to swot up on the M139, its electronically controlled wastegate, Nanoslide cylinder coating and the new turbo, see here.
Paired to that mighty engine will be a new eight-speed dual-clutch transmission; the old seven-speed was never the sharpest DCT out there, so hopefully this unit can improve that. Mercedes claims it "contributes to the agile and dynamic character", with "fast shifting and optimum connections when shifting up."
Another predicted area of improvement for this range of 45s is the chassis; while tremendously able before, the old cars could feel a little one-dimensional in their handling balance. This should be improved now with the introduction of AMG Torque Control to the Performance 4Matic+ all-wheel drive. Previously power was only split front to back (and then across the front with the introduction of a limited-slip diff), but now it will be split across the rear as well. The new diff features a pair of electronically controlled multidisc clutches, each connected to a driveshaft, giving individual control of those wheels. Mercedes believes it results in "optimum traction, even in adverse road conditions and during extreme cornering manoeuvres". Speaking of which...
Both A45 and CLA45 will feature a Drift Mode (optional on the base cars; standard on the S). Given Mercedes form, we'd assume this is a system that fully decouples the front driven wheels, rather than a Focus RS-style system. One to investigate. AMG states that the system "makes powersliding possible for even more driving pleasure." Jolly good!
Keeping everything in check is a thoroughly overhauled chassis, the 45 range boasting McPherson struts at the front and a multi-link rear, both using aluminium components to reduce unsprung mass. Standard suspension is by frequency-selective damping that will provide a more comfortable ride than before (good news) as well as improved dynamism and stability owing to "perfectly coordinated" longitudinal and transverse dynamics. An optional AMG Ride Control adaptive damping system has three modes, contributing to both further improved ride comfort and agility.
Attached to that suspension, funnily enough, are the wheels and brakes. In the regular A45 and CLA45, an 18-inch wheel sits ahead of four-piston calipers and 350x34mm discs, backed up by 330x22mm rotors behind. The S cars (or base cars with the AMG Dynamic Plus box ticked) get six-piston calipers with 360x36mm discs at the front. 19-inch wheels are also standard on the S, as are red calipers, though there's no mention yet of a ceramic option.
Steering those wheels is a speed-sensitive, electro-mechanical PAS system, with two maps offering either "taut and sporty or more comfort based steering feedback." The extensive chassis stiffening (including a front shearing plate) should create a more connected feel, though it's hard to recall a car improved by steering modes - let's see.
Elsewhere it's standard new-school AMG fare: six drive modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport+, Individual and Race, presuming it's an S, or optioned 387hp car), controlling all manner of parameters. Ready? It's powertrain (including throttle response, shift times and timing, four different engine sounds), transmission, exhaust system, chassis if the optional dampers are fitted and the AMG Dynamics. For those who've forgotten about AMG Dynamics (us included), it's described by its maker as "integrated vehicles dynamics control extends the stabilising functions of ESP with agility-enhancing intervention in the all-wheel control, steering characteristics and additional ESP functions." It can brake an inside wheel, for example, to further help agility. It works exceptionally well in the C63, so expect more of the same here; AMG Dynamics is split across four modes, roughly correlating to the drive settings: Basic, Advanced, Professional and Master.
You probably don't need us to explain the A45 and CLA45 look for a decision to be made on whether you like it or not, but there are a few worthwhile points to explain. That jazzy MBUX infotainment now features AMG specific displays (with stuff like oil temp, g-meter, race timer and so on), the S models feature yellow accents said to evoke motorsport and the AMG Performance wheel will provide the "perfect symbiosis between the driver and vehicle." Naturally, a whole host of seat, material and equipment options will be offered, but we'll come to those when prices are announced.
As before, these AMG 45 models are actually quite modest looking for the performance they boast, only differentiated from AMG Line cars with a little extra aggression in the bodykit and more prominent exhausts. However, also like the first 45s, an aero kit will be offered for those who want "optimised aerodynamic balance" ...
Sounds a pretty formidable package, then, this second generation of AMG 45. Given what Affalterbach has also done since the first car's introduction in 2013 - think turbo'd C63, AMG GT and the current E63, stunning cars all of them - there's every reason to be optimistic about this A- and CLA-Class. Still, the only proof is in the pudding (or the driving, to be strictly accurate), which will take place later this month. Stay tuned!