Enter 'that' BMW
It’s probably a good deal faster in a straight line too. With 360hp and 332lb ft pulling 1,555kg it always feels very potent, but the power delivery is something of a surprise. Peak torque arrives at 2,250rpm and plateaus until 5,000rpm, but peak power isn’t produced until 6,000rpm. On the road this equates to vast, low effort performance for overtaking, but leaves a delicious kick at the top end. The way the motor revs beyond 5,000rpm and delivers a decisive extra surge that moves it into a performance category beyond even the RS3 and M135i is unexpected. It’s urgent, free-revving and at those high engine speeds doesn’t feel in any way turbocharged.
Against the flow
The gearbox is an all-new AMG developed seven-speed double clutch unit and, like the motor it has been tested to destruction by machine and engineers. AMG always seems to be completely out of sync with the rest of the world when it comes to transmissions. Five years ago when the world was going dotty for dual clutch systems, AMG gave us a seven-speed wet clutch automatic, which was rather impressive. In fact I suspect its robustness and usability in fast cars probably strongly influenced the brilliant new ZF eight-speed auto ‘box which has quickly established itself as the new benchmark over dual-clutch alternatives in everything from luxo-saloons down to the little M135i. So, everyone now wakes up to the possibilities of a fully automatic transmission, whereupon Merc gives us a dual-clutcher.
Exit the old-school
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over the A45 was the potential contamination of any kind of chassis enjoyment by the evil that is called Haldex. Yes, the same 4WD system that has blighted VW products with understeer lurks under the skin of this car. On the road, the car neither under nor oversteers. It just demolishes anything in its way. The ride is firm, in fact it tippy-toes right on the edge of what is acceptable in town and at low speed, but then it rewards you as you travel faster. The quality of the damping shines through, it remains flat but doesn’t get deflected and the payback for the firmness is an agility that must render the A45 one of the faster point-to-pointers on sale. Certainly, on a mixture of A- and B-roads a C63 wouldn’t see where it had gone. Nor would anything in that class. Torque, traction, grip, dimensions, no deflections, no understeer; the A45 is perhaps the perfect road recipe. And that’s before it rains.
new GT3’s system for weight and sense of connection and a truly brilliant brake pedal. Can’t remember the last time I had such confidence in road car brakes.
Doing a number
Some people think the cabin is too chintzy; I don’t. The new electrically adjustable Recaros are superb, the wheel is standard issue AMG, as is the snazzy gear selector. They’ve done a good job covering as much of the ordinary A-Class undergarments as possible, although the hard plastics down by the centre armrest are pretty nasty. And of course the electric handbrake is utterly hateful. Then again, once you’re used to it, the way you can open the driver’s door to trigger the gearbox into Park is a stroke of genius for everyday use. Until you’re accustomed to it, that is – up until this point you might head-butt the steering wheel.
Of course you can go loopy with the extras list. The car I drive had carbon exterior mirror housings for a mere £1,230. The Comand sat-nav thing is a silly £2,100. Then again, to drag an M135i up to a similar spec as the A45 reduces the price difference considerably. I shall do this when we release the twin-test video in a few weeks.
Otherwise, I thought the A45 was mostly brilliant.
Video with the M135i soon, promise!
MERCEDES-BENZ A45 AMG
Engine: 1,991cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual clutch auto, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@2,250-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
MPG: 40.9 (NEDC combined)