Mercedes-AMG A45

Even more pace, now with a less punishing ride

TOBY HAGON

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

MERCEDES-AMG product planners knew they had such a good thing with the A45 AMG, they told engineers not to worry about more power for the about more power for the facelifted model thatís just gone on sale in Europe.

Its 265kW/450Nm was plenty, they decided, and worked well in a car thatís been hot-hatch hot property since it went on sale in late 2013. But the boffins couldnít help themselves and have found an extra 15kW and 25Nm.

Engage the A45ís launch control and it scrambles to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds. Thatís Porsche 911 territory Ė in a city-sized hatch!

So itís a feisty device, and one that can elicit an equally feisty exhaust note to back up its riotous performance. In its most sedate mode (Comfort) the exhaust is bassy but otherwise lacking character; throttle response, too, is borderline languid, and the gearbox quickly relaxes into its upper ratios unless youíre brutal with your right foot.

But engage Sport or Sport+ and the exhaust fires into a symphony of blaring upshifts and lift-off burbles, with the occasional crack, while gearshifts are more purposeful, especially the aggressive downshifts when rushing into a bend.

But itís the chassis that makes the biggest advance. Itís now available with adjustable dampers, aimed at quelling the stiff ride that robbed the previous model of comfort on anything but smooth hot-mix.

The result is a car thatís compliant and refined at pace; infinitely easier to live with, yet with beautiful control. Excellent front-end grip translates to crisp turn-in, although the A45 will ultimately push wide at its nose.

Yet itís still playful on the throttle; lift off on a sweeping bend and the tail gradually glides wide.

Short suspension travel and a sporty focus mean itíll rock and roll at low speeds, and if you dial up the Sport+ or Race settings, the bone-jarring is back, good only for a track attack.

Yet the launch control, which helps deliver such wild initial acceleration, doesnít engage as ferociously as some.

Inside thereís not much new, aside from the chunky steering wheel and new 8.0-inch screen artistically grafted to the dash.

Storage is still a letdown, with the cupholders the most obvious home for a phone. And the rear seats are best left to the littlies, though a split-fold rear backrest and netting under the parcel shelf offer practicality.

The 280kW A45 remains fast, loads of fun and occasionally frenetic. It still nails the hot-hatch brief, for those prepared to fork out close to $80K, only now itís a lot easier to live with when youíre not on a hot lap. peeds, ort+ rring

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mercedes-AMG A45 1991cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 280kW @ 6000rpm 475Nm @ 2250-5000rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1480kg 4.2sec (claimed) 6.9L/100km (EU) $78,000 (estimated) January 2016

PLUS & MINUS

Tight rear seat; power rules over torque; optional bodykit a bit much Fiery turbo four; all-paw traction; turn-in and grip; attention to detail

Power war, reignited

THE uprated 280kW/475Nm and GLA45 in the first quarter of 2016. While Audiís RS3 temporarily took the peak power high ground, the improvements to the A45 revive the three-pointed starís bragging rights. The next challenge is overcoming Volkswagenís upcoming Golf R400, which is expected to arrive with about 295kW courtesy of development work by former AMG engine boss Friedrich Eichler. engine in the A45 will also find its way into the CLA45

wheelstv Watch it at WheelsMag.com.au/AMGA45