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by Ollie Kew, 9 September 2015

What’s this?

AMG’s return fire against the Audi RS3. For nine short months, Quattro GmbH could legitimately claim it created the most powerful, fastest production hot hatch in the world, in the shape of the 362bhp RS3. Not any more it can’t.

What’s AMG done — fitted some sort of Bloodhound-style rocket motor?

The next best thing — eked even more power out of the world’s highest specific output engine. The facelifted A45 AMG develops 376bhp and 350lb ft, rises of 21bhp and 23lb ft on the original.

Remember, we’re talking about a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine here. One that’s road-legal, fully warrantied by one of the world’s most recognized luxury carmakers, and returns north of 40mpg on the official combined cycle.

This incredible motor develops more punch than the V8 in the back of a Ferrari F355. It is, regardless of the moral dubiousness of The Horsepower Wars, a remarkable engineering achievement.

So it’s fast, then?

Yes, both on paper, and on a road. The raw stats claim 0.4 seconds have been trimmed from the A45’s 0-62mph sprint, which falls to 4.2 seconds. That beats Audi’s 4.3 boast for the RS3 (never mind that Top Gear has already timed a fully fuelled RS3 at 3.9 seconds over the same discipline).

The top speed? I ran out of clear autobahn before the A45 stopped pulling, north of 160mph. It’s extremely fast.

The diminutive engine is nonetheless tractable, and pulls keenly from zip, though it really prefer life above 3500rpm. And, at last, we’ve got a gearbox that agrees.

Wasn’t it a bit… rubbish before?

It was. And now it’s better. The seven-speed dual-clutch is faster on the way up the box than before, more obedient on the way down (if still caught out by a request for multiple changes on the left paddle) and there’s no silly whack-in-the-back from the marketing department in the sportier driving modes.

Best of all, in manual mode it’ll bang into the rev limiter, and refuses to auto kick-down. Just as it should. Take note, VW Golf R.

And while we’re talking about paddles, the gearshifters and steering wheel itself is just lovely. A great size, part Alcantara, with thick, dense paddles nicked straight from the AMG GT. It’s a yummy centerpiece for the A-class’s nip/tucked cabin.

Tell me more about that gearbox.

The A45’s transmission is all about raw speed, and thanks to shorter gear ratios for third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh, the acceleration is relentless. Oh, and launch control has graduated from ‘amusing’ to ‘downright uncomfortable’.

The way the A45 initially moves from standstill to, say, 15mph does things to the squishy bits of your body that verge on abuse.

You mentioned ‘sporty modes’…

Indeed — the A45 has gone all techy on us. New to the center console is the rotary Dynamic Select control from the AMG GT. This allows quick switching between Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Individual modes, which ramp up throttle response, noise, steering weight, and back off the stability control.

Spec the Dynamic Plus package and this is joined by a max-attack RACE mode (seriously, it’s written in capitals), and adaptive suspension.

Sounds pretty simple. Except, you can complicate things by prodding the damper button on the dashboard, which softens the ride into Comfort mode even if you’re in Sport, and so on. Likewise the exhaust button for the optional Performance Exhaust. You choose when you want to be antisocial.

That’s not all. AMG has found the time to bolt in an optional locking front differential. The new lights and wheels might smack of a gentle facelift, but underneath, the littlest AMG has undergone one hell of a chassis upgrade.

Great. Which boxes should I be ticking?

Ignore the shouty exhaust. There’s no tone or music, just more noise. AMG could only do so much with such a highly strung four-banger. The synthetic parps that accompany every gearchange are hilarious the first time, funny for five minutes, then become gratuitous. Embarrassing, almost.

The adaptive ride isn’t a game-changer either. Comfort mode is actually rather stiff. I reckon it’s about where you’d find Race mode in a Golf R. Yet AMG’s actual RACE mode isn’t the intolerable mess you’d expect. Bit jiggly, but certainly not unusable.

Different guises could’ve turned the A45 into a real shape-shifter, but unlike the night-and-day changes in, say, a Civic Type R, the differentiation just isn’t there.

And the front diff? Barely noticed it, during my three laps of the Laustzring. The invisible apex-finding sensation of an RS Megane is AWOL. The A45 prefers a hefty trailbrake to swing the rear axle into action on corner entry, then a leadfoot on the throttle to slingshot the car back out.

Maybe it’ll pay dividends on the street, but our road test cars didn’t have the differential fitted, so final verdicts will wait until we try an A45 in the UK.

So that’s, um, no options, then?

Honestly, on this first impression, none of the chassis or powertrain garnish is vitally worth shelling out for. The A45 retains its rally-raid demeanor without the toys. It’s epically fast cross-country, and packs agility to scare serious sports cars, straight out of the box.

Is this now THE hot hatch of choice?

If you want to go fast, then yes. Principally because, unlike an Audi RS3, the Benz enjoys going round corners quickly, instead of simply specializing in straight lines.

However, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that in its pursuit of hot hatch top trumps glory, the A45 has become a bit of a Numbers Car, like the BMW M3. Great on paper, and undeniably fast, but not quite as interactive or satisfyingly exploitable for regular drivers as less powerful, less expensive stuff. ‘Stuff’ meaning the BMW M135i or that pesky fast Golf.

Still, it’s an addictive car, the new A45, mostly because you can’t believe anything so loutish — so outrageous — could wear a Mercedes-Benz badge. Everyday-usable hatchbacks simply can’t get any faster than this. Can they..?

Driven: Mercedes-AMG?s new 376bhp A45, the world's hottest hot hatch | Top Gear
 

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Too bad you can't get them in the U.S. also I don't think 35 hp is worth the $15,000 over the RS
This. Sure looks like a nice car, but out of the price range of the RS. I bet the performance gab will be much more narrow than the MSRP gap however.
 

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not ready to drop that sort of coin on a baby benz. impressive massaging of the 2.0 but Id be willing to bet modding the RS will be more fun and rewarding in the long run.
 

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Mercedes AMG A45 - Says it pulls from 0 RPM, but likes to be above 3,500 RPM. I see huge 2-3 second turbo lag and only good for straight line drag races with a spooled-up engine. I bet it would suck a daily driver, try to go, slowly, then step on the gas to go a little faster and then all of a sudden lay patch of rubber.

I think the RS would be a lot more fun as a DD.

Just my opinion! YMMV



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Sounds kinda bad ass. It does seem to be laggy, but it's also moving a lot of weight. I would like to see a 2.3 or 2.5 liter version f this motor. 3.9 seconds 0-60 is dam fast. My 04 STi hit 60 mpg in 3.77 seconds after it was modded, but not nearly as comfortable.
 

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Sounds kinda bad ass. It does seem to be laggy, but it's also moving a lot of weight. I would like to see a 2.3 or 2.5 liter version f this motor. 3.9 seconds 0-60 is dam fast. My 04 STi hit 60 mpg in 3.77 seconds after it was modded, but not nearly as comfortable.
Man 60 mpg in 3.77 is nuts, I would kill for that kind of mileage! :D Jokes aside that is quick. I bet the RS will be pretty tuneable, my question is how daily driveable can you keep it as the HP goes up.
 

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Lol yes it was so rad I could race all day and barely burn any gas. Funny stuff. I used cobb access port and a "G" meter for my runs. Super buff drivetrain on the STi as I only replaced one cv in the rear on a lot of launches. Best part is all was done on the stock clutch too.
 

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With the power of these small engines getting up there, I wouldn't be surprised to see variable vane turbos make their way in or, if they really want to push the numbers, twin charging :)
 

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Line it up against the RS and lest see what it's got. As other have mentioned, big price tag and not available in the US which means the RS remains king of the hot hatches here.
 

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Line in up against the RS and lest see what it's got. As other have mentioned, big price tag and not available in the US which means the RS remains king of the hot hatches here.
It's "hypothetically" king of the hot hatches here. We won't know anything for sure until people in the US get their hands on a production version :)
 

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The RS was benchmarked against the previous gen A45. That should be an indication of how serious Ford is about this car being a contender for that hot hatch crown. I'd be willing to bet that around a track the A45 isn't a match for the RS, minimally, it won't leave a RS in the dust.
 

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RS will be to heavy to compete. The current ST does [email protected] mph. And a RS with 345hp (that's on 93 octane, it's 330 hp on 91), and 3400+ lbs will not drop those times and traps down much below [email protected] mph. 0-60: close to 5.2-5.3 sec, down from the ST's 6.3 to 6.5 sec.... Also, the supposed 3.9 sec run with the A45 is 0-60 in the 375 hp model, not 0-62.... Don't expect the 375 hp CLA45 to break 4.2 sec to 60 mph. If there's a few things I know, it's that my friends at C&D and MT tell me they overstate stats to help sell the brand. The good contest will be a 292hp Golf R vs RS. Also of note, the Golf R is getting a little bump to 310 hp. And considering a 220 hp GTI can handily dust a ST, it should be interesting. I got rid of my ST because I got tired of getting beat by Hybrids, any BMW 4 cylinder or Audi made after 2011 and even a tuned 180 hp Abarth beat me. And there was not much one could foot make the ST faster outside of a bigger K04 turbo.

I had to lol at a buddy that said his stock K03, fully bolted and tuned ST was capable of keeping pace with a stock 2011-2014 5.0... He had 275 FWHP/320 fwtq, In his 3300 lb ST3, that's not going to cut it. My old spare toy, a 2009 SS cobalt TC with its K04 was easy to get to 320 FWHP/350 fwtq, pump gas, bolt-ons and stock k04 at 24-25 psi, but that car was also 200 lbs lighter than my old light 13' ST1 base.
 

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Let's not forget, the Golf R420 is coming soon too. Late next year. That beast is expected to scream and claw it's way to 60 in under 3.7 sec. And Karlsson has tunes with afew minor upgrades pushing the A45 to 450-460 hp... Imagine a turbo swap, especially with the turbo right there up front, on top of the engine, easy swap. Damn ST Foc takes 5-7 hrs to swap a turbo from what I hear. No thx.
 

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RS will be to heavy to compete. The current ST does [email protected] mph. And a RS with 345hp (that's on 93 octane, it's 330 hp on 91), and 3400+ lbs will not drop those times and traps down much below [email protected] mph. 0-60: close to 5.2-5.3 sec, down from the ST's 6.3 to 6.5 sec.... Also, the supposed 3.9 sec run with the A45 is 0-60 in the 375 hp model, not 0-62.... Don't expect the 375 hp CLA45 to break 4.2 sec to 60 mph. If there's a few things I know, it's that my friends at C&D and MT tell me they overstate stats to help sell the brand. The good contest will be a 292hp Golf R vs RS. Also of note, the Golf R is getting a little bump to 310 hp. And considering a 220 hp GTI can handily dust a ST, it should be interesting. I got rid of my ST because I got tired of getting beat by Hybrids, any BMW 4 cylinder or Audi made after 2011 and even a tuned 180 hp Abarth beat me. And there was not much one could foot make the ST faster outside of a bigger K04 turbo.

I had to lol at a buddy that said his stock K03, fully bolted and tuned ST was capable of keeping pace with a stock 2011-2014 5.0... He had 275 FWHP/320 fwtq, In his 3300 lb ST3, that's not going to cut it. My old spare toy, a 2009 SS cobalt TC with its K04 was easy to get to 320 FWHP/350 fwtq, pump gas, bolt-ons and stock k04 at 24-25 psi, but that car was also 200 lbs lighter than my old light 13' ST1 base.
My old Balt SS would run with C5 Vettes, the ST no way. Not to mention my Balt could grip 2nd gear full throttle if the conditions were good, with the massive TQ burst and no diff in the St traction is an issue. I'm not a huge speed nut when it comes to cars as what the vehicle gives back to the driver matters most. I do however believe that anything under 350WHP is too slow for me and 400WHP being ideal if weight is respectable. This is the reason I stopped modding my ST after the first year and just put it towards the RS, as it would take a good amount of change to get the ST to where I want and even more to complete the suspension and brakes to race ready levels. The EB in the Mustang though has shown great potential and the RS EB should show even more easily achievable power, add that with AWD and basically every upgrade I would do to my ST even stiffer bushings, the RS hopefully will be the best of both worlds.
 

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RS will be to heavy to compete. The current ST does [email protected] mph. And a RS with 345hp (that's on 93 octane, it's 330 hp on 91), and 3400+ lbs will not drop those times and traps down much below [email protected] mph. 0-60: close to 5.2-5.3 sec, down from the ST's 6.3 to 6.5 sec.... Also, the supposed 3.9 sec run with the A45 is 0-60 in the 375 hp model, not 0-62.... Don't expect the 375 hp CLA45 to break 4.2 sec to 60 mph. If there's a few things I know, it's that my friends at C&D and MT tell me they overstate stats to help sell the brand. The good contest will be a 292hp Golf R vs RS. Also of note, the Golf R is getting a little bump to 310 hp. And considering a 220 hp GTI can handily dust a ST, it should be interesting. I got rid of my ST because I got tired of getting beat by Hybrids, any BMW 4 cylinder or Audi made after 2011 and even a tuned 180 hp Abarth beat me. And there was not much one could foot make the ST faster outside of a bigger K04 turbo.

I had to lol at a buddy that said his stock K03, fully bolted and tuned ST was capable of keeping pace with a stock 2011-2014 5.0... He had 275 FWHP/320 fwtq, In his 3300 lb ST3, that's not going to cut it. My old spare toy, a 2009 SS cobalt TC with its K04 was easy to get to 320 FWHP/350 fwtq, pump gas, bolt-ons and stock k04 at 24-25 psi, but that car was also 200 lbs lighter than my old light 13' ST1 base.
I don't understand the 93 octane lament. I've never run anything but 93 octane or above in my ST. It doesn't cost that much to do so.
 

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RS will be to heavy to compete. The current ST does [email protected] mph. And a RS with 345hp (that's on 93 octane, it's 330 hp on 91), and 3400+ lbs will not drop those times and traps down much below [email protected] mph. 0-60: close to 5.2-5.3 sec, down from the ST's 6.3 to 6.5 sec.... Also, the supposed 3.9 sec run with the A45 is 0-60 in the 375 hp model, not 0-62.... Don't expect the 375 hp CLA45 to break 4.2 sec to 60 mph. If there's a few things I know, it's that my friends at C&D and MT tell me they overstate stats to help sell the brand. The good contest will be a 292hp Golf R vs RS. Also of note, the Golf R is getting a little bump to 310 hp. And considering a 220 hp GTI can handily dust a ST, it should be interesting. I got rid of my ST because I got tired of getting beat by Hybrids, any BMW 4 cylinder or Audi made after 2011 and even a tuned 180 hp Abarth beat me. And there was not much one could foot make the ST faster outside of a bigger K04 turbo.

I had to lol at a buddy that said his stock K03, fully bolted and tuned ST was capable of keeping pace with a stock 2011-2014 5.0... He had 275 FWHP/320 fwtq, In his 3300 lb ST3, that's not going to cut it. My old spare toy, a 2009 SS cobalt TC with its K04 was easy to get to 320 FWHP/350 fwtq, pump gas, bolt-ons and stock k04 at 24-25 psi, but that car was also 200 lbs lighter than my old light 13' ST1 base.
I discussed this in your other post about the 13.5 RS, however...

The pre-16 CLA45 has run [email protected], search youtube and MB forums for results. That is with 355hp and 3600lbs. The Base RS will have 10 less HP, but will also weigh less. 5.2 to 60 is not happening. Realistically I see low 13'[email protected]

You cannot use the ST as a base, it is FWD and has a lame powerband.

My 2002 Firehawk with 345HP and just shy of 3600lbs was able to run 12.90'[email protected] Shave of over 150lbs, and add AWD, there is no reason why it should not run low 13's.

Ideally I want the RS to be able to run high 12's @ 110 stock, but that is a lot more hopeful than realistic.

The new CLA45, will run 12.5's or better stock.

The Golf R400, if it makes it stateside, will be priced closer to the CLA45 than the RS.
 
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