We get behind the wheel of the updated Mercedes-AMG A45 S. Does it have what it takes to compete with the BMW M2 and Audi RS3?
The Mercedes-AMG A45 S is among the fastest and most impressive performance hatchbacks yet produced, but it finds itself pitted against two very competent rivals from Audi and BMW. We received the mildly updated A45 S to test recently and have come to a verdict after having driven it for a few days!
The A-Class range was recently updated, and the exterior changes are minor, with redesigned headlights, the AMG crest on the bonnet in place of the Mercedes-Benz badge, and a new rear diffuser. The outgoing model was already a dynamic-looking car, so there was no need to reinvent the wheel with the update. However, our Street Style Edition press unit finished in a matte grey hue with red accents and motorsport-inspired wheels, certainly makes a statement.
Interior and space
The interior is where the most notable changes have been made, with revisions made to the centre console and the MBUX infotainment system, with the slab-style system atop the dashboard still housing two 10.25-inch screens. At the same time, a new steering wheel has also been added. The infotainment system is much improved, being faster and more intuitive, cementing MBUX among the best systems in the automotive market. Similarly, the new steering wheel looks good. It is more functional, with all essential driver-related controls accessible from the wheel, including drive modes and dynamic configurations, which can be adjusted on the flu via circular switches on the steering wheel, adding a motorsport element to things.
I still have reservations about material surfaces in new Mercedes-Benz and AMG products. The quality of the plastics and the general impression of the longevity of surfaces do not inspire confidence, but at the same time, is someone buying a highly-strung performance hatchback such as this with the idea of keeping it for a decade? I think not, but critical rivals such as the Audi RS3 and BWM M2 are better quality from an interior material perspective.
When looking at practicality, the A45 S offers 370-litres of boot space, solid rear occupant space and a braked towing capacity of 1 500kg, making it more practical than key rivals. The thought of towing with this car is as amusing as buying it for the size of its boot, but it’s nice to know that it’s usable.
Performance and driving impression
The A45 S is powered by an incredibly potent 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that produces 310kW and 500Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. This was once the most powerful series production 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine on earth, but that has now been replaced by a similar unit in the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S E-Performance. The car weighs in at 1 605kg and will get from 0-100km/h in a claimed 3.9 seconds and go on to a top speed of 270 km/h.
The performance, on paper, is one thing, but in the real world, the AMG feels grin-inducingly fast and eager to attack dynamic driving situations. The ability to adjust the vehicle’s dynamic character from the aforementioned switches on the steering wheel adds another dimension to the driving experience.
Where one might expect a predictable amount of understeer from a reasonably heavy, all-wheel drive car, a surprise awaits, with the A45 being decidedly rear-bias in its power delivery, allowing for deliciously satisfying sideways exits from low and medium-speed corners. Approaching fast driving is not a dull, numb experience as expected, with the A45 communicating with the driver through sophisticated damping, well-calibrated steering and confidence-inspiring brakes. Once you’ve satiated your craving for hooliganism, you can switch the exhaust to quiet mode (don’t be that person) and tone everything down to Comfort Mode, where the 45 feels every bit as subdued and easy to live with as an A200.
In 2018, the A-Class series underwent evaluation in the EuroNCAP new car assessment program. The crash test results were impressive, earning it a 5-star rating. Notably, it scored 96% for adult occupant safety, 91% for child occupants, 92% for pedestrian safety, and 75% for its safety assist systems. Standard features include seven airbags, with the option to upgrade to nine. Additionally, the model has a range of semi-autonomous driver aids, enhancing overall safety.
Mercedes-AMG claims that the A45 S will consume petrol at a rate of 8.9 L/100km; however, we achieved a figure of 12.2 L/100km, which is better than the last time we tested an A45 S, although, this time, a commute to the office was included. No on-track antics were enjoyed either, making this a more realistic everyday consumption figure.
An A45 S, without any additional specification, is priced at R 1 397 793; however, this price can inflate dramatically if you tick too many options, and in the case of our press unit, the price was around the R1.6-million mark, a figure we have seen both the Audi RS3 and BMW M2 trading for, making the difference in list prices of less importance. The AMG has a 5-year/100 000km maintenance plan, the same as key rivals.
The A45 S is an absolute weapon, offering incredible performance and a degree of engagement you’d think wasn’t possible given the mountain of electronics working in the background. This car’s biggest hurdle comes from the Audi RS3 and BMW M2, which both offer superb packages and are worthy alternatives to the ‘Benz. It comes down to what you want from your compact performance car, with the AMG offering the most precise and clinical package here, which isn’t necessarily bad.
Keyword: Mercedes-AMG A45 S hatch 4Matic+ (2023) Review