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2020 Mercedes-AMG A45 S Edition 1 review

Wondering how to contain the world's most powerful four-cylinder engine? Give it to the engineers at AMG. But don't be fooled into thinking the new A45 S is tame...

5 months ago
Comments
Paul Maric
Managing Editor
PROS
  • Stupidly quick in a straight line and through corners
  • Interior presentation is second to none in this segment
  • Now with a five year warranty
CONS
  • Big step up in price over the outgoing AMG A45
  • High levels of road noise transmitted into the cabin
  • Idle noise could be more AMG

Introduction

When the engineers at Mercedes-AMG set out to create something, they generally don’t offer a 50 per cent effort.

That much is obvious when you hear they’ve “the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever used in a series production car.”

After all, the first Mercedes-AMG A45 was barely a slouch, with a four-cylinder engine that pumped out 280kW of power and 475Nm of torque.

This time around, those figures are up 10 and five per cent respectively – and the new engine is backed by an all-new platform, a platform the AMG team helped develop from day one.

Changes are also immediately obvious from the exterior, with a 24mm wider track at the front and 27mm wider wheel arches, giant brakes, an exposed radiator, and a healthy power bulge on the bonnet.

These are just the visual differences though, the way the A45 drives has been transformed as. We hit the road to see how those changes feel in the real world, and found out how quick it is against the stopwatch.

How much does the Mercedes-AMG A45 S cost?

Brace yourselves. Local A45 pricing increased by a little over 15 per cent compared to the outgoing model.

While there is an entry-level A45 available in Europe, we will only receive the more powerful, faster A45 S.

Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG A45 S kicks off from $93,600 before on-road costs with a number of options available, most notable among which is the Edition 1 package fitted to our test car. It adds $8090 to the asking price.

There are nine colours available, with metallic colours costing an additional $1190.

This new pricing puts the A45 S in line with cars like the A90 Toyota Supra, BMW M2, the Alpine A110 and – with the Edition 1 package – within cooee of the Porsche Cayman, which is about $15,000 dearer.

It’s worth keeping in mind unlike BMW, Renault, or Porsche, Mercedes-Benz now offers a five-year warranty on the A45 S to help justify the asking price – especially if resale value is a consideration.

What do you get?

The asking price has increased, but so has the standard level of equipment – and the quality of everything you’re getting.

Standard equipment on the outside of the Edition 1 includes 19-inch matte black alloy wheels, quad 90mm exhaust outlets, uprated AMG brakes, and Panamericana grille nicked from the wider AMG range.

There are also multi-beam adaptive LED headlamps, privacy glass, the AMG aero package, a power hump on the bonnet, parking sensors, a surround-view camera with auto parking, LED taillights, and proximity entry and start.

Inside the cabin, the feature list includes dual 10.25-inch screens with Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment, USB-C connectivity in front and rear, wireless phone charging, and heated AMG performance front seats.

MBUX

Infotainment Smarts

MBUX is the all-new Mercedes-Benz infotainment system. It comes with a raft of new technology, plus the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. See our video review for a full break down

As with the wider A-Class range, there’s ambient lighting with 64 colour options, along with electric seat adjustment, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Burmester surround-sound system, an AMG steering wheel wrapped in suede, a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and radar cruise control with steering assist.

Is the Mercedes-AMG A45 S safe?

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was crash tested in 2018 and scored a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

It comes standard with low- and high-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assist, reverse-AEB, rear cross-traffic alert, and detection of vulnerable road users.

The A-Class scored a 96 per cent adult occupant safety rating, a 91 per cent child occupant safety rating, a 92 per cent vulnerable road user protection score, and a 73 per cent safety assist score.

You can see more detail on the Mercedes-Benz A-Class crash test results on the ANCAP website.

What is the Mercedes-AMG A45 S like on the inside?

In three words, pretty bloody stunning. Audi has gone pretty hard with the all-new Audi A3, but it doesn’t appear to have the same premium, sophisticated appearance of the new A-Class.

As soon as you plant your rear on the AMG Performance seats your eyes are drawn towards the cool-looking air vents and the two 10.25-inch screens spanning half the dashboard.

Mercedes-Benz has gone to great lengths to make the new A-Class look and feel miles ahead of the competition, both from a visual and technological point of view.

Visually, the steering wheel is wrapped in an Alcantara-esque material that feels nice in the hands, with a strip at 12 o’clock signifying the centre of the steering wheel. Further to that, the steering wheel buttons and paddles all have a metallic feel to them, and are cold to the touch.

Integrated within the steering wheel are colour LCD screens that control the drive mode and the transmission, stability control and stop/start system depending on which drive mode is active within the vehicle.

The LED colour scheme used within the car is pretty awesome with up to 64 combinations on offer, along with a rotating blend if you get bored of the same hues. The colour scheme continues within the rims of the air vents – it looks sensational at night time.

Climate control buttons all sit on a panel beneath the vents, with knurled rocker switches to adjust temperature and toggle switches to control other functions.

MBUX, the infotainment system, occupies the left-hand side screen and can be controlled using touch, a touchpad on the steering wheel, the mouse pad in the centre console, and voice inputs. The mouse pad is flanked by shortcut controls, including a customisable favourite button.

MBUX is a massive step forward for Mercedes-Benz. Where the old COMAND system was clunky, MBUX pushes the game forward with an excellent voice recognition system that allows the driver to control elements of the infotainment, along with things such as the interior lighting or sunroof position.

Functionality has improved greatly, but MBUX still can be fiddly at times. Some of the menus aren’t logically placed, with functions buried under a pile of sub-menus. It’s also frustrating the steering wheel covers part of the screen, forcing you to peer around the wheel.

Beyond the in-car tech, you also get access to the Mercedes Me phone application, which allows you to remotely interact with the car.

The owner is able to lock/unlock or remotely start the car, check service intervals, and even see the status of tyre pressures remotely. It’s pretty quick too – we found that BMW’s ConnectedDrive application, for example, takes a while to send commands to the car at times.

Ahead of the driver is another 10.25-inch display that can be customised to show a variety of performance gauges and vehicle information. It’s controlled by the right-hand swipe pad on the wheel. Strangely a head-up display is optional – something we would have thought would be standard in this specification.

Outside of that, there’s wireless phone charging, a litany of USB-C connection points, and a reasonably sized centre console for storage.

Hop into the second row and there’s more room than you’d expect. Normally the second row in cars with sports seats is limited, because they often eat into the space where your knees would normally sit.

This time there’s ample knee room, but not a great deal of toe room. The second row folds 40/20/40, with ISOFIX anchorage points on the two outboard seats. There are two USB-C points, and the central armrest has two adjustable cup holders.

There’s no space saver spare tyre. Instead you’ll find a tyre repair kit, an external amplifier and subwoofer for the excellent 12-speaker Burmester sound system, plus some reflective vests (because Germany).

Cargo space comes in at 370 litres with the second row in place and expands to 1210L with the second row folded flat.

It’s worth pointing out while the AMG Performance seats look great – I didn’t find them overly comfortable for long distance driving. Keep that in mind if you do plan on doing road trips or using the A45 S as a daily driver.

Edition 1

Extra gear and extra money

The Edition 1 package will set you back just over $8000, but brings with it performance seats, decals and extra equipment. It also brings with it the vibrant Sun Yellow exterior colour.

What’s under the bonnet?

The most powerful four-cylinder production engine comes in the form of a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol producing 310kW of power and 500Nm of torque, mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

It manages to pump out those figures courtesy of a roller bearing twin-scroll turbocharger that dials up an incredible 2.1bar (30.5PSI) of boost pressure at its peak.

The system uses an electronic waste-gate instead of a traditional pneumatic setup, which helps with boost control and better ramping of the turbocharger.

The engine itself has been rotated 180 degrees over the outgoing model, which places the turbocharger at the rear of the engine, closer to the cabin. This reduces the amount of plumbing required and ultimately increases efficiency. Official acceleration figures come in at 3.9 seconds from 0-100km/h – you can see our figures below.

Beneath the skin, the AMG engineers were involved in the A-Class engineering process from the body-in-white stage, which meant they were able to add extra bracing for the A45 S to better deal with the level of performance on offer.

Official fuel consumption comes in at 8.9 litres of fuel per 100km. It’s not a huge amount of fuel, but it is almost 20 per cent more than the outgoing model. During testing we managed to have that figure sitting closer to 11.3L/100km, but keep in mind that included a big chunk of performance testing.

The A45 S also requires 98RON premium unleaded petrol.

How does the Mercedes-AMG A45 S drive?

Let’s get the question you’ve all been asking out of the way first – what does it sound like? There were concerns the all-new A45 didn’t sound as good as the old one. European models gets a petrol particulate filter (PPF), where the car offered in Australia doesn’t.

That (in theory) means less resistance for exhaust gases, which should make for more noise and more punch.

At idle it sound fairly quiet. Unless you start it in Emotion Mode (achieved by pulling one of the paddles while pushing the starter button to get an extra exhaust crackle), it’s pretty sedate.

Even if you rev it at idle in Sport+ it doesn’t really pop or bang like the outgoing car. But hit the open road in Sport+ or Race mode and you’ll hear the new A45 S coming from a mile away.

It spits noise like crazy when you’re up it at speed. Grab a gear shift and it’s like a shotgun firing in the distance, pull down a gear and it begins to crack and pop on the overrun. From inside the cabin it sounds way louder than the old A45 – and I guess if you’re after extra noise at idle you could always get an aftermarket exhaust fitted.

The other thing I want to point out before going into more detail on the rest of the package is the ride. The old A45 would rattle your teeth loose, even in Comfort mode. This time Mercedes-AMG has nailed the adaptive damping tune with significant progression from Comfort through to Sport+.

Comfort mode is just that – comfortable. It’s progressively damped, soft and very compliant. It copes perfectly with driving around the city despite sporting meaty 19-inch alloy wheels.

As you move through to Sport+ the suspension becomes significantly firmer. Everything from gearbox aggression to the engine response can be customised, too.

Where it all falls apart is the amount of tyre noise in to the cabin. It’s quite noticeable, and if you’re in the car for beyond an hour at highway speeds you’ll feel the need to pull over and take a breather.

It’s most significant on coarse chip country roads, where it’s so bad you’ll need to raise your voice to be heard by passengers.

The A45 S is nimble and athletic enough to zip in and out of city traffic. Visibility out the front and sides is good, although the small wing mirrors make it hard to spot cars around you.

The dual-clutch gearbox copes well with low speed driving, but it can be caught off guard if you step on the throttle in a hurry from a standing start. It revs up and slips the clutch to get some momentum before firing out of the hole – it doesn’t have the immediate urgency of a torque converter transmission.

Once on the move it shifts seamlessly and can be easily called on at any speed, and in any drive mode, for torque.

What’s most surprising about is how little turbo lag there is. Get on the throttle and at any point, in any gear, there’s an immediate surge of torque. The torque curve is different to the outgoing car, with peak twist coming in later and hanging on longer. It doesn’t come on song until after 5000rpm.

That means this engine loves to rev, with both peak torque and peak power hitting north of that 5000rpm figure.

Find a deserted stretch of mountain road you’ll genuinely be blown away by how quickly the A45 S piles on speed. It rushes through to redline before you get a chance to bat an eyelid, let alone look at the speedo. It’s actually scary how fast this car is through corners and in a straight line point-to-point, it’s not just a one trick pony.

The only fault worth pointing out is that it can get pretty rough if you catch a mid-corner bump in Sport+ – the stiffest suspension setting is best reserved for the track. The tyre package suits the car nicely though, with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tyres measuring 245/35 R19.

The all-wheel drive system beneath the skin has also benefitted from a big upgrade. Unlike the old A45 or the current-generation A35, the new A45 S is able to send up to 100 per cent of torque to the rear axle, where the old A45 and current A35 can only apportion up to 50 per cent.

Using a combination of a limited-slip differential and two multi-plate clutches on the rear axle, the A45 S can perform true mechanical torque vectoring, and actively shuffle torque between the front and rear axles, and the two rear wheels.

This means a more natural and rear-drive feel from behind the wheel is possible depending on the drive mode. Speaking of which, there are a stack to choose from. In addition to just picking a drive mode using the rotary dial on the steering wheel (you can choose between Ice, Comfort, Individual, Sport, Sport+ and Race), the driver can also customise the amount of rear-drive action.

It progresses from Basic, through to Advanced, Pro and then Master, the last of which sends more torque to the rear and allows extra slip angle when the stability control is in its more relaxed Sport mode. You can actively feel it trying to push the rear end around when you sink into the throttle in Master mode.

If you’re feeling super adventurous (and you’re on a race track…), you can also engage Drift Mode. That mode makes full use of the torque vectoring system to send loads of torque to the rear axle in a hurry to allow it to drift on demand. It’s not something you want to try for the first time at a set of traffic lights, but it’s the perfect accompaniment to a skid pan, wet or dry.

The variable ratio steering offers plenty of progressive feel and doesn’t become tiring at highway speeds – unlike the similarly focused Ford Focus RS, which would tram line constantly because of the very direct link between the wheels and the steering wheel.

Same story with the brake pedal. Pedal feel is excellent, and so are the brakes. We’re talking about six-piston calipers at the front that wrap around 360mm cross-drilled rotors. The back uses a single-piston floating calliper with 330mm rotors.

How did the A45 S go against the stop watch? Bloody fast, actually!

When we lined up for our set of 0-100km/h runs, it managed to wheel spin in second and third gears – that gives you an idea of how much torque this engine is churning through the chassis. Once the tyres were warm, we managed to log a set of consistent runs.

  • 0-100km/h: 4.0 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 12.2 seconds at 185.9km/h

How much does the Mercedes-AMG A45 S cost to run?

Mercedes-Benz has moved to a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia. This also applies to AMG models.

We believe Australia is the only market in the world where AMG offers a five-year warranty, which is pretty good value and reassurance for customers.

Mercedes-Benz is yet to finalise servicing costs for the all-new A45 S, so we’ve left the value for money portion of our ratings blank until it’s locked in. But we do know Mercedes-Benz offers both pre-and post-paid servicing options, with pre-paid plans costing less.

CarExpert’s take on the 2020 Mercedes-AMG A45 S Edition 1

We’re pretty impressed with the all-new Mercedes-AMG A45 S. It delivers a stack of thrills in a package that’s nice to look, and with an interior likely to blow you away. The new, more advanced drivetrain is also miles ahead of the outgoing A45.

The drive experience behind the wheel is exhilarating. There’s no other way to describe it. But while it is exhilarating – and terrifyingly so sometimes – there’s a bit of soul missing from the car.

The C63 S AMG it makes a racket at all engine speeds. Nail the throttle out of a corner and it tries to send you off the road in a flurry of wheelspin – nail it in a straight line and it squirms and tries to bite back.

Same story with the Audi RS3, which sounds like a mini Lamborghini Huracan and is constantly popping and cracking. The A45 S just misses that little bit of soul that makes it enjoyable to drive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to drive.

It felt like I was constantly trying to stay on top of it with no reward at the end. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe.

The new price tag makes the A45 S compete with a whole new set of players now. Ironically, not long ago I had around this kind of money to spend on two cars and I ended up buying an A90 Toyota Supra GTS and a Tesla Model 3 Performance.

If I had my time again, I’d end up buying the same cars. The Supra may not be as quick in a straight line, but it’s more engaging to drive and leaves me smiling each time I drive it. It has its flaws, but it’s a stack of fun.

Same story with the Tesla. It delivers on the straight line performance, getting to 100km/h in around half a second quicker than the AMG. It’s also fun through corners, but it’s a car that I prefer to just drive normally and soak up the technology on offer.

I don’t feel the A45 S AMG is able to deliver a better overall package than either of those cars, nor the other cars it competes with at this price bracket.

I guess where I’m going with this is if you want supercar performance in a clinical package that delivers straight line speed and hair-raising cornering, the A45 ticks all those boxes. But if you want that extra bit of connection with the car, we’d be checking out some of the other metal in this price bracket.


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OVERALL RATING8.5
Show Breakdown
Ride Comfort 8.8
Safety 9.1
Fit for Purpose 9
Handling Dynamics 9
Interior Practicality and Space 7.5
Fuel Efficiency 7.8
Value for Money 6.5
Performance 9.5
Technology Infotainment 9
MRLP A$101,690
310kW
202g