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Mercedes-AMG A45 review - do midlife updates make Merc's hot hatch a Golf R beater?
There is absolutely no doubt that the Mercedes-AMG A45 is an incredible technical achievement. Tested here in face-lifted 2016 form, its 376bhp 2-litre, four-cylinder turbo motor is currently the most powerful of its kind in series production and grants the A45 performance stats that best even the new Audi RS3, despite that car’s extra cylinder.
But the A45 AMG has always had a utilitarian approach to performance that while translating to incredible outright pace, is bested by slower rivals for fun. Optional variable rate dampers, have addressed the A45’s overly harsh ride, while revisions to gearbox ratios and improved shift times have made the drivetrain even more aggressive although it’s still not quite up there with the best.
There is no denying that the idea of an ultra-powerful, compact four-wheel drive hatch isn’t tempting and no doubt some will find the A45’s mix of grip and outright pace truly intoxicating. But in a world where the likes of the Golf R exist, that simply isn’t enough. A hot hatch is as much about personality as it is performance and when a mega-hatch like the VW offers you both, it seems difficult to justify the huge jump in cost the A45 demands.
The optional £595 AMG Ride Control suspension is an option box worth ticking. Left with the standard springs and dampers the car is a little too stiff for public roads.
The comfort mode added by the Ride Control is a welcome addition as even the minimal roll and pitch that it affords gives the car a more engaging feeling.
Optioning ‘Dynamic Package Plus’ adds a front end diff as well as a ‘Race’ setting to the car’s dynamic select rotor. Low speed traction is so good in the A45 as standard, this option feels less necessary, with the diff only really coming into play in mid- to high-speed corners.
'If you like going really fast then the A45 AMG might be the car for you, but I can’t help thinking that a drivers’ car should be more nuanced than this.' Jethro Bovingdon, contributing editor.
Engine and gearbox > The engine's peak output grows to 376bhp and Merc has tweaked the gearbox accordingly. Straight-line performance is certainly not lacking Read about the A45 AMG's engine and gearbox here
Ride and handling > Merc appears to have listened to complaints about the old model's harsh ride. But the A45 AMG lacks the feel and communication of rivals Read about the A45 AMG's ride and handling here
MPG and running cost > The engine's 2-litre capacity ensures that when those twin-scroll turbochargers aren't boosting, fuel economy is respectable - Merc claims 40.9mpg and 162g/km of CO2 are possible Read about running and A45 AMG here
Prices, specs and rivals > Main rivals include the VW Golf R and Audi RS3. The Audi is closer in terms of straight-line performance, but the Golf is the car to beat Read about the A45 AMG's rivals here
Design > The 2016 car represents a mild update rather than full rework, but with optional aero addenda, the A45 AMG is still one of the most lary-looking hot hatches on sale Read about the A45 AMG's design here