It was no secret that the tuning boffins of Affalterbach wanted to create a high-performance version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback, but until now AMG had released only slivers on information on the car. Now, as the A45 AMG prepares to make its public debut at the Geneva Motor Show, Mercedes has released full details on a car that's quick enough to give a Porsche 911 a run for its money.
The foremost upgrade is the A45's engine, a 2.0-liter inline-four with direct injection and a twin-scroll turbocharger. It produces 360 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with the AMG SPEEDSHIFT seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and standard 4Matic all-wheel drive, the engine propels the A45 to 62 mph in 4.6 seconds. That's only 0.2 second slower than the 451-hp Mercedes C63 AMG -- and it matches the claimed 0-to-60-mph time of a manual-transmission Porsche 911 Carrera. Top speed is limited to 155 mph.
Like all other AMG engines, this 2.0-liter turbo will be built by hand. It features fuel-sipping tricks like engine stop/start and an on-demand alternator, both of which help it return the equivalent of 34 mpg in European testing.
The A45's exhaust uses a variable flap that alters how much engine noise is produced based on driving conditions. The idea is for maximum noise and aggression during sporty driving and a quieter cabin during highway cruising. The dual-clutch transmission, as on other AMG cars, has a launch-control mode and temporarily cuts engine power during upshifts to produce a "more emotional sound than ever."
Reining It In
Chassis upgrades to match the powerful engine begin with larger brake discs, measuring 13.8 inches up front and 13.0 inches at the rear. Lightweight 18-inch wheels wear wide 235-section-width tires for maximum grip. The suspension springs and dampers are firmer, and the anti-roll bars larger, for less body roll. But there are also deeper changes: stronger wheel bearings, stronger steering knuckles, and a stronger connection between the suspension links and the car's rear subframe.
The 4Matic system operates primarily as a front-wheel-drive car to improve fuel economy, but when the front wheels slip, a multi-disc clutch system can send up to 50 percent of the engine power to the rear wheels.
The Mercedes A45 follows the usual AMG pattern when it comes to visual tweaks: larger wheels, different exhausts, and a bolder body kit designed for better aerodynamic performance. The A45 AMG begins with a twin-chrome blade front grille, a new fascia with larger air intakes, and a big black front lip. Matte titanium strips and the aforementioned 18-inch wheels spice up the profile view, and the hatch benefits from a larger roof spoiler, chrome rectangular exhaust tips, and a bulging rear bumper with a diffuser.
Red-painted brake calipers match the red seat stitching, red seatbelts, and red air vents of the car's interior. Carbon-fiber trim adorns the dashboard, and AMG's unusually shaped shifter stands atop the center console. The bucket seats are wrapped in a blend of Artico and Dinamica leathers.
The company also plans an A45 AMG Edition 1 version with 19-inch wheels, cirrus white paint, matte graphite stripes, and red accents on the grille, mirrors, and rear spoiler. The interior gets an AMG-specific steering wheel, Edition 1 badges, and a leather-wrapped dashboard.
Not Coming To America -- Yet
Mercedes-Benz will open the order books for the A45 AMG in April and begin shipping cars to customers this June. The company hopes that the car's buyers will be the youngest AMG customers yet -- aged 30 to 40 -- which will be possible partly because the A45 will be the cheapest AMG car on the market.
Unfortunately, the hot hatchback won't be sold in the U.S. market because the standard A-Class hatch on which it is based also won't be sold here. Nonetheless, American drivers will get a taste of this car's performance. Mercedes has already tacitly confirmed that a CLA45 AMG, based on the CLA-Class sedan that bowed at the Detroit auto show, will make a public appearance at the New York auto show. It will eventually go on sale domestically, offering the same ferocious performance as this A45 AMG but wrapped in a sultry, four-door coupe wrapper.