AMG’s screaming A45 hatch has run the BMW 1-Series M and Audi RS3 rivals into the ground at Germany’s famed 'Ring track, says its head of development. Fritz Eichler says AMG recently completed back-to-back performance testing at Nurburgring and Hockenheim tracks with the A45 "easily" beating the Audi RS3.
But he says though the new Mercedes-AMG hatch was ahead of the BMW 1-M "there wasn’t much in it". “The A45 is very predictable, very fast and the handling is excellent with the variable front and rear drive," he says.
Eichler, who was one of the drivers during testing, says the BMW - both 135i and 1M were tested - was the hardest competitor. “But we still beat them,’’ he says. "1M was a real competitor. We cracked it but it was hard."
Eicher, the head of engine and powertrain at AMG, says introducing the A45 into the AMG lineup next year - in Australia in August - represents "a completely new chapter for us." “We have never done a compact car before but it’s completely different from the old A-Class. We think it fits our brand dimension."
AMG has secretly worked on the new hatchback for four years. Most of that time was testing engines and Eichler says even a V8 wasn’t dismissed initially, though a V12 "simply wouldn’t fit". The Mercedes-Benz affiliate settled on an extremely modified version of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class car due here in March.
“Right now the engine has more than 250kW and more than 400Nm,’’ Eichler says. “We haven’t decided on the output yet, it’s still being developed. “But 400Nm is just the starting point. We always have to be better than the competition. Our four cylinder is already better than their (BMW) six cylinder.’’
While the engine is still being baked, AMG is close to finalising a particular - and identifying - exhaust note. “The A45 does not have a V8 sound,’’ Eichler says. “We have developed it with a special (engine and exhaust) sound which is like Rory Gallagher’s guitar rife." The statement made me reach for a Gallagher recording but no clues to how that translates to a hot hatch.
The A45 gets a dual-clutch gearbox that is “completely different" from that in the forthcoming Mercedes A-Class, he says. “It’s a lot different from the standard one. “It has two more clutch discs, bigger shafts and new coupling - it’s completely different.
“For the future, we will have our own transmission assembly facility and our aim is for a multi-clutch dual-clutch gearbox." AMG will also build the A45’s engine at a new facility some distance from its head office and closer to Mercedes’ Stuttgart plant. “We don’t have the room here for that engine," he says.
“But it will still be built on our philosophy - one man, one engine." Mr Eichler says the A45 - which will be followed by two more models based on the A-Class platform - will boost AMG’s growth. “We have had a 39 per cent growth rate since January 2012, the most successful year on record," he says.
“That’s not just because of A-Class, but other models as well.’’ AMG has 23 vehicles in its fleet from the SLK to the G-wagen and SLS. “We have ML and GL coming, as well as A-Class and there will be two other cars in our compact segment within three years,’’ he says.
“We will pick three of the A-Class cars, of the five that are planned (by Mercedes). “There will be an AMG hatch (A45) and a sedan (CLA) and one more. It may be the SUV (GLA) or the wagon (shooting brake). We haven’t announced anything yet."