Audi RS3 sedan 2017 review
The idea of paying $80,000-plus for a small sedan seemed laughable not long ago. Then the Merc A45/CLA45 changed the game. And now, for the first time, RS is slapped on the boot of a small Audi sedan.
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There’s a very good reason windscreens don’t have a wind-down option, and that’s because they’re there to stop things colliding, often at some considerable velocity, with your face.
All of which is truly irrelevant when you’re part-way through an awkward sideways slide, and the driver’s side window has become your portal to the world outside. And side windows can be accidentally left down, inviting a harsh shower of snow and glass-shard ice into the car, and into your face.
The windows are just another thing to think about in the endless and ever-growing list of things to think about when you’re learning to drift on snow and ice. And it’s the one most easily forgotten. But only once.
Drifting, like dancing, is one of those things that can look stunningly graceful and weirdly beautiful when you’re good at it, and like you’re caught in an angry, swirling whirlwind of unpredictability when you're not.
As it turns out, I'm firmly entrenched in the latter category.
Or, at the very least, not die.
|Mercedes-Benz A45 2017: 4MATIC|
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
The A45 is the kind of car that gives lesser hot hatches a blood nose, but it's fair to argue that it probably should, too, given its premium price tag.
Sitting in dealerships with a $75,492 sticker price, the A45 is a lot of money, but it's undeniably a lot of car, too. Engine and suspension aside, the AMG-stamped A-Class throws plenty of bonus kit into the deal that you’d otherwise be ticking an option box for.
Outside, expect 19-inch alloys and a ton of AMG styling stuff that cloaks the little A-Class in performance potential. Inside, your nav-equipped, 8.0-inch multimedia screen pairs with a 12-speaker stereo, and the sports seats are trimmed with leather, and heated in the front.
There's dual-zone climate control, powered windows front and rear and a very cool launch control system, too.
It’s bristling with menacing potential, the A45, and while it might be the smallest AMG model, it definitely doesn’t look out of place with the big boys.
Some would argue it looks more boy racer than premium performance car, with its swooping grille, flared guards and whopping great wing, but either way, it looks ready for action.
The AMG 'Night Package' is standard fit, too, which adds performance-flavoured extras like a front splitter and gloss-black tailpipes.
Inside, the performance theme continues, with body-hugging sports seats, red-trimmed air vents and stitching, and a leather-wrapped, flat-bottom steering wheel.
It’s a four-door hatch, but room in the back seat does feel like an afterthought, with the front half of the car home to the two best seats in this AMG house.
Up front riders share two integrated cupholders housed behind the car’s main controls, and there’s plenty of room in the front doors for bottles. You’re not exactly spoiled for other storage spots, though, with a flip-top cubby hole under the stereo screen about all that’s on offer.
Things are a little tighter in the back, where legroom isn’t particularly generous, but adults can ride in relative comfort, at least over shorter trips. Best to stick to four passengers, though, and deploy the centre armrest that’s also home to two bonus cupholders.
Backseat riders get air-con vents, but can’t control the temperature, and will share a 12-volt power outlet, too. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
It is an absolute peach, this “hand crafted” turbocharged 2.0-litre, and one that redefined the very idea of a hot hatch. It will push 280kW/475Nm to all four tyres, thanks to Merc’s '4MATIC' all-wheel drive (AWD) system, rocketing the A45 from 0-100km/h in a stunning 4.2secs, but it feels even faster thanks the shotgun bangs of the exhaust that accompany every gear change.
The seven-speed automatic is slick and quick-shifting, too, and its seamless in manual mode or full automatic.
Other AMG additions include adaptive dampers, performance brakes, speed-sensitive steering and a booming sports exhaust.
Mercedes claims a 7.3L/100km fuel figure on the combined (urban, extra-urban) cycle. But if you drive this thing anywhere near the way it demands to be driven, you can expect that number to safely climb into the double digits.
Emissions are pegged at 171g/km of C02.
Nine airbags and a standard AEB system headline a comprehensive safety offering, joining clever tech like fatigue detection, blind-spot assist and Merc’s 'Lane Tracking ' pack that adds 'Lane Keep Assist', twitching the wheel if it senses you're drifting out of your lane.
3 years / unlimited km warranty
The A45 is covered by a three-year/unlimited km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 20,000km.
Mercedes’ capped price servicing program will see service costs limited to $576 for service one, $1152 for service two and $1152 for service three.
"Forget everything you think you know about driving on tarmac" says our instructor as we strap into the burbling A45 and prepare to launch into the infinite whiteness of the New Zealand Alps.
It's here where the AWD system becomes a surprising ally. It's harder to get a drift going, sure, but the A45 is able to force at least some of its power down into the snow to get you moving. Where the rear wheels on the bigger AMG models spin furiously without going anywhere, the A45 can grab at least some grip. And grip it does, flinging snow from all four tyres as it snaps through its gears far quicker than it would on tarmac, a boom from the exhaust accompanying every change.
But setting off is the easy part, it's controlling the car through an arcing four-wheel drift, in a series of ever-increasing circles, that presents the real challenge.
Controlling a car on snow and ice is so counter-intuitive to everything you know about driving on tarmac, so the instructor barks rapid-fire instructions like we're charging into battle.
"More throttle, more throttle, counter, counter, catch it," he yells, as we slip into yet another out-of-control spin, snow now sticking to the windows as it washes over the A45.
But slowly - slowly - the instructions start to make sense, and you can feel the car gripping in snow or slipping on an icy patch as it happens, adjusting the throttle and steering to suit it.
Will we be joining the WRC anytime soon? Unlikely. But damn if it ain't fun.
A hatch so hot it should be on fire is only improved by the addition of slippery, slippery snow. Sure, about half its power becomes irrelevant on a surface as smooth as an ice-skating rink, but the half that's there is more than enough for a whole lot of fun.
|4MATIC||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$58,800 – 74,900||2017 Mercedes-Benz A45 2017 4MATIC Pricing and Specs|
|4MATIC (FUEL EFFICIENT)||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$56,750 – 63,888||2017 Mercedes-Benz A45 2017 4MATIC (FUEL EFFICIENT) Pricing and Specs|
|AMG||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$54,990 – 58,490||2017 Mercedes-Benz A45 2017 AMG Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||9|
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