Volkswagen Golf R 2014 review: road test
How on earth does a Volkswagen Golf cost in excess of $60,000.
Browse over 9,000 car reviews
Sorry, there are no cars that match your search
Sorry, there are no cars that match your search
The A45 is the AMG brand’s greatest departure to date from its roots of high performance rear-wheel drive sedans with big-capacity V8 and V12s.
Over the past decade, the three-letter badge from Affalterbach has appeared on all sorts of hot Benzes; with stonking performance and ‘that’ trademark exhaust growl available in anything from coupes to convertibles, wagons and SUVs. With the arrival of the new A45 from September, it can add the hottest of hot hatches to its impressive repertoire.
Despite being based on the humble A-Class small hatch, the all-wheel drive A45 promises supercar levels of performance, garnished by Mercedes’ boast that its 2.0 litre turbocharged engine is the most powerful four cylinder unit currently in series production.
This may be half the average AMG cylinder count, but the A45 also more than halves the AMG price of entry, and delivers efficiency to prove the AMG formula can be successfully morphed for the future.
Compared to the current AMG-entry C63 sedan’s $154,900, the $74,900 A45 AMG looks like a performance bargain. The A45’s claimed 0-100km/h figure of 4.6 seconds is just two tenths behind its 6.2 litre V8-equipped sibling, and their standard spec lists and interior packaging are surprisingly comparable.
Against more realistic rivals like the $64,900 BMW M135i or the segment stalwarts $59,990 Subaru WRX STi or the $56,990 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the A45’s bargain status does diminish, but none can match the A45 for performance, freshness of design or spec.
The A45’s list of standard features includes a panoramic glass sunroof, seven inch multimedia screen, with satnav, 10GB hard-drive and internet capability, plus 12 speaker Harmon Kardon audio, dual-zone climate control and heated seats with memory adjustment. The only remaining options are ($490) blackened wheels, ($1990) 20% stiffer coil springs, a ($1990) aero package, and a spacesaver wheel to expand on the standard puncture kit.
In isolation, the A45 with its standard 19-inch wheels looks every bit an AMG tearaway, but alongside the already hot but non-AMG A250 Sport, there’s little visual differentiation aside from wheels and badging, extra black detailing, a unique grille and trapezoidal exhaust outlets.
For those wishing to shout their AMG status from a greater distance, there is the Aerodynamics Package fitted to our test car adds black ailerons and a larger front splitter to the front apron, and a boisterous wing to the hatch.
The interior is unmistakably AMG, with red highlights against perforated leather and trim, aluminium and carbon-look details, specific sports seats, and numerous AMG logos. The instrument cluster also includes a lap-timer, which is controlled by the steering wheel’s audio controls. German austerity this isn’t, but it suits the A45’s hardcore performance overtones.
The only concession to practicality is the loss of lesser A-Class’s front under-seat storage in favour of a lower seating position, but a useful 341L/1157L cargo area remains in the rear.
ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION
The A45’s top-dog petrol 2.0 litre punches out 265kW and 450Nm, with the latter on tap between 2250-5000rpm thanks to a flexible twin-scroll turbocharger. The highly-strung unit is kept reliable with the finite control of piezo direct-injection, plus the added strength of a forged crankshaft and pistons. Like AMG’s bigger engines, each A45 powerplant is hand-assembled by a sole engine builder.
All A45s come with a seven-speed Speedshift dual-clutch auto transmission, which incorporates an aggressive sport mode for rapid-fire shifting and launch control to show off that 4.6 second 0-100 figure. Despite all this caged mechanical lunacy, the A45 uses standard start/stop to return an amazing 6.9l/100km official combined fuel figure – less than a base model Toyota Corolla.
The A45 builds on the lesser A-Class model’s five star safety rating, with three stage stability control offering three choices of safety net, plus Distronic Plus active cruise control, blind-spot and lane-keeping assist.
Our drive route included a stint at the Phillip Island race circuit, with the notorious circuit’s combination of high speeds and undulating bends ideal for showcasing the little AMG’s capabilities. Using the integrated launch mode, the A45 rockets off the line, with the standard sports exhaust barking a proper worked-four snarl, with aggressive pops on heavy throttle gearchanges and lift-off.
From 0-100km/h, the A45 will (just) beat an Audi RS4, so it’s capable of shaming some highly respected names. We saw 230km/h at the end of the main straight, and it was still climbing steadily toward the A45’s 270km’h speed limiter.
The A45’s transmission snaps through the gears as only a twin-clutcher can. Left in Sport mode, it will downshift satisfyingly under heavy brakes. At first the transmission’s willingness to downshift can seem a bit timid, but is tuned to keep revs within the engine’s 2250-5000 torque band. There are paddle shifters behind the wheel, but we found the intelligence of Sport-automatic well up to the task of track work.
The 350mm front/330mm rear steel stoppers reeled in the 1555kg A45 lap after lap without complaint, and the 235-section Dunlop Sport Maxx RTs on all corners gripped amazingly through The Island’s slower corners. The A45’s focused chassis is a huge leap above any other A-Class, with a specific four-link rear end and heavily revised front suspension keeping the little hatch planted, with little roll and plenty of travel for swallowing bumps.
The A45’s Haldex all-wheel drive system sends up to 50 per cent of drive to the rear wheels when needed, which means that the huge task of delivering power to the ground is generally left up to the front wheels. However, torque steer amazingly near-absent and the weighting and feel of the electric-assistance is a surprising delight.
The flat top and bottomed leather and alcantara wheel is a lovely thing to look at and grip, but feels a bit like a 50 cent piece during heavy twirling. The A45’s sports seats are well up to the cornering forces of the track, and remained comfortable for this real-world human.
While the big rear-wheel drive AMG’s are known for their tail-wagging track antics, the A45 just picks up its skirt and rockets out of corners. This safe and predictable power delivery is more like a scaled-down Audi RS or Nissan GT-R, and it’s a better real-world car for it.
Left in Comfort mode on some real-world rural roads, the A45 winds back its raucous nature with softer gearshifts and the active exhaust no longer cracks and burbles. It still makes a nice rasp, and the ride is sharp but liveable over rural surface irregularities. The A45 is always a hot hatch, but it’s only an aggro beast when you want it to be.
For the first four cylinder AMG model, Mercedes-Benz has certainly gone about it the right way. The A45’s price is sure to introduce the AMG brand to many, and it delivers easily accessed and stonking performance. The fact that it all comes wrapped within a practical five-door hatch body only sweetens the deal.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
Price: from $74,900
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo; 265kW/450Nm
Transmission: 7-speed auto, all-wheel-drive
|A45 AMG||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$36,990 – 48,750||2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2013 A45 AMG Pricing and Specs|
|A180 BE||1.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$19,800 – 24,999||2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2013 A180 BE Pricing and Specs|
|A200 CDI BE||1.8L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$20,800 – 27,888||2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2013 A200 CDI BE Pricing and Specs|
|A250 Sport||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$23,980 – 39,637||2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class 2013 A250 Sport Pricing and Specs|