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Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG vs Audi RS3


The world's fastest all-wheel-drive hot hatches have Porsche-beating performance for a fraction of the price, says Joshua Dowling.

value

Mercedes-Benz A45

$77,900

The price of the A45 AMG crept up with the arrival of the just-released Series II model (new front bumper, more power, improved suspension) from $75,800 to $77,900 but it is loaded with more standard equipment, most notably the adjustable Ride Control suspension.

Audi RS3

$78,900

The starting price is $1000 dearer than the Mercedes and that's before adding options that the Benz has as standard, among them adjustable suspension ($1240), metallic paint ($810), radar cruise control ($1420), premium audio ($1340), collision warning ($540) and sunroof ($1570). These blow the price out to $85,390.

design

Mercedes-Benz A45

With its bold front and rear bumpers and big wheels and brakes, the A45 looks like a race car straight off the showroom floor. Inside, there is a faux carbon-fibre weave on the dash, race-car-style seats and steering wheel with massive grips. It's a class act inside and out, although not as roomy as the Audi.

Audi RS3

It has a face that looks as if it's about to eat the road but from the side and rear the RS3 is more conservative-looking. Some buyers will prefer it that way, because they can travel incognito. The layout inside is simple yet functional. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is the same found in the Audi R8 supercar. The RS3 has a roomier cabin front and rear and a bigger boot than the Mercedes.

technology

Mercedes-Benz A45

Engine

The A45 has the most powerful mass production 2.0-litre turbo engine in the world (now with 280kW/475Nm, increases of 15kW and 25Nm). Matched to a seven-speed twin-clutch auto with new ratios, it can now do the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.2 seconds — a claim we were able to match in launch mode. In sport mode it does 4.9 seconds.

Audi RS3

Engine

The RS3 sounds much like a Lamborghini V10 — the 2.5-litre in-line five cylinder is one half of the 5.0-litre V10 in the latest Huracan. It has similaroutputs to the Benz (270kW/465Nm) but they don't tell the full story. The grunt from low revs in this engine is amazing. And combined with a seven-speed twin-clutch auto, it was faster than the Benz (see driving).

safety

Mercedes-Benz A45

It's hard to see how Mercedes can squeeze nine airbags into such a small car but it has done so, with two front, two curtains, one for the driver's knee and then side airbags in each front seat and the left and right rear seats. Before they go to work, though, there is a collision warning and auto emergency braking In fact, it lacks nothing.

Audi RS3

It gets five stars: standard fare includes a rear camera and front and rear sensors, and seven airbags (rear seats have curtain coverage but lack side airbags at waist-height). Automatic emergency braking is not available but an option packs adds pre-crash warning, radar cruise control and active lane assistance.

driving

Mercedes-Benz A45

New suspension has transformed the A45 from being bone-jarring to pampering. It's now usable as a daily-driver. The new transmission ratios and engine tune help it get off the line quicker but there is still a noticeable lack of torque at low revs in normal driving. To get the most out of the performance you have to go through four time-consuming sequences before you can take off, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Audi RS3

According to the brochure, the RS3 does the 0-100km/h sprint in 4.3 seconds (0.1 slower than the Benz). But in our real-world testing we repeatedly achieved an expletive-inducing 4.0 seconds using satellite-based timing equipment. It's an absolute missile. And all with one simple move: flooring the accelerator. The engine's torque is more usable in daily driving and the suspension also rides over bumps better and quieter than the Mercedes.

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz A45

Audi RS3

The Audi RS3 is quicker than the Mercedes A45 — despite what the brochure says — and it’s also easier and more fun to live with day to day.