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Long-term review

Mercedes-AMG A45 S – long-term review

£56,570/£58,365 as tested?£626 per month
Published: 01 Dec 2020
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SPEC HIGHLIGHTS

  • SPEC

    A45 S

  • ENGINE

    1991cc

  • BHP

    415bhp

  • MPG

    34mpg

  • 0-62

    3.9s

Mercedes-AMG A45 meets the Black Series

Don’t think of the A45 as a hot hatch – it’s too complex for that, too multi-faceted. It is a hot hatch, but more than that it’s a junior AMG, the first rung on a ladder to other things. The C63 and E63 initially, but beyond that a very different world, one ultimately populated by the AMG GT Black Series. The question is, can you tell there’s a lineage from £55,000 A45 to Black Series costing six times as much?

I was sceptical about this because a couple of months ago I got the A45 together with the C63 Black Series. They felt like chalk and cheese, two very different ways of getting down a road. The old C63 is an absolute monster, perhaps one of the most entertaining big motor, rear drive cars there’s ever been. It can go around a corner with the rear wheels following the line carved by the fronts, but given a preference it would sooner indulge in a big old lurid drift. It’s defiantly old school, a distillation of those AMG brand values we knew and loved a decade or so ago: lumpy great V8, tight differential, bugger all traction.

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Against it the A45 felt techy and buttoned-up. Much more advanced and sophisticated underneath, quicker down any given road, but little of the C63’s gung-ho bravado. A car that wants to show you what it can do, rather than share the experience with you.

Meanwhile back in 2020, we have the latest Black Series. With 720bhp from a twin turbo V8 and rear-drive, you’d imagine it would align itself with the C63 pretty well. But no, times have moved on. A Black Series badge is no longer a byword for smoke and mischief. This one is more serious minded. It wants to show you what it’s capable of. Much like the A45. There really is a more detectable link between the two than the infotainment screen fonts. Both concentrate on speed and how to deliver it as efficiently and effectively as possible.

For the A45 this means 4WD and a very trick electronically controlled rear differential that throws as much torque to the outside rear wheel as possible coming out of corners. It’s hugely effective, but feels artificial. The GT Black quells the terrifying prospect of 720bhp through the rear wheels with aggressive aerodynamics, sophisticated traction control and a choice of medium or soft compound tyres. In their natural environments, country road and racetrack, both are ballistic devices. But both have lost some of the heart and soul that made the older Black Series such a hoot. It didn’t take itself too seriously, they do.

As a result I’ve had a bit of a downer on the A45, struggled to see past the price, found issue with the surprising road noise, basically gave up with the infotainment. I wanted it to be a simple hot hatch and that governed my expectations. I wanted it to be 2012 again. But putting it into our massive hot hatch group test gave me a completely different perspective. I drove the Audi S3 and Golf GTI and was amazed how plain and po-faced they both felt after the A45. The Merc may feel artificial coming out of corners, exaggerating its natural characteristics, but at least it’s doing something interesting and noticeable. It makes a great noise. And the power delivery is explosive. And at night the cabin looks and feels a million bucks.

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I drove home not feeling downcast that the GR Yaris, Civic and Fiesta were better natural hot hatches, but realising the A45 had a broader repertoire, actually does a decent job of leading people into the modern AMG experience. An experience that has changed, for better or worse, since the C63 Black. Rumour has it the forthcoming C63 will ditch the V8 and be a plug-in hybrid partnering electric motors with the A45's four cylinder turbo. I don’t like the sound of that, but realise the necessity. And in that light, feel better disposed to the A45.

Miles: 5253 
MPG: 23.4

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