Mercedes-AMG A45 S 4Matic+ 2020 road test review

Moving Well | Tim Nicholson | Posted on 24 November 2020

Tim Nicholson tests the fast and unflappable A45 S 4Matic.

  • Thumbs up

    Jaw-dropping performance, grippy handling, sharp steering, high-tech interior, safety gear, fun factor.

  • Thumbs down

    It’s expensive for a small hatchback.

  • Perfect for

    Taking to a track day or finding the most twisty road imaginable.

  • Verdict

    Benz has meticulously crafted a modern classic. The A45 S 4Matic+ is the new premium hot-hatch benchmark.

Mercedes Benz A45 S 4Matic+ 2020

The A45 S 4Matic+ might be the smallest model in Mercedes-AMG’s portfolio, but it packs a serious punch. The second-generation model addresses some of the criticism of the original model and then some. But has Benz done enough to distract buyers from its impressive German rivals?

Price and positioning

Launched earlier this year, the A45 S 4Matic+ represents the pinnacle of Benz’s A-Class small hatchback range.

If $94,900 before on-road costs sounds like a lot of money for a Corolla-sized hatch, that’s because it is. Especially when you consider that the second-generation A45 is about $15,000 more than the model it replaced. But you’re not paying for metres of metal with a car like this – you’re paying for a technological tour de force and unmatched performance.

The only added option on our press car was ‘Cosmos’ black metallic paint for $1190, which gives the A45 a stealthy vibe. Everything else is standard. Unsurprisingly given the price point, Benz has thrown everything into the A45 S. Infotainment, safety, comfort features – it’s all the very latest tech the German giant has to offer. 

The A45 doesn’t share any panels with lesser A-Class variants from the A-pillar forward. The bulging wheel arches, AMG-specific grille, lower side skirts, rear diffuser and quad tailpipes all point to the A45’s performance credentials. 

Rivals include Audi’s impressive RS3 Sportback from $83,436. Some buyers might also look at BMW’s legendary M2 ($102,900), but it’s a rear-wheel-drive coupe rather than AWD five-door hot hatch so is not a direct competitor. 

Safety first

The entire A-Class range was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating in 2018. The A45 is fitted with the full suite of Mercedes’ driver-assist features.  

The ‘Distronic’ system that maintains the speed of the vehicle ahead and automatically steers to the centre of the lane is accurate, but like other Mercedes we’ve driven, the system applies the brakes in a jerky manner when you cross over a line marking. 

It has big A, B and C-pillars that create blind spots but the cameras and blind-spot monitor help here.

Dash of a Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 S 4Matic+
Front view of a yellow Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 S 4Matic+


The inside story

As we’ve written previously about the A-Class interior, the MBUX multimedia system with ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice recognition is top notch and the dual-screen setup is intuitive. 

The A45’s cool ambient lighting is fun to play with and gives the interior a nightclub vibe. It gets a tick for the supportive sports seats in red-and-black leather, the perfectly sized Alcantara steering wheel and use of high-end materials throughout the cabin. 

Rear seat space is tight but about on par with other small hatchbacks, as is the 370-litre boot.

On the road

The 2020 A45 is a vastly different machine to the 2013 original. This time around, engineers from Mercedes’ performance arm AMG were involved in the development of the A45 from the beginning, and their involvement has made for a more complete performance car. 

To start, the engine is entirely new. Like its predecessor it is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol unit with all-paw traction from the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, but this time around it’s paired with an eight rather than seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. 

With 310kW of power and 500Nm of torque to play with, the AMG-developed unit is the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder turbocharged engine. Outputs are up by 30kW/25Nm over the old A45.

Stepping on the throttle results in instant response. Benz’s 0 to 100kmh sprint claim of 3.9 seconds feels believable. The A45’s straight-line performance is nothing short of intoxicating. Performance is linear and avoids the frenetic nature of some other powerful hot hatches. This is aided by the rear-biased AWD system that gets power to the ground without fuss. The dual-clutch transmission is well matched to the engine, changing gears rapidly when required. The A45 effortlessly hauled itself up some seriously steep ascents on the drive route without losing any momentum. 

AMG Dynamic Select has Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual and Race modes but we stuck with Comfort and Sport. The latter adds exhaust blips on downshifts, more punch and more dynamic steering and suspension setups. We were forced back into the seat accelerating in Sport but the power and torque delivery remains smooth. 

The A45 has grip for days, holding the road like few other cars we’ve driven in the past 18 months. Punt the A45 through twisty roads as we did on our test and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best-handling cars money can buy. It stays completely flat through tight bends and thanks to the combination of sticky tyres, taut chassis, all-wheel drive and intuitive stability control tune, the A45 feels unflappable. Benz’s A250 4Matic is impressive enough, but the A45 takes the performance to another level. 

The incredibly sharp steering maintains a connection to the road and the brakes offer impressive stopping power. 

You’d think the payoff for the performance and handling would be ride quality. But the boffins at AMG have worked their magic to ensure a mostly comfortable ride – even in Sport mode. It’s firm but we had no complaints. 

The cabin is well insulated from noise except for a bit of tyre roar on coarse chip roads.

 Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 S 4Matic+

PRICING

List price: $94,900 before on-road costs.

Price as tested: $96,090 before on-road costs.

Model range: $43,900 to $94,900 before on-road costs.

DRIVETRAIN

2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine, eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Power: 310kW@6750rpm.

Torque: 500Nm@5000-5250rpm.

Wheels: 245/35 R19.

FUEL

98 RON premium ULP, 51-litre fuel tank.

Consumption: 8.9L/100km (government test), 11.6L/100km (RACV test).

Emissions: 202g/km CO2 emissions.

STANDARD SAFETY

Five-star ANCAP rating, adaptive cruise control with braking function, autonomous emergency braking, active lane-change assist, blind-spot monitor with exit warning, driver-attention assist, traffic-sign recognition, nine airbags. 

STANDARD FEATURES

AMG driver’s package and exhaust system, MBUX multimedia system with two 10.25-inch digital screens, wireless charging, Burmester surround-sound system, multi-beam LED headlights, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.

WARRANTY

Five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Three-year capped-price servicing plan. Service intervals every 12 months/20,000 kilometres.

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