DRIVEN: 2016 Mercedes-AMG A45 – more everything


It’s rather difficult to predict the success of a new offering, especially if there were none of its kind that preceded it. In a way, the Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG was just such a product – it was Stuttgart’s first hot hatch, and while it was brimming with performance (with 360 hp and all-wheel drive), we weren’t expecting it to make much of a headway over here. This was still a small hatchback costing north of RM300k, after all.

But the A 45 turned out to be a minor success. Buyers loved the extroverted styling – particularly in loud Edition 1 trim – and were captivated by the sheer speed and the way it was capable of embarrassing much more expensive machinery. Really, this was Mercedes’ Nissan GT-R – a blindingly quick tarmac weapon with all-weather traction and a demeanour that meant that mere mortals could exploit its towering performance without wrapping themselves around a tree – and soon the über A-Class began to flock onto the streets.

Of course, where animals flock, there are bound to be predators. In 2014, Audi snatched the A 45’s most powerful hot hatch crown with the RS3, beating the Mercedes by a whole seven horses. More recently, BMW unleashed the 370 hp M2 Coupé that promises a purer, more engaging driving experience.

So, in rolls the updated A 45, and this time it’s more than just a simple facelift. For one, Mercedes has played musical chairs with the badging this year, so it’s now officially called the Mercedes-AMG A 45. There’s also even more firepower under the bonnet and several tweaks under the skin, but is all this enough to see off the competition? We test the new one on local roads to see what’s what.


First up, the price – the facelifted A 45 is priced at RM348,888 on-the-road without insurance, RM5,000 more expensive than the outgoing model. It has to be said, however, that this is exactly the same price that the first A 45 AMG Edition 1 models retailed at, although the new car does lose out on the former’s exclusive stripe decals and red exterior highlights, as well as a panoramic sunroof.

So what do you get for the extra outlay? Well, for a start, you get a car that, for this writer at least, is a lot better looking. The original had a front fascia that looked overwrought and underdone – it was too boxy and had way too many lines leading to the too-small centre air inlet, and the big front splitter didn’t help matters. The result was a snout that looked pinched and deformed at the same time. To be honest, it looked like a low-budget aftermarket job – and that wasn’t what you wanted to hear on a car that asked for so much money.

It’s a more resolved effort on the new car, with a simpler, more cohesive front bumper that is dominated by AMG’s characteristic “A-wing” design. The larger centre air intake is sleeker, and is positioned lower so it looks less like the car is about to sneeze, while the massive side scoops sit more easily around it. A thinner front splitter that flows around the centre inlet wraps up a fairly successful front redesign.

Meanwhile, the headlights are now full LED High Performance units with triangular projectors on the outside and reflector high beams on the inside. The daytime running lights are also solid strips now instead of individual diodes on the previous car, and now function as indicators as well – the latter previously made up a separate row of LEDs above the DRLs. The tail lights, also full-LED, gain revised graphics too.

Elsewhere, the rest of the AMG-specific body addenda, such as the double-bar grille, side skirts and rear bumper, remain unchanged – save for a massive biplane rear diffuser that replaces the simple rear valence insert on the previous model. Four vertical strakes sit between the integrated exhaust exits, and there’s also a separate wing element low down. It’s all a bit much, if we’re being honest.

As before, our cars come fitted with the Night Package that adds gloss black wing mirrors, front splitter, side skirts, window trim and tailpipe finishers. Also included is the AMG Aerodynamic Package, which tacks on front flics, a huge rear wing and – new for the facelift – rear fins over the fake bumper vents. The 19-inch AMG multispoke alloy wheels, with a matte black finish and polished flanges, have also been carried over.

This writer feels the additional appendages make the car look way too aggressive and showy, but he’s clearly a minority on this one – many others seem to love the visual drama they bring.

Much remains the same on the inside, so you still get a fairly standard A-Class cabin, albeit one that’s differentiated by a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a gearlever that’s on the transmission tunnel, instead of being mounted on the steering column.

The former now has a new design first seen on the AMG GT sports car; as standard, we get the AMG Performance wheel that adds suede-like Dinamica microfibre grips and AMG badging on the bottom spoke. Other new items include a revised AMG instrument cluster in a twin binnacle design, with neater, clearer dials and digits, redesigned needles and a new surround for the gear indicator on top.

On top of this are other goodies that are exclusive to the A 45, including a leather-covered dashboard (only found elsewhere in the local A-Class range on the limited edition A 250 Motorsport Edition), alloy pedals and AMG illuminated door sill plates. Also thrown in is a beautifully crafted AMG E-Select gearlever, with AMG’s insignia embossed on the top surface.

Red highlights abound as well – the crimson hue is slathered on everything from the seat belts and air vent trims, to the interior topstitching and steering wheel 12 o’clock marker. The striking colour combination is part of the “Red Cut” black leather upholstery, which on our models covers the purposeful AMG Performance bucket seats – the latter is optional in other markets, but here it’s standard fit.

These pews – which are offered on most other AMG models as well, including the RM1.1 million AMG GT S – are absolutely gorgeous and provide immense support; the power-adjustable side bolsters on the cushion and backrest also mean they’ll fit snugly on a wide variety of body shapes. Fair warning, however – they are rather stiff, which can (and do) make long distance trips a right pain in the you-know-where.


The excellent seats contrast with an interior that, for all its look-faster bits, still doesn’t feel quite as premium as you would expect for a car bearing the three-pointed star. That’s fine on the sub-RM200k A 180, but at the price point the A 45 is playing at, fine is just not good enough. The rattle from the rear wing when you close the tailgate shut doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its build quality, either.

A particular sore point is the fake carbon fibre trim on the dash panel – it just looks and feels cheap, and is nowhere near a patch for the real stuff reserved for the CLA 45. Hell, even the CLA 200 has it now, so why snub the most expensive A-Class (and a proper AMG model at that), Mercedes?

Standard kit includes power-adjustable front seats with memory, an eight-inch Media Display screen, a reverse camera, Active Park Assist, Collision Prevention Assist Plus (now with automated partial braking), Thermotronic dual-zone automatic climate control, a COMAND Online navigation system, a DVD changer and rear air-con vents – the last four are exclusive to the A 45 in our market. As before, Keyless-GO and push-button start have been given a miss over here, a startling omission on a RM350k car.

Under the bonnet sits the same hand-built 2.0 litre M133 turbocharged four-cylinder engine as before, but it’s been breathed on with a reconfigured valve assembly, timing and turbocharger. Even with the same 1.8 bar boost pressure as before, the changes result in an extra 21 hp and 25 Nm, so maximum output now stands at a massive 381 hp at 6,000 rpm and 475 Nm of torque between 2,250 and 5,000 rpm. That’s just about enough to retake that hot hatch power crown from Audi, thank you very much.


The changes go hand-in-hand with the revised seven-speed AMG Speedshift DCT (dual clutch transmission), which now provides the A 45 with an even harder edge, with ratios three to seven all shorter than before for even punchier acceleration. The shifts themselves have also been improved thanks to quicker response and shift times; together with the closer ratio spread, moving up the gears is now a smoother experience. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which sends up to 50% of torque to the rear wheels, remains unchanged.

With the increased power and improved gearbox, the A 45 is even more of a powerhouse than before. It now sprints from zero to 100 km/h in a supercar-baiting 4.2 seconds – that’s 0.4 seconds quicker than the old car, and we weren’t exactly rushing to call that one a tortoise, were we? Top whack remains limited to 250 km/h.

You’ll no longer have to keep clicking a small button to select the different driving modes. Instead, there’s a new AMG Dynamic Select knob aft of the gearlever that performs the same function. On offer now are four modes – the existing Comfort (previously Controlled Efficiency) and Sport modes have been retained, with the former now getting a coasting function for the gearbox that decouples it from the engine to save fuel.

Higher up is the new Sport + mode that provides an even more aggressive mapping for the engine and gearbox, with a sharper throttle, shorter shift times and rev-matched downshifts. There’s also a new Individual mode that allows drivers to personalise different powertrain and chassis parameters. The previous button is now there purely to select the full manual shift mode that holds onto the chosen gear, even in Comfort mode.

The biggest change beneath the skin is the new AMG Ride Control suspension with two-stage adaptive damping, including a Comfort setting to take some much needed sting off the bumps – aiming to rectify a board-stiff ride that was a bugbear on the A-Class in general. The stiffer Sport mode is applied automatically in the Sport + drive mode, and can also be activated independently via a switch on the centre console.

Additionally, there’s a revised speed-sensitive steering system, with two settings for feedback and weighting – one for each of the AMG Ride Control damper modes. Malaysian-market models also get a new Race drive mode on the AMG Dynamic Select knob, that puts the A 45 in another league altogether. The engine and throttle response is now at its snappiest, while the gearbox is configured to maintain the lowest possible gear – it’s really only for the track, this, or at least on a wide open road. Shift speeds are also at their quickest.

Race mode also allows you to more easily activate the Race Start launch control. Before this, selecting the quickest acceleration mode required you to type in the Konami cheat code with various buttons and shift paddles; now, you can simply select Race mode, put your foot on the brake pedal and floor the throttle until the kickdown button clicks. Revs will be held at 3,500 rpm; all you have to do then is release the brakes.

Do this, and the A 45 flings itself towards the horizon with alarming alacrity. There’s a slight chirrup from the tyres as all four wheels light up, but as soon as they bite down onto the tarmac, the car simply leaps forward – the buildup of revs at the start masks the slight turbo lag the heavily-boosted engine has low down. Before you know it, you’re into triple figures; blink and you’ll hit truly silly speeds.

It’s so fast, in fact, that under full acceleration it’s actually quite difficult to manage the shifts yourself in manual mode. The added power and shorter gearing mean that the engine swings to the rather low 6,200 rpm redline incredibly quickly, and it’s all too easy to trip up and hit the rev limiter. The slight delay between pulling the shift paddle and the next gear clicking in on upshifts only serves to complicate things further.

Indeed, it’s actually better to leave the transmission to its own devices. In Race mode, automatic shifts are lightning fast, and it will really downshift to the right gear under braking and hold it through the corner. On the right roads and without any traffic, Race mode is a spectacular way to fully experience the A 45’s deep bag of tricks, although obviously it would be infuriating in everyday urban driving.

As before, the A 45’s turn of speed is matched to an intoxicating soundtrack, further enhanced by the AMG Performance Exhaust that’s standard in our market. Even at startup, there’s a nice burble as the engine fires into life, which then settles into a deep, bassy idle. The car buzzes even at rest, particularly in the Sport + and Race modes, giving it an immediate sense of intent. You almost get a contact high just by sitting in it.

Stomp on the throttle and for the first few thousand revs, not much happens; keep your foot planted, however, and a step change happens about 4,500 rpm. The engine note gains a harder edge and a really nice guttural growl as the engine surges towards the top end, accompanied by a flurry of crackles on upshifts and on the overrun in the sportier drive modes. It really eggs you on, and makes you want to keep the engine just at the sweet spot so you can enjoy it over and over again.

It’s a lot less fun when you’re not up on it. The shorter ratios – which made for brutal acceleration earlier – means that the A 45 now cruises at the national limit at the wrong side of 2,000 rpm. At highway speeds, the exhaust drone borders on being excessive, and with the loud tyre roar from the fat Pirelli P-Zeros on the test car and wind noise from the windscreen and A-pillars, it makes the car rather unsuited for longer drives.

The A 45 isn’t really suited to pootling around, either. The DCT may be excellent at ten-tenths, but it’s terrible when you’re prowling Telawi’s glitzy streets showing off your bewinged hot hatch. The artificial “creep” built into the gearbox feels clumsy at best, and the car lazily stumbles through the gears like a hungover college kid after a long night out in town. The finesse exhibited when driven in anger is simply non-existent here.

The ride is a mixed bag. Although there’s little comfort to be had here – even in the suspension’s so-called Comfort setting – the amount of give the new adaptive dampers release from the previously unyielding chassis can be surprising. Leaving Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s headquarters at Menara TM, the ride initially felt too harsh over the broken asphalt surrounding the building; the A 45’s inherent stiffness sees to that.

Spend a couple of days driving it, however, and you’ll find that while the car still crashes over bumps, the superb damping absorbs rebound movements well, calming the ride significantly. Of course, this is still a car meant to be driven fast along twisty roads, and the added smoothness does little to mask that fact.


The magic really happens in the corners. Flick the grippy steering wheel and the A 45 dives in with gusto, the nose sniffing out the apex almost immediately thanks to the phenomenal amount of mechanical grip on hand and the lack of body roll. The steering’s satisfying weight and pinpoint accuracy really allow you to commit to the bend with confidence, as do the strong brake pedal feel and prodigious stopping power.

Powering out of the corner, the four-wheel drive system provides immense traction. You can get on the throttle very early and come out on the other side at insane speeds; only when you are incredibly silly with the loud pedal does the A 45 succumb to understeer. This culminated in a particularly spirited blast up Genting – the turbocharger seemed to ravish the colder air, further increasing the vivacity of mid-corner acceleration. It’s all a real rush to the senses, when put together.

Be that as it may, it’s not perfect. For all the sophistication of the drivetrain, there is very little adjustability in the car’s cornering attitude, the throttle only serving to vary the amount of understeer you’ll ultimately get. You can forget about power oversteer – that’s just not gonna happen here – and while you can break rear traction by being aggressive with steering inputs early on, you’ll need a lot of room to correct it.

Additionally, the steering, precise and confidence-inducing as it is, is utterly devoid of feel; you sense no connection to the road surface whatsoever. None of this will detract from all the fun you’ll have with the A 45, but it’s worth noting that at its heart, the car is a precision tool designed first and foremost to tear your face off with sheer g-force – and if you’re looking for a more purist, emotional approach, you’ll be much better served elsewhere. Those alternatives will probably be cheaper, too.


So, where does this leave the new, revised Mercedes-AMG A 45? There’s no doubt that, as before, the RM350k A-Class is still a performance bargain, and the extra polish applied with the facelift has definitely increased its appeal even further in this regard. It’s significantly faster in every measure, and is even better at scaring the bejesus out of your passengers than before.

However, it’s still a lot of money to pay for a small hatchback – there are plenty others in the price range that are better built, better to look at and way more comfortable, and even though the mildly softer suspension tries to convince buyers that this will make a better stab at being a daily driver, let’s not kid ourselves here.

The fact of the matter is, those in the market for an A 45 were never bothered by such concerns, and will continue to not do so. Instead of being turned off by the car’s uncompromising nature, they have, in fact, be enthused by it – and this new one will certainly create an even bigger smile on their faces.

The Mercedes-AMG A 45 retails at RM348,888 on-the-road without insurance, inclusive of a four-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. Browse full specifications and equipment on

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Jonathan Lee

After trying to pursue a career in product design, Jonathan Lee decided to make the sideways jump into the world of car journalism instead. He therefore appreciates the aesthetic appeal of a car, but for him, the driving experience is still second to none.



  • Painter on Apr 25, 2016 at 3:04 pm

    I’m still waiting for Subaru to sell an aftermarket STi turbocharged kit for the XV range. This is so I can retrofit it on my XV.

    Malu lah, the engine sounds loud, but every time must make way for Honda CR-V cucuk belakang.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2
  • annonymous on Apr 25, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Very excellent and detailed review, as if I have driven one myself already.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0
  • Arif Azmin on Apr 25, 2016 at 4:28 pm

    VW Golf R can do a better job here.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 36
  • “Dynamic Plus” / front mechanical differential which is a factory option is not fitted to the Malysian spec model. TQ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  • nabill (Member) on Apr 25, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    It still amazes me how such low capacity engime produce so much power n torque… Must be one of the most stressed out engines out thr.. I still dont like the rims…. Should have been silver….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8
    • Really on Apr 27, 2016 at 12:52 am

      Tuning a turbocharged engine to produce a lot of power is relatively easy. Keeping the engine reliable enough for daily use is the hard part. That is why a turbo powerplant can sometimes weigh more than a NA one that produces equivalent amount of power due to the intercooler, pipings and fluids.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

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