I suppose we should have been warned that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class was having a bit of a ‘mid-lifer’ the moment we saw the sexy new bodywork of the successor to the old mumsy motor.
But even approaching the new A45 AMG is like seeing a trusted old acquaintance looking 20-years younger after extensive augmentative surgery.
That’s because, for the first time in decades, the three-pointed star brand has abandoned its comfortable, classy executive image and made a beeline for the punk-rocker smoking behind the corporate cycle shed.
Lowered, widened and boasting deeply sculptured air intakes, the A45 is nothing if not brutally aggressive, daring the driver to take it on. With 18-inch alloys offering a clear view of the red-painted brake calipers (at £330 extra) you have been warned.
And driving enthusiasts will not be disappointed by instantly selecting the sport driving mode which releases a gorgeous snap, crackle and pop from the AMG Performance exhaust (at an extra £510) that, in the old days, would have you fretting over the lifespan of your valve seats. It’s a lovely accompaniment to what is a serious quick car supplying 355 brake horsepower from the little 2.0-litre turbo- charged motor, the sort of power that, up until now, only Mitsubishi and Subaru would
trust to an engine this size. This transpires to a 60mph sprint time of 4.6 seconds although some testers have seen that drop to 4.2 seconds while a 50-100mph acceleration time a full second quicker than rivals from Audi and BMW comes thanks to a whopping 331ft-lbs of torque.
Mercifully for the executive who still needs a part-time work tool, the comfort mode makes a huge difference to ride and the one most people would choose for work in the happy knowledge that the play ‘sport’ mode is just a click away.
Handling, too, is top draw providing the little Merc with terrific grip thanks to part-time four-wheel drive, although some motoring purists may prefer a simple rear-wheel drive experience delivered by the now defunct BMW 1-Series M. That said, the all-wheel drive system barely interferes with the driving joy and does give a sense of security in slippery road conditions.
Its seven-speed Speedshift DCT auto gearbox is lightening-quick and reacts well to driver input even on the more electronically monitored down-changes. Naturally, all this sporting prowess comes at some cost because despite a claimed 40mpg combined fuel economy, my quick blast rarely saw the computer confess to better than the low 20s in ‘spirited’ driving. But it would be wrong to go away thinking
the A45 has lost the Mercedes plot because, used normally with comfort mode, it remains a remarkably civilised drive and boasts a beautifully ergonomic designed interior with premium build quality and materials.
And, unlike some of its competitors, the car comes with a fine selection of standard equipment including multi-point interior lighting, AMG branded sports seats, floor mats, gear lever and instrument panel, auto- wipers and headlights, active pedestrian bonnet protection, park assist, adaptive brakes with hold function and full Bluetooth connectivity through the DAB digital audio system.
You could pay the £1,940 to derestrict top speed to achieve 168mph but it does seem a lot to perform what can be little more than an ECU change, although it does buy you access to an AGM Power & Performance event.
In fact, of the optional extras fitted to the test car, I would only choose the painted calipers and the AMG Performance exhaust so the list price of £37,845 for a supercar-challenging workhorse now doesn’t seem such a high ticket!
The A45 AMG is the sort of car that the user- chooser company buyer would select and then buy at the end of the contract as a sure- fire modern classic in the making.
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Engine: 2.0-litre turbo
Top Speed: 155mph(limited)
Economy: 40mpg (claimed)