• Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC+

A car that’s worthy of being dubbed a superhatch given its engine performance and sportscar-rivalling dynamics

What is this car even! I mumble while slipstreaming racer Armaan Ebrahim on the banking of the high speed test track at NATRAX near Indore, at a speedometer-indicated 278kmph. A special car deserves a special place and Mercedes-Benz let us loose in the AMG A 45 S at Asia’s longest high speed track. We ended up lapping the 11.3km long oval in just about 7 minutes. In a hatchback! The idea of a hatchback for most is a car that’s compact, practical and meant for everyday use. Not one that can clock a top speed of 270kmph, is equipped with an all-wheel drive system and Drift mode.

Heck, that’s even pushing the boundaries of a hot hatch! But the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S is about pushing boundaries. Powered by the world’s most powerful production four cylinder engine (hail turbocharging!) that puts out a sportscar-rivalling 421PS and 500Nm. Claimed 0-100kmph time is just 3.9 seconds. Gulp. It’s almost hard to believe the staggering numbers the A 45 S boasts! How they’ve been made possible is a story in itself. The engineers at AMG took Mercedes-Benz’s M260 turbocharged four cylinder engine and turned it around 180 degrees to have the intake at the front, thus moving the turbocharger and exhaust headers to the rear.

This reduced diversions and made the intake more direct, allowing it to take in more air and offer more performance. The single, twin-scroll turbocharger uses roller bearings to reduce friction and spin more freely. The wastegate is electronically controlled, for better precision. Some of the engine architecture is inspired by the AMG GT’s twin-turbocharged, 4.0-litre V8 and race engines as well. Race engines use denser aluminium structures for enhanced durability given the high performance they endure and AMG employed the same technology to build this engine, codenamed the M139.

This is also one of the quickest revving four-pot motors, partly enabled by the forged steel crankshaft and forged aluminium pistons. Then there is AMG’s Nanoslide coating on cylinder walls for a mirror-like finish that reduces friction between the pistons and cylinder walls, something Mercedes-AMG uses in its F1 cars. Exhaust valves are larger to let gases exit the combustion chamber quicker, besides the variable valve timing and DOHC setup. So we’re talking top drawer engine technology and construction here. In fact, it’s quite obvious that despite this being just a four cylinder engine, AMG wanted to make a statement and has gone in for everything under the sun to challenge the limits of the engine configuration.

The A 45 S is also very aggressive looking with the AMG GT-inspired Panamericana grille, sleek headlights and power bulges on the hood. The A 45 also sits low, adding to its ‘hot hatch’ stance. The 19- inch AMG wheels look sporty with the 35-section tyres, massive discs and red calipers. I’m also digging the rear thanks to the quad exhausts and splitters. Overall, the A 45 S is as hot as hatchbacks can get. In fact the A 45 S really does make the A 35 sedan look sedate!

There’s a sense of familiarity inside as the dashboard, single glass slab for the instrument console and infotainment display and even air-conditioning vents are the same as the A 35. But seats and other bits feel like they’re straight off more expensive AMGs. The sports seats covered in Nappa leather with contrasting yellow stitching and highlighting and look like they belong to a flagship sportscar. The dual, 10.25-inch screens offer lots of information and pack in Merc’s MBUX infotainment system besides which you also get a Burmester audio system.

With half the number of cylinders as compared to the E 63 S, the A 45 S might come across as a teenager trying to mingle with a group of hairy-chested men. But it holds its own, with an exhaust note that’s addictively good, besides its engine characteristics. Then there is the A 45’s specific output, that will shame supercars too. I like the rotor on the steering wheel for switching driving modes, and Sport+ and Race modes are where exhaust baffles open up to liberate a few more decibels. The first time you pin the throttle, the car accelerates with a ferocity that stuns you, then has you break into that proverbial smile.

Acceleration does not taper beyond 4,000rpm and keep the throttle pinned and the A 45 S continues pulling, almost to its 7,200rpm redline. The eight-speed transmission is quick to upshift shortly before that and at least the first three gear changes come with a mild thrust to ensure your smile doesn’t fade away. 200kmph is a cinch, but more importantly performance does not taper even beyond 200kmph and I was amazed at the ease with which the car was pulling to get to 280kmph while I slipstreamed Armaan. High speed stability is sportscar-like courtesy the wide track, the electronics and not to forget, 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive. A lot of the car’s abilities are courtesy AMG’s techno-wizardry and in fact 4MATIC+ has allowed AMG to add a hidden Drift mode as well. It sends up to 50 percent torque to the rear wheels to let you smoke the rear tyres!

The A 45 S is also surprisingly easy to drive at slow speeds despite its sheer focus on top end performance. It feels great as a ‘point and shoot’ car and on the road, it will even show more powerful cars a clean pair of heels. That says something, because its combination of unreal engine performance coupled with the compact dimensions can make for a heady mix. Driving it to work isn’t something you will enjoy and not just due to the low ground clearance and firmed up suspension. The A 45 S begs to be driven hard and I reckon you won’t really be able to enjoy it in traffic. That said, the A 45 S is a proper four seater despite the sports seats. There’s reasonable amounts of kneeroom behind them.

Rs 79.50 lakh ex-showroom is a lot of money for a ‘hatchback’ if you look through the eyes of the average Joe. But the A 45 S isn’t for the average Joe. It’s a car for discerning enthusiasts who want something different and very exclusive. It’s a performance car you wouldn’t mind spending on to have some fun, when not being driven around in your luxury SUV. It’s an AMG and a very special one at that – it may use the alphabet denoting the smallest of cars in the Mercedes-Benz and AMG line-ups, but is anything but that. It is a true sportscar with its high-strung motor and top-spec equipment levels and one that’s very special. Above all else, it is a super hatch!

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