Mercedes-AMG A45 2020 s 4matic+

2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S review: Track test with Pirelli Trofeo R tyres

Rating: 8.8
$72,890 $86,680 Dealer
  • Fuel Economy
  • Engine Power
  • CO2 Emissions
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James gets a chance to sample the manic Mercedes-AMG A45 S without speed limits, and with a new set of sticky tyres. Will he ever bring it back?
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When you think of a ridiculously nimble and blisteringly fast four-cylinder turbocharged all-wheel-drive fun machine, a vision of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution will likely not be far from your mind.

The rally-bred Japanese pocket-rocket redefined accessible performance, and for a time, an Evo was quick on a track and all-but unbeatable for sheer entertainment from behind the wheel.

But it’s 2020, a year where up is down, black is white, Japanese cars are hugely conservative, and we now look to the Germans for four-cylinder limiter banging all-wheel-drive fun. What a world.

To this end, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S is the Evolution evolved.

2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S
Engine configuration2.0-litre turbocharged petrol
Displacement2.0 litres (1991cc)
Power310kW at 6750rpm
Torque500Nm at 5000-5250rpm
TransmissionEight-speed automatic AMG Speedshift DCT
Drive typeAll-wheel drive with variable torque split
Tare weight1629kg
Fuel claim, combined8.9L/100km
Fuel use on test23L/100km
Turning circle11.5m
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)5-star (tested 2018)
Warranty (years / km)5 years / unlimited km
Main competitorsTwo Honda Civic Type Rs, a heavily modified Evo, BMW M2 CS
Options as tested$8280

Skirting the grey line of sanity for a hatchback, the A45 S features the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine (in series production), which puts 310kW and 500Nm through a complex and clever drivetrain to all or any of the four-wheels it sees fit to do so.

When we drove it at launch, the bright yellow Pikachu stand-in impressed us on the road, but almost felt caged, with much of its performance envelope, and cheeky Drift-Mode antics requiring a more suitable environment to be fully explored.

Conveniently, we were able to do just that at Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit. And yes, it is even faster and more fun than you think.

Plus, Mercedes has introduced the motorsport-developed Pirelli P-Zero Trofeo R tyre as an ‘approved accessory’, so you can no longer blame your rubber for poor corner entry lines at your next track day.

If you are keen to know what the Mercedes hyper-hatch is like on the road, delve into the launch review or even just watch the video, where we touch on everything from the boot space to the MBUX widescreen digital dash.

Done? Great. Lets get on with going faster.

2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S
Ground clearance111mm
Weight (Tare)1629kg
Wheels/tyres245/35 R19 - Pirello Trofeo R

Actually, before we go faster, we’ll go sideways.

Given the facility at PI has a skid pan, we were able to sample the A45’s Drift Mode. You activate this by switching the car on, putting the transmission into manual.

Select RACE mode and hold in the ESP button to disable the stability program, then pull on both shift paddles simultaneously and a message will appear on the dash to advise you that Drift Mode is ready. Hit the right-paddle to accept, then hit up, punch, left, left, kick to score a bonus life.

Ken Blocking your way around cones on a wet skid pan then is now just a matter of building a bit of entry speed, upsetting the weight balance of the car by turning the wheel sharply, and stamping on the gas.

There’s a slight hesitative push of understeer, but the engine spins up quickly and without a single ounce of dorifto skill, I was able to cleanly step the back of the car out and manage some neat loops around the skid pan.

As with any precision driving, you need to carefully manage your throttle and steering input to keep the car balanced and spinning, and after a brave grab of second-gear to increase wheel speed, you need to carefully manage the radius of your spins too!

We were on the standard-fit Michelin Pilot Cup 4S rubber, and the little hatch was able to effortlessly and repeatedly drift around in neat and dizzy circles.

I’ll be first to admit that this is a very pointless drive mode. You can’t use it on a public road and it isn’t great for your tyres… but it is a hilariously good fun demonstration of the capability of the A45’s driveline, and like the Evo before, can make any driver look like a highly skilled professional.

Change cars. Open circuit. Let’s really see what this thing can do!

2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S
ColourSun Yellow
Price (MSRP)$94,900
Options as tested$8280
Servicing 3yr$3000
Servicing 5yr$4300
ANCAP safety rating5-star (tested 2018)
Warranty5 years / unlimited km

As noted in my AMG GT R Pro review last week, Phillip Island is a fast and challenging circuit to master, but where the long-nosed AMG supercar felt almost brutal and daunting, the bright yellow hatch offers adjectives like confidence and forgiveness, without giving up much pace in the process.

This is a wickedly fast, and hugely entertaining car to drive at speed.

Blast out of a corner and there’s a communicative wiggle as the torque vectoring and all-wheel drive systems work out what’s best for you. Confidence.

Scream through sharp and accurate gear changes with the eight-speed dual-clutch AMG Speedshift in either auto or manual mode. Accessible.

Brake late, miss the apex, correct, realign, power out, big smiles. Forgiving.

There is something comforting about a car that you know isn’t trying to ruin your day. There’s no fear of a sudden snap of lift-off oversteer, when you push too hard, the car understeers and providing you attempt to correct, it will adjust drive and brake bias to help you work things out.

Get things right, and it’s blisteringly fast.

I remember club-racing days at PI where only the highly tuned Nissan Skyline GT-Rs were dipping well into the 200-plus speeds on the front straight. Now I’m doing it in a hatchback, and telling the MBUX virtual assistant that no, I don’t feel like taking that Bluetooth phonecall right now, thank you.

More laps. More confidence.

More heat into the Trofeo rubber too, which is encouraging higher entry speeds, later and more aggressive braking and altogether much smoother and faster driving. Competition-style rubber has always been the biggest and best change you can make to your car for club competition or skill-building track days, and the Pirellis are certainly showing their worth.

A set can be ordered through your Mercedes-Benz dealer, or in fact any tyre stockist, and prices will vary depending on supply. Expect to pay around $2500 for all four though (approx. $600 a corner), and don’t expect them to last very long.

Soft tyres with awesome grip tend to live bright, exciting but ultimately short lives. You won’t want to leave them on your car when it rains either.

Given the uniform size of all-four wheels on the AMG A45 S, you can prolong the life by rotating the wheels halfway through your track day. Wrenching wheels and jacking up cars is a big part of the motorsport experience. Drink it in.

For what it’s worth though, taking your $100k hatch to a racetrack is something most owners wont do, and then others will only do once.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG A45 S is a hugely impressive box of turn-key, arrive and drive enjoyment, that only impresses more the faster it goes. That you can drive it home again, big wings, bright paint and all, only adds to the hyper-hatch appeal.

The car’s entry price of $94,900 (MSRP before on-road costs), does not include the cool aero package ($2490), high performance seat package ($3290) and Pirelli Trofeo R rubber (~$2500), which makes it an expensive proposition outright, and perhaps an even more expensive one if just treated as a weekend toy.

That said, it delivers ability and thrills in a way that only a few have done before. A confidence inspiring and forgiving performance platform that, despite its diminutive size, delivers huge entertainment value, regardless of your skill level, time and time again.

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