DRIVEN | 2019 Mercedes-AMG A45 S

<i> Image: Supplied </i>
<i> Image: Supplied </i>

Details have been released, photographs have been published and now Mercedes-Benz AMG's latest compact car duo has been driven... say hello to the 310kW A45 S and CLA 45 S.  

The latest M139 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder engine in the A45 S and CLA 45 S is the world's most powerful with 310kW and 500Nm. Power is up by 30kW and torque has increased by 25Nm. 

These cars push out more power than any Audi or BMW in the compact performance car segment and are capable of reaching 100km/h in just 3.9 seconds (that's not a typo). 

We'll get the new models in October this year, but I had the opportunity to drive both cars in Madrid at the international launch earlier in July. 

What's it like to drive?

The entirely new engine features a new twin-scroll turbocharger, and as you'd expect, dominates the experience like a big jalapeno on a mini pizza. 

From start-up, the four-cylinder's bassy roar encapsulates me in the cabin with massive sport seats and the same AMG steering wheel from the more expensive C63 S model. 

Gallery: Mercedes-AMG A45 S

And talking about the steering wheel, it now has the rotary controls to change driving modes, suspension and even turn on and off the sports exhaust. 

The previous generation A45 had a terrible ride, it was bone-jarring and many owners got out with a couple of loose teeth. 

In the new one, the ride is supple and doesn't make you brace yourself when driving.

In mundane comfort mode it's almost on par with a Golf GTi, although when I encountered one or two roads that resemble a teenager's face the ride did feel a tad harsh. 

But what the A45 and CLA 45 are good at it is going fast. There's little that can prepare one for the urge from the torquey motor as it picks up speed with the swiftness of Herschel Jantjies at full tilt. 

To me, the engine doesn't sound as good as the previous A45 AMG 

The eight-speed dual clutch gearbox is good in normal automatic mode and quicker than its predecessors in manual mode. I found myself eager to use the paddles for shifting more often than not during our test drive through the Spanish capital's superb windy roads and on track. 

The car feels very agile and it's incredible how the distribution of all that power is fed to the front or rear axles at the perfect moment to get you out of corner in the fastest way possible. There's a tendency for the car to rotate and for the decently weighted steering to get into a corner and 50% of the torque is rear-biased. 

The new car's steering has lovely weighty feel and inspired confidence as I tackled the mountain passes and the Jarama race circuit. It's certainly a marked improvement on the old car and will surprise many people who test drive when it arrives in October this year. 

I left the launch feeling genuinely satisfied with the experience of driving it through the twisty bits and not using the car as a point and squirt machine, it's a whole lot more than that now and there's just so much grip. 

Drift mode

Drift mode can be called up in the "Race" driving mode using the shift paddles, by disengaging the ESP and puts the transmission in manual mode.

I sat in the passenger seat as a Mercedes driver showed me the system in action and goodness it's impressive. Check out the video at the top of the story for more sideways action. 

Interior 

We're fans of the normal A-Class interior and in AMG guise it feels like a much more expensive car. It might be compact but you get the Alcantara, comfortable sports seats, flat-bottomed steering and now the "Track Pace" system where you can log times from track day experiences. Nifty.

Everything feels well put together and the heads-up display (illustrating rev counter, speed and gear) is a welcome addition. 

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Does the new A45 S take the hot hatch segment to another level? Yes, the hyper hatch kingdom is now ruled by the A45 S.

And yes, while the engine and power output figures dominate the headlines, the real treat is how impressive the car feels around corners - something its predecessor didn't too greatly. 

300kW in a hatchback? Not even I thought that was possible growing up as a car-mad teenager, but the proof is in the pudding, and the A45 S is delicious. 

 
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