Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Let’s start with the obvious: the A45 is indecently fast. With launch mode engaged (in the dry at least) there’s barely a single horsepower wasted as the car hunkers down and fires you forward like few other cars of any type, let alone hatchbacks. We can fully believe that 3.9sec official 0-62mph time.
That’s all well and good, but how often do you really use launch control? More important is how the A45 AMG accelerates when you just plant your right foot on the accelerator pedal. Whether you’re stationary or moving, there’s the briefest of hesitations before the A45 rockets forward ferociously, firing through its gears swiftly yet smoothly. There is, of course, a manual mode which is pretty faithful to your requests (you pull paddles behind the steering wheel), but isn’t quite as engaging as the Civic Type R’s uber-satisfying fully manual gearbox.
But don’t expect the power to arrive all of a sudden like it does in some heavily turbocharged cars. This is an engine that thrives on revs, with peak power not arriving until a heady 6750rpm, That's no hardship, though; you’ll enjoy how the turbo wakes up at around 2000rpm, and how the power increases in a linear fashion all the way to the redline. And, sure, it might not sound as good as the five-cylinder Audi RS3, but it’s still pretty tuneful for a ‘mere’ four-cylinder.
Now, if you’re reading this thinking the A45 must be a temperamental beast that behaves like a bear with a sore head in traffic, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Left in comfort mode, it feels no more recalcitrant than the regular A Class on which it's based and is happy to trundle along quietly. Yes, its standard adaptive suspension is firmer, but only nasty potholes or manhole covers really cause any discomfort. Avoid scrappy surfaces and the A45 AMG is actually quite easy to live with by hot hatch standards, proving far softer than the often jarring Renault Megane RS Trophy.
So, what happens when you turn away from regular roads and onto something more sinewy and interesting? Well, although the steering isn’t exactly bristling with feedback, you do get a few messages from the front tyres when you pick up some speed. Crucially, though, the steering feels natural, making it a cinch to place the A45 exactly where you want it on the road.
Even in Comfort mode, body lean is minimal, and you can happily ramp things up up to Sport mode to further reduce it without completely ruining ride comfort. The Sport + and Race suspension settings are a bit too much for all but the smoothest of roads, but you can opt to have apply these most extreme modes to the engine and exhaust without affecting the ride.
Despite being front-wheel drive in gentle driving, the back end always seems happy to receive plenty of power to help prevent the nose running wide through corners. Push harder and you can really feel it dig in and help to steer the car out of a bend.
Then of course there’s drift mode. Although this doesn’t make the A45 fully rear-wheel drive like the larger AMG E63’s own drift mode does, it does help the car to slide sideways easily when you accelerate hard and steer into a bend. Given its propensity to destroy tyres and its unsuitability for road use, though, it’s really an interesting gimmick and nothing more.
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