Decked out in every conceivable type of spoiler, wing and wind-cheating piece of plastic, big 19-inch wheels and AMG’s distinctive ‘Panamericana’ grille – and not least our car’s multi-coloured vinyl wrap used for the car’s testing programme earlier this year – the new A 45 sticks out. Rather a lot, in fact.
Of all the recently launched production cars lining up in this demonstration run, the A 45 is getting a lot of attention. It’s of little surprise really as the new A 45 range has long been a best seller for the AMG brand.
“Even we at AMG had doubts whether an AMG model could have four cylinders and whether it could be authentic,” Steffan Jastrow, Mercedes-AMG’s head of compact car development, told us. “We were worried about sound and performance but we have shown that it can work – and work very well.”
The new A 45 will be available in a standard version with 382bhp and 480 Nm of torque (just 1bhp more than the old A 45) when it arrives later this year, and an A 45 S with 415bhp and 500Nm. Both are powered by a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol with 4Matic four-wheel drive and an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
In the A 45 S, we’re sat alongside AMG works driver Adam Christodoulou, who is trundling down to the Festival of Speed’s famous start line. Fresh from winning the Shanghai round of the China GT Championship, this will be Christodoulou’s first outing in the world’s most powerful hot hatch.
The A 45 has a handful of different drive modes but ‘Drift Mode’ is reserved for the S. Naturally, for maximum showmanship, Christodoulou has selected this setting for our trip up the hill. As the marshal waves us into the correct position on the start line, I remind myself this is a 415bhp five-door family hatchback. Why so much power I had asked Jastrow earlier in the day. “AMG has to be top of the segment – and in every segment!”
There’s not much time to think about that as Christodoulou floors the throttle. This new 2.0-litre delivers a devastating amount of firepower, and as we hurtle to the first corner we’re well beyond 62mph – which takes 3.9 seconds and is faster than a Mercedes-AMG GT Coupe.
It’s a small touch on the brakes before Christodoulou hurls the car into the first corner that’s covered with a heavy layer of dust and engine oil. Drift mode utilises electro-mechanical torque vectoring on the rear axle to distribute torque between the left and right wheels, and the setting also splits power as necessary to enable controlled slides. That’s exactly what’s happening at turn one; the rear end neatly slides around as the tyres bite into the asphalt to then attack turn two.
Past the Duke’s gaff and the engine is at full chat and along with the cracks from the exhaust pipes as we fire up the eight-speed gearbox, it’s a frantic ride so far. Down into the infamous Molecomb corner and the A 45 S’s huge 360mm front disc brakes with six-piston fixed calipers haul off the speed. Again it’s another graceful slide before hurtling up towards the flint wall deep in the trees. Another small slide, back into the open air before Christodoulou’s points the car towards the summit and over the finish line.
“Could have gone faster. But what a car,” says Christodoulou. Racing drivers are never happy, unlike their passengers.