Sleek, sporty and oh-so-savvy
THE REVISED A-CLASS ASSERTS MERCEDES-BENZ’S AUTHORITY IN THE LUXURY SEGMENT, WRITES CAMERON OFFICER
Memories of the late-90s jellybean Mercedes-Benz A-Class have been well and truly banished as the sleeker, sportier take on the model — which debuted in 2012 — enters its second incarnation.
And things are pretty darn good right from the off. The entry-level A180 ($48,600) offers a huge amount of kit as standard; reflective of a company as confident in the pulling power of its entry-level hatchback as in its headline sedans and SUVs.
The A180 and A200 models are almost identical, save for a few key elements such as wheel size, some exterior and interior accents and available power (90kW/200Nm v 115kW/250Nm respectively).
Key items for the revised A 180 include 17in wheels, integrated Garmin satellite navigation, sports seats, paddle shifters, blind spot assist, a reversing camera, Audio 20 system with its 8-inch TFT colour display, ultrasonic parking sensors and keyless start.
The A200 ($55,900) ups the wheel size to 18in and adds a dual exhaust system, upgraded sports seats, a neat checkerboard-style pattern in the interior panelling and a sports steering wheel.
The 100kW/300Nm A 200d shares the A200’s specification and will cost diesel fans $55,900. But it’s suitably frugal; 4.2l/100km isn’t anything to be sniffed at. The A200’s combined fuel consumption is 6.1-l/100km; also respectable.
Before we get to the performance-orientated A-Class cars, the headline news is that Dynamic Select software is now standard across the range.
Dynamic Select allows the vehicle’s characteristics to be adjusted according to road conditions. The system modifies the engine, transmission, suspension and steering to preference, allowing the driver to cycle through comfort, sport, eco and individual settings.
There’s a new suspension system with adaptive damping underpinning the A-Class. In conjunction with this, Dynamic Select allows a particularly broad range of setting options.
The result? Even in its sportiest — and therefore stiffest — iteration, the A-Class feels utterly pliable and settled on the most terrible tarmac available.
While it’s easy to let the eye wander straight to the AMG version, the real surprise of the new A-Class bunch is the A250 Sport 4Matic. With 160kW and 350Nm on tap, aided by 4Matic all-wheel drive, this $67,900 hatch is possibly the sweet spot of the entire range — if you aren’t tempted by the top shelf. At $30,000 less, it’s worth a look.
That said, the Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic is something very special. But we’ll get to that.
The A250 Sport 4Matic now produces 160kW of power; up 5kW from the previous iteration. This feels like a lot more when taking both newly standard all-wheel drive and the AMG ride control sports suspension and selective damping system into account.
For a non-AMG model the A250 Sport 4Matic features a fair amount of AMG kit; its 18in wheels, body styling and ride control suspension and damping, as well as LED fixed headlamps with integrated daytime running lights, keyless start, panoramic sunroof and 12-colour ambient lighting.
Topping the revamped A-Class range is Mercedes’s smallest AMG model. The Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic is no make-up-the-numbers affair. It’s as competent and wholly realised a performance model as anything else wearing those three glorious letters.
Your $97,600 gets you an incredible piece of machinery. Mercedes’ engineers have wrung an impressive amount of power out of the 2-litre four-cylinder turbo; 280kW and 475Nm of torque takes it from standstill to 100km/h in 4.2 seconds.
AMG Dynamic Select allows the widest possible selection of driving dynamics too (five driving modes: comfort, sport, sport +, individual and race), while this grade’s AMG Dynamic Plus package sharpens the vehicle dynamics even further. The headline model features a newly developed mechanical front axle locking differential, which significantly improves traction in race-face driving mode; the system’s locking differential allowing maximum grip and high rates of lateral acceleration.
There is nothing cosmetic about the top-flight A-Class iteration. It’s all intent in the same manner as its bigger sibling C 63 S.
And no, that love-it-or-hate-it metallic green hero shade dominating the company’s marketing efforts (known as Elbaite in Mercedes-Benz parlance) isn’t standard on the Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic. Might we suggest Jupiter Red or Mountain Grey Metallic instead?
PROS & CONS MERCEDES A-CLASS
|Engine:||1595cc four-cylinder turbo (A180, A200), 2143cc four-cylinder turbo diesel (A200d) and 1991cc four-cylinder turbo (A250 Sport 4Matic, AMG A45 4Matic)|
|PRICE:||Five grades between $48,600 (A180) and $97,600 (AMG A45 4Matic)|
|PROS:||Superior level of standard specification across range, Dynamic Select performance software, Mercedes-AMG A45 4Matic worthy addition to AMG lineage|
|CONS:||Can you divorce yourself significantly enough from the idea of an AMG C63S to settle for a “mere” hatchback instead?|