The car that arguably rejuvenated the whole brand only three years ago has now received its first facelift, the 2016 Mercedes-Benz A-Class. When it was first introduced in 2012, the latest A-Class from Mercedes-Benz really didn’t have much in common with its predecessors and that was nothing but a good thing.
The car received a greatly redesigned interior and exterior so it looked more like a revolution than evolution as is all too common in the automotive world. The redesign received lots of praise from the press and sales have skyrocketed which is proof enough that Mercedes-Benz has made a great car. Sales doubled from 226,000 in 2012 to 463,000 in 2014 and the 2015 figures will most likely outperform those from 2014.
The compact car also convinced a whole new clientele to have a closer look at Mercedes-Benz cars, as the average age of A-Class owners dropped by a considerable 13 years compared to the predecessor model and in China, one of the most important markets for Mercedes-Benz, the average customer is now only 34 years old.
For 2016, the A-Class has received a minor facelift and we recently had the opportunity to test out the flagship Mercedes-AMG A45 4MATIC. We tested out its performance on the Lausitzing racetrack in eastern Germany which provided the perfect place to explore its handling and speed. All Mercedes-AMG A45 models come with 4MATIC which is Mercedes-Benz’ all-wheel-drive system.
With the latest facelift, power has been increased by 21 hp and the 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine now delivers a whopping 381 hp, which makes it one of the most powerful 4-cylinder production engines ever built and with 191 hp per litre, the engine is certainly performing at supercar levels. It has won the “International engine of the year” award two years in a row now.
Especially outstanding for us was the sound this little engine produces. When accelerating at full throttle and then shifting gears or when you step off the gas at around 5000 rpm, the exhaust shoots a fascinating popping noise that is hugely addictive. We really loved this while going on the empty, twisty roads of “Saxon Switzerland”. The exhaust valves open automatically depending on which driving mode you have chosen.
The car sounds so good that we asked the AMG engineers if there was some kind of sythesized sound coming from the speakers to enhance the sound experience in the cabin like the new BMW M4. Long story short: there isn’t. Everything is real and it sounds fantastic.
The exterior has received rather subtle but detailed upgrades and clearly shows that everything, from the new 18-inch-wheels and the new front bumper to the little spoiler on the back of the roof, is trimmed for performance. One of our cars came in Elbaite Green, one of the special colours that definitely adds to making the car an even bigger eye-catcher than it already is.
The interior upgrades include a larger screen, newly designed instrument dials and an Apple Car Play / Mirrorlink support which allows you to duplicate your smartphone functions on the car’s in-vehicle infotainment system. The only thing we would criticise here is that we still don’t particularly like the placement of the infotainment screen. It looks a bit aftermarket to us.
While the car looks and certainly drives like a proper race car, with only the twist of a button it transforms into a rather comfortable daily driver, where even a few hundred kilometres can be done without any back pain or signs of fatigue. The AMG Dynamic Select driving settings change the character of the car by 180° degrees and in comfort mode, none of the exhaust popping and kick-in-the-back gear changes happen, enabling you to drive quietly and comfortably mile after mile.
To further increase agility, the 3rd to seventh gears have received a shorter gear ratio which also boosts the acceleration. On the Lausitzring, we enjoyed this upgrade in the many of the corners. Speaking of corners, the car has a very well balanced weight distribution. We rarely had the car understeering or oversteering and instead it whizzed and remained very stable through the corners like a go-kart while we did our best to follow and keep up with the AMG GT lead car.
With the optional Dynamic Plus package another great feature is included: the Ride Control sport suspension with adaptive damper setting and a “race” mode, where the car has an even sharper response and quicker gear changes that give you a slight kick in the back at full throttle. Beware of the race mode though, as the car will allow you slightly greater drifting angles before putting you back on track with its sophisticated stability control system. One more great feature that is included with the Dynamic Plus package is the front locking differential which helps to pull the car out of the corners with maximum grip and increases stability at high speeds.
The Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG starts at 51,051 euro in Germany including 19% VAT and while this isn’t exactly a bargain for a compact car, it is well worth it. Value is high because you get an all-in-one package that can be your comfortable daily driver, small enough to fit most car parks, comfortable enough to go long stretches on the autobahn and agile enough to be enjoyed on the racetrack or along empty winding roads. And all of this is at your disposal with the twist of a button.