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Welcome arrow Articles arrow Car Reviews arrow In A-Class of its Own
In A-Class of its Own PDF Print E-mail

The A-Class is the car for a new era and a new generation.


When Mercedes-Benz introduced the A-Class in 1997 there were various mutterings about safety concerns, relating to its short frontal area and transverse-mounted engine.  Critics voiced the opinion that in a head-on collision, the new A-Class would offer little protection to its occupants. Mercedes-Benz were quick to respond, pointing out that the engine/gearbox unit was designed to collapse beneath the passenger compartment instead of intruding upon it in the event of a frontal impact.

Initially launched at the Frankfurt motor show, the A-Class was the first Mercedes-Benz to feature front-wheel drive and had a tall, double floor body.  Because of the double floor, it was a step up to gain access to the passenger compartment.  Designed by British engineer, Steve Martin, the A-Class was a departure from anything he had worked on previously, which included the E-Class as well as the then S-Class.

The relatively high centre of gravity of the tall A-Class proved its undoing when a Swedish magazine managed to turn one over in its infamous ‘elk test', where a vehicle is suddenly made to change direction to avoid a rapidly appearing obstacle - such as an elk or moose. Much to the company's embarrassment, Mercedes-Benz was forced to recall all A-Class models that had been sold to date and spent a considerable amount of money - around DM300 million or approximately 50 million euros - incorporating electronic stability control on all cars.


An outstanding motor car

Even on paper the AMG A-Class is an outstanding machine; on the road it is hard to imagine it is based on the humble A-Class.  A two litre, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that delivers a staggering 360 bhp (265 kW) gives the little AMG a benchmark 0-100 km/h time of just 4.6 seconds.  Again, on the road these figures do not convey just how exciting the A-Class is to drive.  Switch the ‘Sport' mode on and not only does it accelerate harder, it even sounds more aggressive.  The transmission is a 7-speed sports with a speed shift operation.

The interior is beautifully finished with red hand-stitching on a leather dashboard, optional red seat belts and luxurious sports seats.   If there is a criticism, the front seats are a little on the narrow side but they hold their occupants firmly in place during hard cornering.

Because of the short frontal overhang little of the car's front end is visible from the driver's seat, but overall visibility - front and rear - is excellent. To help your rearview vision, there is an active parking aid and a reversing camera, while upwards, there is an electric panoramic sliding roof.  Windscreen wipers are activated by a rain sensor.

The 4Matic all-wheel drive system ensures the car behaves itself in all conditions and AMG claims that the two-litre turbo engine is the most powerful series-production, four-cylinder engine in the world.  In addition, the engine complies with AMG's well-documented philosophy of ‘one man, one engine' and is entirely hand-built.

Mercedes-Benz has addressed the essential challenges within the engine concerning the response of a small-displacement engine by means of a twin-scroll turbocharger, maximum derestriction  of the exhaust system and an innovative injection strategy.  The twin-scroll technology provides for a more responsive build-up of charge pressure, making effective use of exhaust back pressure, exhaust gas temperature and exhaust gas impulse.  This results in a quicker build-up of torque from a lower rev range.  As a positive side-effect, the twin-scroll technology also brings a benefit in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions.  With maximum charge pressure of 1.8 bar, the AMG 2.0 litre four-cylinder turbo engine leads the field in terms of fuel economy and low emissions.

The sports exhaust system features large pipe cross-sections and an automatically controlled exhaust flap: this technology, which is also used on the SLK 55 AMG, reconciles the two apparently conflicting aims of tangible dynamic spirit and the legendary Mercedes-Benz comfort on long journeys.  The flap is continuously adjusted  by map control according to the power called up by the driver, load status and engine speed.  During powerful acceleration, the tailpipes emit an exciting, aggressive sound.


On The Road

The A-Class is huge fun to drive, although inevitably traffic conditions rarely allow you to unleash all those horses.  Driving through Central and on to Kennedy Town all that can be done is trickle along at almost a snail's pace.  But once on the road to Cyberport it is possible to give the car its head and to demonstrate just what an amazing machine it really is.  There is an almost imperceptible amount of turbo lag but once it comes in the acceleration is phenomenal.  And of course, the 4Motion AWD system ensures the A-Class remains stable and sure-footed.

Given the wayward behaviour of the original A-Class in so-called ‘elk avoidance', this latest AMG version abounds with safety features. A 3-stage electronic stability programme (ESP) is complemented by an exclusive AMG high-performance braking system; a tyre pressure warning system is fitted and brake assist.  Inside there are front airbags and front side bags, window bags and a driver's knee bag.

Optional equipment includes the AMG performance suspension package at HK$9,600; the AMG aerodynamic package at $27,800; a rear aerofoil at $9,600; and side airbags in the rear at $5,000.


The Owners

Mercedes-Benz says that its target groups for the A45 AMG range in ages between 30 and mid-40s, younger than the previous AMG customers.  Professionally successful and independent, the buyers are looking for dynamic and individual cars.  They wish to express their style- and trend-driven lifestyle with a vehicle from a recognised performance brand.  The A45 AMG, says the brand, is an agile and emotive high-performance car for these target customers, who prefer to live in an urban environment.


Price and Specifications

The AMG A45 generates 360 bhp (265 kW) which will take the car from a standstill to the benchmark 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds and has a maximum speed (electronically governed) of 250 km/h.  Fuel consumption is nominally 6.9 litres per 100 km.  On the road price is HK$737,000.

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© 2019 Jeff Heselwood. All rights reserved.
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