Key considerations

  • Available for £17,000
  • 2.0 litre petrol inline four, turbocharged
  • Eye-widening acceleration and grip
  • ‘Aero package isn’t chavvy’ shock
  • Early engine/transmission woes sorted
  • Firm residuals on 2016-on facelifts

OVERVIEW

The A45 was 38 feet long, weighed 64 tonnes and had a maximum speed of 22mph. Oh hang on, there’s been a mistake; that’s the spec of the A45 that formed the basis of the British Army’s Conqueror tank.

The Mercedes-AMG A45, or to be typographically nearly accurate the A 45 (Mercedes’ naming protocol actually stipulates a half-space rather than a full one between model letters and numbers) obviously wasn’t anything like a tank. The Conqueror never saw active war service, but the big billy version of the third-gen W176 A-Class did step into a hail of bullets when it entered the hot hatch battleground in 2013. Its main rivals – BMW’s M135i, Audi’s RS3, and VW’s Golf R – were all five-star cars.

Luckily the mightiest A-Class came well-armed for the battle. With 360hp, a gung-ho chassis, 4Matic all-wheel drive and paddle-operated AMG Speedshift dual-clutch 7-speed transmission, the A45 stormed through the 0-62 sprint in 4.6sec and ran on to a limited top speed of 155mph (or 168mph with the Driver’s Pack) pretty much irrespective of underfoot conditions. When it reached a corner, as every car eventually does, it would be helped around it by a three-stage electronic stability system featuring Curve Dynamic Assist, a joint development with BMW that would apply brake pressure asymmetrically between the left and right side as required, even if the driver was deep into (or even beyond) the assistive limits of regular anti-lock braking.

When Audi released the 367hp RS3 in 2015 with the rather churlish purpose of making the A45 look weedy, Mercedes effortlessly responded with a facelift that hoisted the A’s power to 381hp through new valvetrain components and new turbo/timing settings, added new factory settings for the Comfort, Sport and Sport+ drive modes, closed up 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th gear ratios, and tweaked the aero. Key among a new set of options was AMG Dynamic Plus which added a locking front diff, adaptive damping and an ‘up yours Audi’ Race mode.

If the extra bonkers of that 2016MY refresh wasn’t enough, super-bonkers became available in August 2019 in the shape of a new generation of A45, including the 421hp S. It wasn’t what you’d call cheap at £50,595, but its ferocious power, 168mph top speed and 3.9sec 0-62mph time marked its card as the most powerful series production hot hatchback ever.

Given how new they are, you’ll have to look hard for a used A45 S. We found just one on sale in the UK at the time of writing, a 1,400-miler with a price tag ten quid short of £60,000. That’s why in this buying guide we’ll be passing our gaze over the more generally available A45s of 2013 to 2018, examples of which you will readily find from as little as £17,000.

SPECIFICATION | MERCEDES A45 AMG

Engine: 1,991cc, inline four, turbocharged
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive
Power (hp): [email protected],000rpm
Torque (lb ft): [email protected],250-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.6 secs (4.2 secs in 381hp/350lb ft 2016 refresh)
Top speed: 155mph (governed)
Weight: 1,555kg
MPG: 40.9 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 161g/km
Wheels: 8×18
Tyres: 235/40
On sale: 2013 – 2018
Price new: £37,845
Price now: from £17,000

Note for reference: car weight and power data are hard to pin down with absolute certainty. For consistency, we use the same source for all our guides. We hope the data we use is right more often than it’s wrong. Our advice is to treat it as relative rather than definitive.

ENGINE & GEARBOX

The A45’s 2.0 variable valve timing motor has a single twin-scroll turbocharger running 1.8 bar of boost, a 6,700rpm redline and (if you’re being hyper critical and you’re not old enough to remember the laggy old days of the first turbo road cars) not that much happening below 3,000rpm. Firms like Rebellion will offer you plenty of power upgrade options, for example a Stage 2 package (intake, downpipe, remap) which would drop the 0-62 to under 3.5sec and give you a 0-100 time of eight and a bit seconds.

It’s a pretty reliable unit considering the power it makes, but you do need to be aware that this is a thoroughbred performance car. Don’t neglect level checks as these engines may consume a little oil. There were a few problems with the turbocharger oil feed on cars built before February (or March, opinions vary) 2014. They didn’t have anti-surge valves, which diverted damaging pressure to the impeller, but Mercedes reportedly checked every car for this fault so you’d be unlucky to find one that hasn’t been put right.

The engine sounds nicely angry for an inline four, too, albeit perhaps a bit droney at motorway cruising speeds. There was a switchable exhaust flap to suit your mood, and if you were flush with cash you could blow four grand on an AMG Performance exhaust.

The 7-speed DCT box is fast and slick. Sport and Manual modes do a decent job of masking that slight turbo lag but Comfort and Comfort Eco modes take quite a big edge off the shifting fun. Having said that, the box can actually simulate double-declutching on downshifts, though you might think this is a bit ‘retro gone mad’ on a modern DCT.

Transmissions on pre-2015 cars weren’t problem-free, especially in colder climates. Slow and/or jerky downshifting (especially from 2nd to 1st), and crunching going into reverse resulted in more than one gearbox being replaced under warranty, and there was a service software upgrade too. As with the engine, cars with this issue will be hard to find now. Distant thudding and ‘pushing’ sensations on slow-speed downshifts or when selecting drive from a standstill are normal quirks of this transmission.

Juddery starts or odd noises from the transmission suggest that a previous owner may have overindulged in the addictive but potentially gearbox-shredding pleasures of ‘Race Start’, AMG’s version of launch control. All you had to do was pull both paddles back, confirm your choice with the right paddle, and then floor it. Maybe it was too easy.

Very little goes wrong with A45s from an electronic point of view. If there are any issues, it could be that something has been jarred out of place as a result of a biff. When you’re viewing a car try to put your mind at rest on this front by taking along someone with a good diagnostic kit and the knowhow to use it.

This is a high-performance car, so transmission fluid should be changed every 50,000 kilometres (31,000 miles) and engine oil every 20,000km (12,500 miles), at which point you should also check the level of differential oil.

The A45’s official combined fuel consumption, remarkably, was 40mpg. Driven in the intended manner, that could easily halve, but it’s interesting to note that Autocar’s long-term A45 achieved 31.1mpg overall.

CHASSIS

The A45’s suspension was pretty stiff to start with, and passive before the facelift introduced the option of adaptive dampers; even then its Comfort settings didn’t feel unlike a Golf R’s Sport mode. Beyond that there was a factory sports suspension option as well that brought in 20 per cent stiffer springs and revised dampers to match. In all honesty you’d only enjoy that package on British roads if you’d moved to a new job with great dental cover and you needed to loosen a few old fillings. KW Clubsport used to do a fully adjustable coilover kit for these cars at around £2,200 including top mounts and VAT. Other choices are available etc.

Although the A45 is all-wheel drive, the front tyres will wear out quicker than the rears on hard-driven cars because the rears never get more than 50 percent of the power dished out by the 4Matic system, whereas the fronts can get up to 100 percent of it. Essentially it’s a front-driver with RWD on tap when the fronts lose grip. For maximum acceleration the front/rear split is 60/40. Michelin Pilot Super Sports were highly rated in period and today’s equivalents perform equally well.

The nature of the beast means that brake parts are highly consumable. You can monitor their status on screen as well as via the medium of your own eyes.

BODYWORK

The oldest A45 is only seven years old, so corrosion won’t be a problem for a good while yet.

Although quite a few A45 fans prefer the unadorned ‘street sleeper’ look, new A 45s could be specified with an Aero pack consisting of front and rear winglets (also known as canards or ‘flics’) and a not-so-subtle rear roof spoiler. Despite its commonly used ‘ASBO’ alternative name, the Aero pack is seen as desirable in the used market and adds value.

If the A45 you’re looking at doesn’t have the factory Aero you can always pick up one of the many kits that are available on the aftermarket, but be prepared to be sneered at when parking up at an owners club meet. The fit and quality of non-original parts is unlikely to be as good as the OEM stuff unless you’re prepared to pay big bucks, and even then it’s not guaranteed.

INTERIOR

As you’d expect from an AMG Mercedes, the standard A45 cabin neatly combines German quality with more than a smattering of carbon fibre. Grip-tight sports seats locate you well, but as anyone who has worn tight trousers will tell you, the downside of close human-on-fabric interaction can be accelerated wear. That will be more obvious on A45s with the optional half-leather seats.

Some degree of trim rattle is only to be expected, given the stiffish nature of the chassis. Post-refresh cars suffer less from this, but hard-used A45s of any age may rattle quite a bit. Be healthily suspicious of what wraps may be concealing. Upgraded sound systems are appreciated by buyers, as is a panoramic roof.

Remember that underneath all the A45 bells and whistles this is an A-Class, which means the same space, five-door practicality and (yes) prestige that ordinary A-Class owners enjoy. The A-Class has come a very long way from a disastrous start when it was better known for falling over than it was for providing safe family transport. It’s now a very good car whose shortcomings (noise, civility and the like) are largely irrelevant in a sporty variant like the A45.

PH VERDICT

Some say that Mercedes dropped a bit of a clanger with the launch of the A45. It could and probably should have had strong residuals built in, but the theory goes that too many cars were put on the market too soon, with a lot of pre-registered 14-plate examples initially sitting around dealerships unsold.

Things seem to have changed, thanks in no small part to the wonder of the 2016 refresh which didn’t just boost power but also usefully freed up the chassis and transmission. If your mate bought a ’16-plate 381hp A45 for about £27,000 last year, and you fancy the idea of one just like it this year, you’ll probably know that there’s been very little price erosion over the past 12 months. Your pal’s car will still cost you about £26-£27,000 today. A 367hp RS3 would have been around £3k more expensive than the Merc in 2019, and that difference will still be applicable in 2020. Not sure what all this proves, if it proves anything. For devotees who will always take Merc’s pocket battleship over Audi’s one, it may prove their view that the A45 is a bargain.

Comprehensive service histories are always highly desirable on any car but that’s especially true with the A45. Skimping on servicing or on consumable items like tyres and brakes sort of defeats the object of running a car like this because you won’t be enjoying the level of performance that AMG intended A45 owners to have. In addition to that, if the next potential owner has any kind of insight and knowledge on these cars, they’re very likely to reward your slipshod approach with an insultingly (to you) lowball offer.

Looking for A45s in PH Classifieds we found this two-owner 2013 car in black with 76,000 miles, pano roof and Aero package. It has a full M-B history, but the last service was almost a year ago so you should factor the cost of that into the otherwise tempting £17,950 price.

The extra appeal of the powered-up facelift cars is reflected in their prices. The cheapest one on PH Classifieds is this 60,000-mile specimen in Marmite, sorry Elbaite, Green. The £26,495 price may seem hefty but so is the spec.

At the very top of the regular W176 A45 price point is a car like this, registered in 2017 and with a tonne of options to accompany its 13,000 miles – it’s on offer at £32,995.

For them as likes a special edition, an Edition 1 car came out in the A45’s first year. It was in Cirrus White with a twin black stripe on the bonnet, roof and side and red accents on the wheel centres, brake calipers, door mirrors, radiator and roof spoiler, as well as inside where there were AMG Performance seats. You don’t see many of these for sale in the UK, and still less do you see the Petronas 2015 World Championship Edition that was released in (guess) 2015 to celebrate Mercedes’ second successive F1 constructors’ championship. With the Aero and Dynamic Plus packs and a slightly dodgy paint scheme as standard it cost £46,000 then and goes for between £33,000 and £37,000 now, depending on the mileage and year – they were still being registered in 2017.