The most eagerly anticipated quintet of performance hatches and small sedans of the year have arrived in SA.
The flagship Mercedes-AMG A45 S in hatch and swoopy CLA 45 S shape are joined by the 35 AMG line-up comprising the A35 in hatch, sedan and CLA guises.
Thanks to the preceding A45 their driving DNA is quite familiar. This means a turbocharged 2.0l four-cylinder upfront and a swanky interior atop a 4Matic drivetrain. The A35s are loosely based on the bones of the old A45 but with the harshness and girder stiff damping ironed out.
The A35 hatch which was first on my list to drive felt superbly comfortable, polished and much muted at the Zwartkops Raceway’s start line where I got ready to experience the standard fitment launch control system.
Any scepticism about this model’s lack of poke will be left firmly on the tarmac as it scorches off the line with authentic vigour. It’s as good as I had thought with its 2.0l engine with outputs of 225kW and 400Nm, combined with a seven-speed automatic.
All models are quite responsive with clean off the line getaways while the 4Matic suspension that’s fitted with electronic LSD makes for a good show of grip in the bends. Revised steering is evident and there’s better front-end bite than in the old A45.
The 0-100km/h sprint is 4.7 seconds for the A35 hatch, 4.8 seconds for the sedan and 4.9 seconds for the CLA. Top speed here is 250km/h.
There is a definitive variance between the 35s and the A45 S which has its 2.0l turbo engine boosted to 310kW and 500Nm, mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch auto. Claimed performance is 3.9 seconds from 0-100km/h for the A45 S hatch and 4.0 seconds for the CLA 45 S. Top speed in both is rated at 270km/h.
However, the true mark of their fierceness is more emphasis on sports driving and configuration through various modes, all dedicated to allow the driver to select how best to enjoy their 45s.
There’s fantastic body control at the limit with the crispest of turn-ins not seen before in the mainstream hot hatch arena. They are very communicative through the seat and the steering wheel. You can also feel the mechanical LSD busy doing its thing to offer the 45s more of a pivoting rear for much better cornering.
An AMG Track Pace app is standard fitment for the 45 S range. This is a race engineer programme that monitors racetrack laps and sector times. The quality of the ride in the pair of juggernauts remained plush even when barrelling down Zwartkops racetrack, but if you really want to let the demons out you can select Drift Mode.
Here the 4Matic+ underpinnings use electronic torque distribution trickery to send more power to the rear wheels to emulate Ken Block. But because this exercise requires the widest of berths to enjoy safely, do ensure you activate the feature only at a skid pan.
Both ranges get high levels of premium content inside their cabins as we’ve come to expect of Mercedes-Benz products. First and foremost, finding an ideal position behind the MBUX screens was a doddle. Adjustment of the bolstered and leather-clad seats in all cars can be electric or manual while the captain’s chair squab squats suitably low and their thick-rimmed steering wheels adjust in all directions.
Much of the usual luxury and safety fare is also available and their family and everyday practicality didn’t feel as diminished. If the 35s are going to give you excellent alacrity and power on your favourite back roads, then the 45s will simply blow your socks off.
A35 4Matic Hatch —,R841,000
A35 4Matic Sedan —, R850,000
CLA35 4Matic — R948,000
A45 S 4Matic + —, R1,101,000
CLA45 S 4Matic+ —, R1,211,000
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