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Mercedes-AMG A 45 hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The Mercedes-AMG A 45 S is massively powerful and has a clever four-wheel-drive system

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It's impossible to discuss the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S without starting with the engine. Somehow, AMG's engineers have managed to squeeze a massive 415bhp out of a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine making it the most powerful four-cylinder engine ever produced. It’s also the hottest hatchback ever created, with a rapid 0-62mph-time of 3.9 seconds putting it ahead of a number of far more expensive sports and supercars.

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Unlike a highly strung racing car or a production car that’s been modified by aftermarket tuners, the A 45 S is happy being driven smoothly and easily around town and on long motorway schleps. In keeping with this surprisingly easy going demeanour, its suspension also feels far smoother and more forgiving than in the older model. Accelerate hard, though, and the car shows a totally different character as the new sports exhaust barks and bangs, the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic fires through gears and the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system claws at the tarmac.

The latter is a more advanced system that can now not only send 50% of the engine's power to the back wheels, but also shuffle it across the rear axle to boost agility and offer a 'Drift mode'. Drive the A 45 S hard and wheel spin is almost non-existent, and you can feel the car constantly juggling power to the wheel with the most grip. The steering is relatively light, but weights up naturally and there’s just enough feedback to let you know what the front tyres are doing – something that means the A45 S isn’t just a grip monster, but also an involving car to drive in a way that some other all-wheel drive hatches occasionally miss out on.

In terms of sheer performance, the AMG A 45 S undoubtedly shifts the hot hatch goalposts but it also raises another question; is the amount of fun to be had in a hot hatchback directly and inextricably linked to how much power it has? One answer is that the cheaper, less powerful Honda Civic Type R is just as good – and arguably more fun – to drive at the limit, even if it isn't as quick from A to B.

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