THE Mercedes-Benz A-Class facelift cars might seem too tame for the Sepang racing circuit, especially as a family saloon, but the Mercedes-AMG variants such as the A 45 S 4Matic+ certainly felt right at home charging around corners.
That was how we came away after taking the latest and A 45 S and A 200 in succession around the full 5.54km of the Sepang Circuit last week.
And a small bonus was driving the Mercedes-AMG EQE 53 one lap around the circuit, which was a wee bit too short to get to grips with the performance side of electric propulsion.
The latest A-Class line-up gets visual updates that are mostly in the aesthetics to add a fresh aura to the forward-sloping bonnet with two power bulges, a steep shark nose and flat headlamps (complete with High Beam Assist for both saloon variants).
The newbie here is the redesigned radiator grille with a geometry pattern for the A 200 and “star” design for the A 250 4Matic.
At the rear, a new rear diffuser complements the standard LED light assembly.
The interior sees new, three-dimensionally embossed Artico man-made leather upholstery.
The A 200’s Progressive trim features a new, dark carbon-fibre look trim element to enhance the already impressive instrument panel and doors.
For the A 250 in AMG Line trimming, the ambience leans towards performance and features light longitudinal grain aluminium trim and red contrasting top-stitching in the Artico/Microfiber seats.
The standard freestanding dual-screen display, both measuring 10.25 inches, appears to float with the wide-screen look.
The new A-Class hardware and software have also been enhanced with the latest generation of MBUX (NTG7).
The telematics is also revised and an additional USB-C port is added for further connectivity while all USB ports in the car offer fast-charging capabilities.
Safety assistance is also given an update and both variants come with LED headlamps and a Parking Package with a reverse camera.
This includes Active Parking Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Exit Warning Assist and Active Brake Assist while the A 250 has the additional Sports Brake System that delivers powerful deceleration even after repeated heavy use.
The power department is not overlooked either and the updates see the A 200 having a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission to complement the 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine.
The A 250’s 2.0-litre engine is electrified and paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
As a mild hybrid, it is equipped with an additional 48-volt electrical system to support agility when taking off with 13.6hp (10kW) more power.
The Mercedes-AMG A-Class range sees the A 35 available as a saloon while the A 45 S remains as a Hatchback.
These models see revised headlamps, AMG-specific radiator grille, a new front apron and a new round badge with the AMG emblem instead of the Mercedes star with a laurel wreath to stamp its latest status.
The new AMG look includes a new wheel design, rear spoiler lip, revised rear light cluster and the hallmark round exhaust pipes (twin flow for the A 45).
At the Mercedes Sepang Drive Experience, the luck of the draw saw us taking to the circuit in the A 45 S, followed by the A 200.
We immediately selected Sport+ for the AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as we believed the and A 45 S was best experienced driven hard and fast.
We liked the way the transmission downshifted while keeping the engine revs up as we braked hard for certain corners so that the car’s handling was smooth and predictable, and the uptake of speed on exiting the corner was strong and immediate.
Body-roll was very nicely controlled and although we had the Michelin Pilot Sport 245/35 R19 tyres squealing at the tighter corners, the and A 45 S was very much at home driven in a robust manner.
We didn’t check out the AMG Dynamic Select options having chosen rather to just focus on the A 45 S’ prowess at the Sepang Circuit as it were.
The A 35 has a milder tuned 2.0-litre engine of 306hp/400Nm versus the A 45 S cranked out 421hp/500Nm.
It is said to accelerate from 0 to 100kph in 4.8 seconds with a top speed of 250kph against the A 45 S’ 3.9 seconds and a maximum speed of 270kph.
By the way, we saw slightly above 180kph on the head-up display along the Sepang straight before hitting the brakes hard for the approaching corner.
Our next go at the A 200 was a gentler drive by comparison although we had our share of tyre squeals too (tyres were Continental EcoContact 205/55 R17) at more or less the same tight corners.
Though the 1.4-litre turbo engine delivers a lower output of 163hp/270Nm, the output is still impressive for its displacement class.
Its top speed is 230kph and 0-100kph acceleration is achieved in 8.3 seconds; as a comparison, we managed slightly above 150kph on the Sepang straight before braking hard for the corner.
Nevertheless, we enjoyed driving the A 200 over two laps despite not having a Sports+ mode option.
It might lean a bit more than the A 45 S into the tight corners but we found its predictable handling much to our liking for an entry-level premium saloon.
The recommended retail price (on the road without insurance) starts from RM238,888 for the A 200 and goes to RM264,000 for the A 250, RM354,000 for the A 35, RM509,888 for the A 45 S Standard and RM539,888 for the Street Style Edition.
Our one-lap drive in the AMG EQE 53 EV gave us a hint of its performance potential from the huge torque charging through as we exited from a corner (we were on Sports+ mode here too).
By the way, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia also gave the media a preview of the AMG SL 43 at the Sepang circuit.
This is a 2+2 seater open-top roadster with a fabric soft top powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine delivering 381hp and 480Nm of torque.
It sprints to 100kph in 4.9 seconds, has a top speed of 275kph and is yours for an estimated one million ringgit on the road without insurance.