Mercedes A45 AMG vs Audi S3 vs BMW M135i CAR Giant Test (2013)…

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Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Special Series

Mercedes A45 AMG vs Audi S3 vs BMW M135i: CAR Test (2013)

By Georg (photography by James Lipman)


08 August 2013 06:40

months of each other, the big premium German carmakers released their own £30k-plus hot All boast turbocharged engines and but which is best: Mercedes A45 Audi S3. or BMW M135i. Read on for the CAR verdict.

A new breed of fast car

We used to be driving ourselves up here in trick Mitsubishi Evos and Subaru Imprezas on relatively affordable fast that loomed large our heads and on our bedroom walls. Ten on, however, the once untouchable Japanese batmobiles are about as en as a Nokia 3110 mobile or Rio MP3 player. Instead, the compact most petrolheads embrace in still can be had with four four-wheel drive and turbocharged engines, but they are no longer derivatives of rally-bred icons in the Far East. It’s Deutschland Alles these days, eclipsing mainstream, Freude Kraft dressed up in more acceptable formats. Offering a mix of exciting dynamics, engineering and fire-breathing performance, the latest of the super-GTI segment are the 296bhp S3, the 316bhp BMW M135i, and the new (and rampant) 355bhp Mercedes A45 Gentlemen, start your for a two-day, no-holds-barred shootout on the finest tyre-shredding, brake-eating

Normally in June, all passes Italy to Austria and Switzerland are but since this spring is an which has been pulled evidently erasing summer in the we had virtually the entire Alps to Wherever a sign read closed due to snow’ there was miles of virtually traffic-free territory lying ahead. Add to a felt 50 miles of visibility and on the threshold of driver’s paradise. the perfect place to showcase how much the hot hatch has changed: in the first VW Golf GTI had 110bhp; the new Mk7 GTI has but now this mad AMG Merc has 355bhp.

Tell me about the mad Mercedes A45 hardware

To turn this punch into a mighty in the butt, Mercedes has mated its seven-speed twin-clutch transmission to an tuned 4Matic driveline. The of the Speedshift ’box is borrowed the SLS AMG GT, which is why the sportiest A-class a computer-generated heel-and-toe downshift a Racestart function and, in and Sport settings, the same shifts as the flagship gullwing In C (for Controlled Efficiency), of the Earth may relish start/stop and gearchanges at low revs. In S, the same is repeated at a brisker pace. In M, you the paddle piano, so don’t the black box to help out when the of the rev counter suddenly hits its limit. But the transmission will not early downshift orders. It only shift down it reckons that the revolutions are matched, which definitely too long on the fast approach to a bend. It’s a fault afflicts every AMG, A45 to SLS, to varying degrees.

the A45 AMG like to drive?

Did the SLS-inspired A45 AMG us with a rapid-fire throttle Yes and no. In combination with the new sports (with a continuously adjustable pinched from the SLK55 the twin-scroll turbo (which at a high 1.8bar) swings the hard and early, and when deep in the rev range there’s no with throttle response. But the ’box which can undermine effort by sometimes preselecting the ratio, by taking a little too to make up its electronic mind now and and by occasionally triggering a counter-productive A software issue perhaps, but one needs addressing.

On a different front, the AMG computer do a splendid job relaying a hackle-raising of speed. By momentarily retarding and injection, they make all-out upshifts bark as as the SLS’s V8, they voice an blat-blat during downshifts, and telegraph a catchy cocktail of whine and wastegate whistle the cabin. It’s artificial, but nice. And there’s bite to the bark: with Racestart this 1480kg A-class howl in 4.6sec from officially return around and if you spend a small fortune on the AMG Pack, the top speed rises 155 to 169mph, which almost the engine’s cut-out speed. It feel as manically fast as the extreme Evos and Scoobys of or gap the Audi and BMW with quite the you’d expect, but there’s no the punch of that little

The engine delivers quantifiable urge with real the steering fuses input and to a wonderfully three-dimensional level of the four-wheel drive distributes with the eerie professionalism of a ace dealing his rounds, and the brakes with vigour and determination at the foot of the pass, smoke beg for mercy. The A45 AMG is as chuckable as it is sure-footed. It can on three wheels, decelerate at a yaw angle, and put the power down earlier than the Audi.

it cannot do is ride well, Even on smooth blacktop it is obvious that eiderdowns not on the shopping list. Worse, is on relatively smooth roads in Europe, yet CAR’s long-term diesel already struggles on British Tarmac. And unless got a crush on your osteopath, away from the optional AMG suspension, which features tauter spring and damper We’d like more from the steering wheel fast cornering too, and pewter paint aside, for the A45 to less like any other with the optional AMG bodykit.

How does the Audi S3 compare?

The As luck would have it, not all arrived in the required specification, resulted in the widest possible of drivetrain and suspension options. Our S3 was one of the few not fitted with the desirable S-tronic transmission. The manual works well – short positive action, pragmatically gears – but at 5.2sec to 62mph it four-tenths to the paddle-shift equivalent by taking more time to on the slices of the nicely stacked cake. At 280lb ft, the turbocharged unit is not quite as well as its rivals, and yet it rolls out the dough all the way 1800 to 5500rpm.

WRX STI and Evo IX ran turbochargers the of an infant’s head, causing throttle lag followed by even serious forward thrust. In the of these two wild, winged the motor industry has learned a lot the art of turbocharging, virtually eliminating to throttle orders in the process. At that’s what we thought setting off on the trails of Hannibal in highly tuned triplets. No turbo lag? Hop into the S3 and the vice is back, large as and annoying. The extra-cost S-tronic may to an cushion the effect, but in the manual one must change down to keep at least the bottom two of the boost gauge lit most of the

Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Special Series

Which is a shame because the delay there is always oomph on tap to zoom the car towards the apex. It takes an adjustment in and timing to step on the gas earlier so little momentum is lost Snow White is propelling onto the next straight. this occasionally blurred between accelerator and engine is partly due to the fact that the 2.0 unit blends direct (at low and high loads) with injection (at part loads).

After the A45 the throttle response lax, and the brakes bite sharply but without the AMG’s but at ten-tenths pace the S3 is so easy to The M135i will want to into a corner and oversteer at the but the Audi goes round like a slot racer a second pin between the rear Neutrality is the name of its game. Wrong term. The S3 rewards its with a different pot-pourri of The roadholding is so tenacious, and although the is overly light and a little mum (no how you set the weighting via the Drive Select it nonetheless turns honing the into a surprisingly entertaining Plus the easy-to-modulate brakes are enough to push the point of no way past the apex, and thanks to super-sharp anchors, the reassuring grip, the low kerbweight, and a guardian named Quattro, the 296bhp S3 can in touch with its 316bhp and challengers. Up to a point. Eventually, the gap widen and the Audi will back, yet still gracefully its composure. Especially at a 10/10 the S3 is even easier to drive the BMW.

Is the ‘M-Performance’ 1-series a relation?

The M135i feels softer edged than the 335bhp 1-series M Coupe. little bruiser, mixing the suspension and brakes with a chassis, manual gearbox and turbo engine was a riotous but the M135i is different. Believe it or but the high-end 1-series makes the 1M Coupe pale in more than one. How come? this half-breed M car is benign of brutal, cossetting instead of hard, relaxed instead of strung, easily accessible of radically focused.

Through the countless hairpins, up slopes, and on a very mixed bag of roads, the absence of driven wheels and a limited-slip differential at the beginning of our drive like a dynamic deficiency of the BMW – but we were Thanks to its good dynamic distribution, the chip-controlled traction and those fine composed-to-order Pilot Supersport tyres, the car rarely put a foot wrong. 

engine is sweeter than with cream, whipping through the revs, the mighty urge putting the four-cylinder into perspective, the two extra of the straight-six ensuring there are no artificial ingredients involved in this 3.0-litre motor spine-tinglingly good when the gates open. The optional automatic cracks quickly the upshifts too, is keener to than the Merc’s dual-clutch and hides any trace of turbo And the BMW also is clearly the most car in this group: even the driving experience selector in or Sport Plus, the suspension soak up most vagaries a smile.

But marketing calls niche models M Performance and that’s exactly what the is: M make-up plus a performance and chassis, all wrapped up in the clothes of a gran turismo. The M135i was our one choice on the poorly maintained autostrada, but it is a touch too laid-back to your blood to the boil on memorable Alpine special Furthermore, the brakes are on the soft when pushed, the quick (only two turns from to lock) feels overdamped and and there is more roll and and dive than we expected a 1-series model wearing the M Full marks for ride panache and refinement, but only 3.5 out of five for absolute sportiness and involvement.

Would the M135i have won if it better and felt more inside? It might have closer, but it would still be of a GT – and we still wonder how the 1-series was type-approved for daytime operation on roads. Thankfully a facelift right that particular in 2014. The Audi? It is tight-lipped, and reserved, strangely robotic in the way it and flawed in its ability to turn a performance into a tangible experience. There are too many of indifference and artificiality in what is, in a solid concept.


It after 48 hours, 500-odd 269 litres of premium unleaded, and fresh shirts, the A45 AMG takes the ahead of the BMW and the Audi, off-putting tag notwithstanding. The M135i feels a neatly spiced up 1-series, the S3 like an S-line A3 with poke. In contrast, the A45 feels AMG than A-class, more than mainstream, more than bespoilered. For the time this Mercedes rules the that was once owned by Mitsu friends. But as soon as the M2 and the next 375bhp RS3 are ready to up the gauntlet, we shall return to dream driving roads for an

Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMG Special Series

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