Octane
By Eric Yang
on 9.16.13
Photo by Eric Yang, Sung Han

If you told us five years ago that the Teutonic tuners of AMG were working on a small-displacement turbocharged engine you might have snickered. AMG, the brawny performance tuning division of Mercedes-Benz, has a reputation for hand-crafting (literally) guttural, soul-stirring dynamos. Even the fattest rear tires have been known to vaporize under the yoke of AMG’s torque-rich engines. Taking a page right out of the Detroit muscle manual, for AMG engineers there simply was no replacement for displacement. Until now.

Recently, we made our way out to Bilster Berg, a new $45 million dollar track and driving resort tucked into the eastern foothills of Germany. A former British ammunition depot, the 2.6-mile track has quickly launched to must-drive status due to a challenging mix of speed and extreme elevation changes. It was a worthy canvas for painting tracks with the 2014 Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG.

Though it shares many fundamental underpinnings with its black-tied sibling, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, the A45 AMG won’t be coming to our shores, another car held captive by the throes of market research and logistics. It’s a shame, really, because hatches are experiencing a resurgence here in the US and the A45 in particular would be the darling of many a young, maturing enthusiast. Fortunately, the AMG powertrain will make its way into the CLA — which Mr. Bradley Hasemeyer recently drove — soon.

The A45 still manages to do what AMGs do best: evoke smiles. Easing from Bilster Berg’s small pit after a few trials of the standard A and CLA 250 AMG, we felt comfortable enough with the terrain to dig deeper into the throttle, bringing the clever 2.0-liter engine into a comfortable rev range. The car came alive with a satisfying mechanical snarl, all of its 353 horsepower and 333 lb-ft of torque translating to all four wheels (yes, this is an AWD AMG) via a seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT dual-clutch gearbox similar to the one in the SLS supercar. Though you won’t hear it, AMG has equipped the engine with a high-pressure turbo tuned to an extraordinary 26 psi of boost (race car levels) and engineering reinforcements throughout to ensure longevity. The result is the fastest 2.0-liter engine ever, the perfect instrument to paint the asphalt canvas of Bilster Berg for our latest Track Day.