EXCLUSIVE: Drift mode, 294kW & next level’ handling
THE NEXT MERCEDES-AMG A45 is set to take the hot hatch benchmark to a new level with sub-4.0sec 0-100km/h launch control acceleration, F1-inspired mild hybrid tech and next level’ handling including a tyre-frying drift mode.
Expected to officially break cover at next year’ Frankfurt motor show in September, MOTOR can exclusively reveal the first details of AMG’ hottestever hatch, one that promises to send all-wheel drive rivals like the Audi RS3 and Ford Focus RS packing.
Speaking exclusively about the new hyper hatch at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, recently, AMG chairman Tobias Moers said the 2019 A45 represented a new level of performance for a transverse engine Mercedes-Benz model, keenly describing the upcoming five-door as “an unbelievable car”. Set to follow the recently unveiled A35 4MATIC into Australian showrooms, Moers revealed the new A45 will pack more than 294kW, or over 14kW more than its predecessor, from a new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder – a sufficient enough gain in power to push it ahead of the Audi RS3 for overall firepower. A final power figure is not planned to be disclosed until closer to the new model’ scheduled unveiling next year.
Despite the power bump, the AMG chairman said there is more to the upcoming second-gen A45 than merely output alone, suggesting a largely new chassis, including a mostly bespoke MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension boasting variable damping, making it a “more engaging and more emotional car to drive”.
“There’ no oversteer, it is better handling. You feel every corner at the Nordschleife (a reference to the Nurburgring circuit where a good deal of the new five-door hatchback’ development has taken place during the European summer). It is also better riding; we’ re very focused on chassis stiffness,” said Moers.
Like all new compact models from Mercedes-Benz, the 2019 A45 is based around a heavily re-engineered platform. Known internally as the MFA2 structure, it has been reworked in various areas by the team at AMG to provide the new car with a level of rigidity described as being beyond that of regular fourth-generation A-Class models.
Further changes are aimed at the chassis, which receives its own unique track widths and a newly developed four-wheel drive system (4MATIC+) able to send the majority of drive to the rear wheels in certain driving modes. This is an advance on the old model, whose all-wheel drive system could only apportion up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels.
This critical change in the drivetrain has enabled AMG to provide the new A45 with a drift function similar to that originally brought to the E63 S.
“It will go sideways,” enthused Moers, who previously headed up new vehicle development at AMG prior to being elevated to chairman in 2013, hinting it will go a long way to answering criticism of the clinical driving characteristics of the initial A45.
News of the adoption of the new four-wheel drive system and drift function comes after the unveiling of the new A35, a car the AMG boss said delivers a level of handling beyond “the A45 of today, if not more”.
Moers confirmed the new A45 will pack a “totally new engine”. What he hasn’t yet revealed is the transversely mounted unit will feature a 48-volt electric system used to power an auxiliary compressor and integrated starter/alternator. This gives it mild-hybrid properties, including a so-called boost function that liberates added power under acceleration and the ability to recuperate kinetic energy both under braking and on a trailing throttle.
Based on the M260 engine used by the latest A250 and recently unveiled A35, the new four-cylinder boasts the same swept volume as the M133 that powered the first-gen A45, with bore and stroke of 83mm and 92mm giving an overall capacity of 1991cc.
Key elements of the new engine, which will be produced at Mercedes-Benz’s Kolleda factory in Germany, include a newly designed aluminium block. It is manufactured from an aluminium alloy known as ‘AlSi7Mg’, features the same 90mm cylinder spacing as the M133 and uses Mercedes-Benz’s patented Nanoslide coating for the cylinder walls to reduce frictional losses. Additionally, the cylinder head has also been reworked. It is produced from an aluminium alloy known as ‘AlSi10MgZr’ that includes zirconium silicate to increase thermal conductivity.
The new four-cylinder also receives the German car maker’s spray-guided direct-injection, chain-driven camshafts and a twin-scroll turbocharger that, like that of the old engine, is programmed to operate at a maximum 26psi of boost pressure. Engineering sources at AMG say the routing of air from the inlet manifold into the cylinders is similar to that of the old M133 at around 1200mm, suggesting it will boast similar levels of throttle response to its predecessor.
Details of the exact power output of the new A45 currently remain tightly under wraps, though Moers said AMG’ version of the M260 engine will outgun the M133. “It’ not yet certified, so we can’ talk about the output at the moment. But it will be over 400 metric horsepower,” said the AMG chairman. This points to an output of more than 294kW – which is the exact output of the current Audi RS3.
By comparison, the first-generation A45 served up 280kW at 6000rpm along with 475Nm of torque on a band of revs between 2250 and 5000rpm.
It is largely expected the “over 400 metric horsepower” figure divulged by Moers will be applied to a new range- topping A45 S model, while a ‘base’ A45 will receive a version of the new M260 engine tuned to a similar level as today’s M133 power unit.
Various reports quote the AMG head as saying the A45’s new engine will be mated with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, although this has yet to be 100 per cent confirmed. With the current model offering no manual transmission option, it’s almost certain the next A45 will follow suit.
Assuming it hits the scales at a similar weight to today’s 1480kg firstgeneration A45 4MATIC, the new model may well be in line to become the first series production hatchback to deliver a 0-100km/h time under 4.0sec – some 0.2sec faster than its predecessor. Nothing is official just yet, but AMG officials have revealed the Audi RS3 and its 4.1sec 0-100km/h time is the clear acceleration benchmark, with a launchcontrol-assisted sub-4.0sec sprint likely for the 2019 A45.
Stylistically, AMG’s new hyper hatch will be differentiated from the A35 by a more aggressive Panamerica grille set within a uniquely styled front bumper featuring larger air ducts. Further exterior elements include uniquely designed wheels up to 20 inches in diameter, wider sills underneath the doors, a more prominent rear hatch spoiler and larger rear diffuser.
Inside, the second-generation A45 will feature its own unique digital instrument graphics and Mercedes-Benz’s new MBUX operating system among a range of sporting touches, including an AMG multi-function steering wheel, front seats and trim elements.
The 2019 A45 is unlikely to reach Australian shores by the end of next year, a 2020 on-sale date more likely. Pricing is currently the exclusive realm of speculation; the outgoing, heavily specified A45 is $78,240.
FAR FROM having it all its own way, the second-generation Mercedes-AMG A45 will need to be good to compete against a slew of upcoming models.
Rumoured to be packing a mild-hybrid system (like the A45) in combination with a high-output combustion engine, the next Ford Focus RS poses one of the biggest threats. Expected to channel more than 300kW through all fours, the RS will also adopt an angrier exterior design (artist impression pictured) based on the all-new Focus.
Hyundai is wanting to add a halo model to its range, and the RN30 Concept could be a sign that an all-wheel drive hot hatch is in the works. The RN30 uses a 280kW/450Nm four-cylinder turbo and is tied to a wet-type dual-clutch transmission.
Rumours are gathering that VW is planning a mild-hybrid version of the Golf R, with a combined output of over 300kW (with the EA888 four-pot).
With the next-gen BMW 1 Series switching to front-wheel drive, it seems the M version could become AWD for better packaging. What powers it, four or six cylinders, is the bigger unknown.
SPEEDTAIL! Stunning ‘ Hyper GT’ to exceed 400km/h
MCLAREN HAS unveiled its fastest ever road car, appropriately dubbed the Speedtail. The achievement carries some weight, as Woking’s 1990s supercar, the F1, held the title of world’s fastest car for a decade before being supplanted by the Bugatti Veyron. It’s a stretch to call the Speedtail the F1’s successor, but McLaren is understandably keen to draw parallels between the two.
The most obvious link is the unique three-seat layout, the central driving position flanked by passenger seats recessed into the chassis. Climbing aboard is made easier by ‘directional’ leather, designed to be slippery in one direction to aid ingress, but grippy in the other to hold you in place. The leather itself is a new construction, using a layer of air to reduce material density and weight by 30 per cent.
A quintet of digital screens face the driver, a traditional instrument display in the centre, infotainment and vehicle information on either side and the outer screens receiving a feed from the retractable cameras that replace conventional wing mirrors. Major controls are located in an overhead panel, which along with the steering wheel trim and gearshift paddles, is made from new thin-ply carbon fibre.
As you’d expect from McLaren, carbon fibre features heavily on the Speedtail. It makes up both the bespoke monocoque and all body panels, with the front splitter, diffuser and side skirts finished in ‘1K titanium deposition carbon fibre’. By including a micron-thin layer of titanium into the weave, the number of threads can be reduced from 3000 to 1000 and by anodising the titanium, virtually any colour, shape or symbol can be included in the weave.
Despite the use of fancy materials, the Speedtail weighs a significant 1430kg dry. This figure can be explained by the car’s significant size – at 5137mm it’s as long as the average limousine – and its hybrid drivetrain. McLaren is tight-lipped regarding the specifics, save that it produces a mammoth 772kW, but CEO Mike Flewitt told sister outlet Wheels “it’s a direct-drive hybrid.”
This suggests the Speedtail will adopt a similar powertrain concept to the Koenigsegg Regera, which replaces a conventional transmission with a hydraulic coupling and uses the torque of the electric motors to enable lowspeed operation.
Regardless of the actual configuration, the Speedtail’s acceleration is ridiculous. The only claim made is 0-300km/h in 12.8sec, 0.8sec quicker than the Bugatti Chiron and 3.7sec quicker than McLaren’s previous hybrid hypercar, the P1. Unlike the P1, the Speedtail will have no pure EV capability. What it will have is a 403km/h top speed, achieved by selecting ‘Velocity Mode’, which drops the ride height by 35mm, optimises the powertrain for maximum power and adjusts the angle of the active rear aero flaps. V-max is electronically limited due to tyre constraints, but McLaren says it has no intention of chasing Koenigsegg’s 447.42km/h record, regardless.
Nonetheless, McLaren has made every effort to make the Speedtail as slippery through the air as possible. The carbon fibre front wheel covers trap the disturbed air caused by wheel rotation and ensure it remains ‘attached’ to the body, while the rear-view cameras retract into the doors when Velocity Mode is selected. The number of body shutlines has been reduced to a minimum and the active aero flaps use hydraulics to flex the carbon fibre rather than hinges. The ability to keep the airflow attached to the bodywork has allowed McLaren to use flush air intakes behind the cabin and in the doors rather than drag-inducing snorkels. It’s a masterclass in airflow management.
Another similarity between the Speedtail and the F1 is the number produced. However, while just 106 examples made the latter a financial flop, at £1.75m (AUD$3.16m) each, Speedtail sales will add a healthy £186m (AUD$335m) to Woking’s coffers.
And that’s before the virtually limitless individualisation options are tallied up. Still, with all 106 cars reserved, if you’re not already on the list, it’s too late.
SHARPER STYLING, extra grunt and revised chassis for 2019 supercar
THIS IS THE edgier, sharper, more powerful new Audi R8. The mediumterm future of the four-ringed supercar is the subject of some conjecture, but for now, well-heeled enthusiasts will still be able to enjoy the bark of a naturally aspirated V10.
As before, two models are offered, but the names have been revised. The base’ R8 is now known as the V10 quattro’ and scores an extra 23kW/10Nm for totals of 419kW/550Nm, while its bigger brother is now the performance quattro’ and benefits from 7kW and 20Nm bumps bringing its maximums to 456kW/580Nm.
The 0-100km/h claims drop to 3.4sec and 3.1sec respectively, with the heavier Spyder versions a tenth slower. Otherwise, styling aside, it’ been a case of fiddling around the edges, with retuned steering, suspension and ESC settings and the option of a carbon fibre front anti-roll bar shaving 2kg.
Expect prices to increase slightly when the revised R8s land in Australia towards the end of 2019. –
IN Briefs BITE SIZE
ITALIAN DESIGN and engineering firm ARES Design is making a name for itself with modern interpretations of classic cars. It’ currently developing a modern-day DeTomaso Pantera, while Project Pony plans to revive the Ferrari 412, a V12 grand tourer produced between 1985-’ 89. ARES is keeping the base car secret for now, but the 412’ 2+2 origins suggest Ferrari’ GTC4 Lusso sits beneath the retro lines, complete with a 507kW 6.3-litre V12, slightly more than double the power output of the original 412. –
FOR SOME people too much is never enough. US company Speedkore has taken a Dodge Demon – a car that’ pretty handy on a drag strip in stock form – replaced the supercharger with twin turbos and the body panels with carbon fibre to achieve an 8.77sec quarter mile time at 259.96km/h. It’ appear at SEMA before chasing an 8.5sec run.
IF YOU’ a firm believer in there’ no replacement for displacement’ then Ford has the engine for you. With a whopping 572ci (that’ 9.4 litres!) to play with, this Ford Performance V8 crate engine is primarily intended for drag use, producing a bulletproof 488kW/963Nm on pump fuel. If you’ got $30,000 to spend, call Herrod Performance.
FORD WAVED a magic wand over the V8 Mustang for its MY18 update with impressive results, now its four-pot sibling has arrived in Australia. Power from the 2.3-litre turbo four has dropped 9kW, but torque is up 9Nm. A manual coupe is $49,990, a $4000 increase, with the new 10-speed auto adding $3000 while the convertible is $59,490.
...using Ferrari’ clever new ‘ Dynamic Enhancer’
FERRARI’ S LATEST HANDLING TOOL is about intentional and unintentional loss of traction – supporting plenty of the former, to make your driving way more fun, without letting it progress into the latter. Or, in layman’ terms, a crash.
Ferrari has used extremely clever traction-control systems for years, with Side Slip Control (SSC) having found a home in some of Maranello’ most extreme cars since the 458 Speciale, followed by sideways superstars including the 488 GTB, F12 tdf and now the 488 Pista. SSC, in short, manipulates the limited-slip diff to allow a certain amount of slide to happen naturally.
Dynamic Enhancer supplements that by adding in some braking. The goal of Dynamic Enhancer is to ensure more predictable on-the-limit handling, reducing the likelihood that you’ find yourself having to suddenly countersteer.
Dynamic Enhancer is unique to the Pista for now. We’ ve had a few chances to try Dynamic Enhancer, first on the 488 Pista’ press launch and now in our comparison against the Porsche 911 GT2 RS (see page 64), both successful. To get started all you have to do is flick that chunky Manettino switch to CT Off and the track is your powersliding oyster. That’ far simpler than Mercedes-AMG’ Drift mode, which requires several steps to activate, and the BMW M5’ front-axle drive deactivation, which involves fiddling with the iDrive controller.
The Pista’ systems predict a yaw moment’ based on the Side Slip Control’ algorithms, which work with the vehicle dynamics ECU to calculate how much brake pressure is required at each wheel to counteract any significant loss of traction.
Give that button a prod to unleash one of the best V8s ever made
Tweak the manettino switch a couple of notches to CT Off
Get going on track and remember to have a tyre shop on speed dial
The moment a slide is initiated, Dynamic Enhancer almost imperceptibly scrubs both the front and rear brakes to make sure you come out the other end pointing the right way without any need for sawing at the wheel like you’ re at the helm of HMS Victory during a typhoon.
By comparison, less sophisticated traction control systems will leave most of the electronic intervention very late, then snap it on, not only jolting the driver at a time of heavy g-forces, but running the risk of said g-forces kicking you the other way.
On a track it really is other-worldly. It’ a driving aid, not a replacement for the driver; you can, of course, still spin out when the car is in CT Off mode. The system is doing its job when you’ re trying to stay close to the limit in this formidable 530kW Ferrari and happy to have the tail step out. You feel like you have full control, with the Dynamic Enhancer there to help when needed. The way it catches itself truly boggles the mind.
The Pista seems to be able to tell the difference between slides you wanted to initiate and those that come about quite suddenly and unintentionally. It allows plenty of slip when you’ re performing Swan Lake on a track, but gently reins things in when it thinks you’ re more like Bambi on ice. It still requires a skilled, confident driver; in fact it works so well that it can increase your skill and confidence.