There is no other way to say it, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia has been on a roll over the past few years, achieving one milestone after another. The success of its models from the previous generation W212 E-Class, the new W205 C-Class, the new W222 S-Class, and then the new W213 E-Class of late. Each of these models have enjoyed unprecedented success in Malaysia, and it is easy to see why – all of them are great cars; brilliant in their own unique way.
And then there is the raise of the “baby-AMG” models that began with the A 45 AMG and then the CLA 45 AMG. They may have smaller four-cylinder turbocharged engines rather than the usual gargantuan eight or twelve cylinder turbocharged engines from the Mercedes mental engines department, but that doesn’t mean they are lesser AMG models. Some purists beg to differ, saying that an AMG engine without eight cylinders or more can never be an AMG car.
Well, we say that is far, way too far from the truth. Having driven the entire range of the “baby-AMG” models, both old and new, these cars are now the very definition of “pocket-rockets”. And no matter the size of the engine or the price of the car, the GLA 45 AMG still stays true to the “one man – one engine” principle that has come to be the cornerstone of AMG engines.
Take the model we drove recently, the refreshed Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG. The new car is meaner, faster, looks super especially in the matte grey or “mountain grey” colour as it is officially known as, and is a brilliant all-rounder. The colour gives the car a purposeful appearance, complemented by the wings, fins, massive 20-inch AMG wheels, and strategically placed ducts, you know this car means business just by looking at it.
The new GLA 45 AMG has updates both aesthetically as well as in the powertrain department. The aesthetic updates include a completely reworked front end that includes a restyled apron, new air intake grilles, a front splitter finished in silver chrome. At the rear, there is a new diffuser as well as a roof spoiler. All these updates are not just for visual appeal, but actually work together to lower the GLA’s aerodynamics and improve overall stability.
Visually, the car is stunning, there is no doubt about that. On a road trip to Johor, we counted at least five occasions where people whipped out their phones to take a photo of the car. That’s a testament to its appearance. But the real treat with this car is in the way it drives.
Underneath the bonnet lays the world’s most powerful series-production four-cylinder turbocharged engine ever produced. It offers 375hp and 475Nm of torque, which is up by 20hp and 25Nm from the pre-facelift model. And just for the record, the GLA 45 AMG produces 191hp per litre, which exceeds the power produced by some super cars.
And though the power may be more than just impressive, what is even more impressive is the manner in which the GLA lays it all down. Floor the accelerator pedal and in just milliseconds the turbocharger spools and pushes you back into the AMG Performance leather seats. The first three gears are a sensory overload as the revs hit the limit, it is best to let the seven-speed AMG Speedshift DCT Sports gearbox do all the shifting because it knows exactly when to shift to avoid losing time and power. Keep your foot down and you will hit 100km/h in just 4.4 seconds. You will hit the 250km/h electronic limit before you know it, and because the car is so refined, you need to really focus or risk creeping into the 200km/h territory without even realizing it. The car is not only fast, but it does it in an unusually relaxed manner, and with all the pops and bangs you would expect of a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine.
The GLA 45 AMG also has a “Jekyll & Hyde” character, meaning it is perfectly happy getting nasty, being spanked into corners with tyres screaming for grip. The all-wheel-drive system working faster than the human brain to ensure all tyres maximise grip at all times so you don’t lose time. And then at the other end of the spectrum, it is also perfectly happy going on a leisurely cruise on the highway. I found its sweet spot to be at about 170km/h. This is the point where the car still remains silent inside, covers distance quickly, and if you like you could still put your foot down and rely on the masses of torque to sling shot to 250km/h. You know, just in case a certain Golf R or Civic Type-R decides to test your merit and you need to immediately show them who’s boss, because seriously, the GLA 45 AMG is the real boss of hot hatch cars.
Though the engine is brilliant and a technical masterpiece, the other star of the show here is the AMG Sport suspension. The front and rear axles have been independently developed by AMG, so it is perfectly suited to fast cornering and agile handling. And because the GLA 45 AMG comes with the AMG Ride Control which gives the driver the option to choose different driving modes (Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, Race and Individual). Between all the modes, the suspension is able to automatically and electronically adjust its stiffness for each wheel. It also constantly adjusts itself depending on the driver’s driving style, the road condition and the selected suspension setting. You feel the difference the most when shifting between Sport and Comfort as the ride gets plusher for passenger comfort, or stiffer for maximum control during spirited driving.
There is also a Race mode where the car shows its real purpose in life – to conquer all the “wannabe” sports cars and show them how it is done, because a real modern day sports car is not only able to ferry your family in comfort with ISOFIX baby seat connections while listening to your favorite music on Spotify, but it is able to transform into a fire breathing monster for the weekend drive with your best mates up Bukit Tinggi, or around Sepang Circuit.
All in all, it is the perfect real world sports car. No seriously, it is, for that kind of money and performance, only a Mercedes-Benz C45 AMG or a Porsche Macan can offer such performance blended with practicality and presence. Of course some may argue that a Honda Civic Type-R too could meet all those criteria, except for presence perhaps. Arriving in a Mercedes-Benz AMG will always trump arriving in a Civic Type-R. And for that reason alone, the Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG is the best sports car you can buy in Malaysia right now as I found out after spending a few days and over a thousand kilometers with one. But is there anything I don’t like about it? Well perhaps some cheap looking plastic bits around the interior, but nothing that doesn’t make me want to rob a bank and buy one right now.