By Wayne Gorrett
While not a ‘true’ AMG, the Mercedes-Benz A250 BlueEFFICIENCY ‘Engineered by AMG’ bridges the narrowing gap between stonking performance and frugal economy.
☀ ☀ ☀
To be honest, it would have taken a lot of convincing for me to have invested in the old A-Class Merc. Don’t get me wrong, once they stopped it from falling over in a light breeze it wasn’t a bad car. It’s just that it was nigh impossible to enthuse over – lumpy, frumpy and seeping ‘librarian’ nuances like a lemon drizzle cake.
Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz wisely decided to turn the raison d’être of the A-Class entirely on its head and developed the really good all-new A-Class – which, as a premium hatchback, is something entirely different altogether – ditching the pseudo-MPV profile and blancmange-like driving dynamics. Besides, that mantle has been assumed grasped by the B-Class.
I’ve driven the new A-Class in mid-range 180 SE spec. You can read about it here.
But this A250 BlueEFFICIENCY ‘Engineered by AMG’ variant builds on those creditable gains to deliver an altogether different kind of car.
Don’t be confused though, it’s not actually an AMG product in the strictest sense, nor does it carry AMG branding of any sort. Also, a quick rummage through the car configurator on the MBUK website reveals the unique front ‘starlight’ grille pictured on the test car seems to no longer be available. Pity, as it looked quite neat. However, with a handsome body kit and some optional extras it certainly has a level above a standard A-Class.
Prices start at £28,250 and, with the options list raided to within an inch of its life, the test car’s price soared to ‘silly-money’ £39,010. That is serious dosh for what is essentially an entry-level Mercedes-Benz car – that isn’t an actual AMG. For a tad short of £2,000 LESS, you can have a proper – and badged – AMG in the form of the A45 AMG 4MATIC.
It’s a handsome looking car, make no mistake. Inside, the red highlights are a tad overdone…there’s red stitching on every scrap of available charcoal leather, the air vent surrounds and contrasting red seat belts (which I quite liked). Externally, it’s more aggressively subtle, without the bling. There’s a smidgeon of red within the headlamp cluster and a red stripe on the chin under the grille at the front and above the rear diffuser. Overall, the effect is more elegantly understated than the slightly garish interior.
An ergonomic oddity common to all variants of the new A-Class is the satnav/infotainment pod. While it performs excellently, I can’t understand why it’s located where it is – sprouting intrusively from the centre of the dashboard. A variable swivel to face the driver would have been an idea.
So, what’s it like to drive? Well, to be blunt, the drive is somewhat demonic and it sticks to the road like poo to an army blanket. Along with a bespoke suspension setup which makes it the most engaging, non-AMG car in the A-Class range, the drive dynamics are aided by the delightfully brilliant 7G-DCT auto ‘box. It offers three modes – auto, manual and sport. Standard ‘auto’ is fine for most urban and composed situations. However, activate the ‘Sport’ setting and conquer the flappy-paddles as they were intended and a whole new aggressive beast wells up for your driving delight.
Thanks to the electronics, torque-steer is limited, but remains slightly evident as a reminder of the awesome power available. Huge dollops of adrenalin-fuelled, smiley-faced fun embrace you as the car fires off the line. It’s stonkingly quick and plants the power down to the black stuff just brilliantly, as befitting a performance-oriented Mercedes-Benz.
Not once did I feel remotely unsafe or have cause to question my own driving ability. While I didn’t break the car, I wasn’t – within the realms of the law – overly timid with it. It has the testicular advantage of making you think you’re a beast-taming driver, when actually, much of the ‘taming’ has been done at the Rastatt factory by highly skilled Mercedes-Benz engineers.
Would I buy this ‘Engineered by AMG’ A-Class if I had the disposable income?
Probably – and for £28k – it’s easy to recommend, but only if you avoid the options list.
Mercedes A Class 250 BlueEFFICIENCY ‘Engineered by AMG’
Basic RRP: £28,250. As driven: £39,010.
Engine: 4 in-line, displacing 1,991cc
Power output (BHP @ rpm): 211 @ 5,500 rpm
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 350 @ 1,250 – 4,000 rpm
Top speed: 149 mph
0-62 mph: 6.6s
Fuel economy: Combined – 44.1mpg
CO2 emissions: 148g/km
Insurance group: 34
Warranty: 3 years / unlimited mileage; up to 30 years corrosion from inside out.
Breakdown assistance: 4 years standard Mercedes-Benz Mobilo Roadside Assistance (pan-European).