Mercedes and Audi Continue to Make Hot Hatches, America Continues to Not Get Them
In contrast to last week’s article about the ridiculous BMW 3 Series GT coming soon to a dealership near you, why not show what Americans could have if we didn’t hate hatchbacks so much? Mercedes and Audi have announced they will each build a high performance version of their entry level autos, and neither one is expected to make an appearance in the States.
Mercedes A45 AMG
The Mercedes A45 AMG is a hardcore version of the new A-Class that we will (sort of) get on this side on the pond when the CLA is introduced later this year. The A45 will feature a highly boosted 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo that will send a whopping 360hp through all four wheels. That makes the A45 the most powerful production 4-cylinder in the world, and allows the little hatch to make the sprint to 60mph in just 4.5 seconds, about the same time as the limited production BMW 1-Series M Coupe and more than 0.5 seconds faster than a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo MR. To coax so much power out of such a small engine, Mercedes have deployed a twin-scroll turbocharger that shoots air into the cylinder at a maximum pressure of 1.8 bar (about 26 psi). As the A-Class rides on the Mercedes W176 front-wheel drive platform, RWD was not an option, so the Haldex-derived 4MOTION AWD system will be used to put the power down. Merc’s 7-speed DCT will be the only transmission offered.
It is unknown at this time whether Mercedes will stuff the new turbo 4 into the American version to create a range-topping CLA45. If the AMG is in the works for the US, it likely won’t make an appearance until M-B can analyze sales numbers of the CLA in the US. The CLA will be the first FWD Mercedes ever sold in the here, so it is difficult to anticipate how well the standard car will be received, and how likely a CLA45 AMG would be.
Audi S3 Sportback
Also on the list of cool things Americans can’t get is the 300hp Audi S3 Sportback. In current Audi parlance, an RS model is akin to a BMW M or Mercedes AMG, while the “S” designation merely means a sportier model with a larger engine. Still, the S3 is 50% more powerful than the standard car, even though they both use a turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder. A six-speed manual will be standard (!), while a dual-clutch “S tronic” will be available for those who don’t feel like shifting for themselves. The auto makes the jump from 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds, while the manual takes half a second longer. The car weighs 180lbs less than its predecessor (which also did not ship to the US), and drives with Audi’s famous Quattro AWD system. Curiously, the S3 press release states fuel consumption in terms of US mpg, although its claim of an average of 34 leads me to call BS. The standard A3 with its less powerful engine consumes 21-28mpg with the all-wheel drive package, and I have a hard time believing that a more powerful car, although 280lbs lighter, could make a 10mpg fuel econ boost on both city and highway.
With A3 sales slow and much lower than its bigger brother A4, it is doubtful that the hot hatch will ever come to the US, although the upcoming addition of an A3 sedan may change Audi’s mind. Even if Audi didn’t want to bring over the S3’s engine, they could borrow a Golf R mill from corporate owner Volkswagen and make it the A3’s more powerful option. This could prove to be more cost-effective if the A3’s future is uncertain anyway.
Another day, another batch of beautiful 3-and 5-door non-SUVs that Americans will never get. Volkswagen already poked us in the eye when plans to bring the Scirocco stateside were shut down; we can’t let the Germans continue to pump out lustful machines we will never see here. Remember the BMW M1? We can’t let it happen again.