Mercedes-Benz’s AMG-tweaked 2013 A250 Sport HatchbackBy Aida Sevilla Mendoza |Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ever wonder what the initials AMG mean and why, when attached to a Mercedes-Benz, they strike awe in the hearts of car enthusiasts and competitors?
The letter A stands for Aufrecht, M for Melcher and G for Grossapach. In 1967, Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher founded AMG in the town of Grossapach, Germany. At that time, AMG was the only company that tuned and modified Mercedes-Benz cars for racing. AMG gained such a winning reputation that Daimler-Benz AG began incorporating AMG engineering and packaging features in some road cars, particularly sports cars.
The A-Class, introduced in 1997 as Mercedes’ compact hatchback, is not a sports car and it never even looked sporty. With their short, upright bodies, the first- and second-generation A-Classes did not attract the younger generation who were in the market for their first entry-premium level car.
Enter the AMG engineers to create an all-new, sporty third-generation A-Class that would capture the hearts and minds (and pocketbooks) of the young and young-at-heart. The A250 Sport prototype appeared as Concept A-Class at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show and the final product for the 2013 model year created a furor at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show
RESHAPED. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer reshaped the A-Class from scratch, pushing down the roof, pulling out the wings, stretching the wheelbase, broadening the shoulders and pushing the wheels right to the edge of the car’s footprint. The central Mercedes star on the in-your-face diamond grille, metallic-red inserts framing the bi-xenon headlights, red accents in both bumpers, fire-red brake calipers, twin oval tailpipes, thick coupe-like C-pillars, a lower suspension and 5-spoke, 18-inch lightweight AMG alloy wheels shod with fat 235/40 R18 tires—all these AMG exterior sport package goodies transformed the dowdy A-Class into the sensational, dynamic, head-turning, emotionally appealing 2013 A250 Sport.
It gets better. Open the door and be greeted by subtle interior lighting and brand-reinforcing Mercedes-Benz lettering on the sill. Inside, red accents abound to emphasize the sporty character: on the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the alloy-trimmed circular air vents, floor mats, red topstitching on the deeply contoured sports seats and red seatbelts. Inside the well-laid-out and well-equipped cabin, the other materials are soft-touch black plastic, real aluminum, faux carbon weave, microfiber and synthetic leather. A 14.7-cm LED infotainment display sits at center on top of the dash, looking like an iPad Mini, but reading the screen is affected by sun glare.
The gear shift lever of the seven-speed twin-clutch automated manual transmission dubbed 7G-DCT by Mercedes-Benz is mounted on the steering column while paddles are mounted on the steering wheel for manual mode shifting.
MISSING. What’s missing inside: a Start/Stop button with smart proximity key, a rear parking camera and power driver’s seat adjustment. On the other hand, to save fuel the engine automatically turns off when you press on the brake, doing this so quietly and smoothly that only when you lift your foot off the brake do you notice the engine coming to life again. The car body has ultra-sensitive warning sensors that sound off when motorcyclists and street vendors come too near.
Aside from the AMG exterior and interior sports package, the 2013 A20 Sport underwent some slight engine and suspension AMG adjustments. The hand of AMG can be felt through the steering wheel and four wheels, with both the suspension and steering tweaked by the go-fast engineers. Tauter spring and damper settings, a lower ride height, a thicker front antiroll bar, 18-inch wheels, cross-drilled front brake discs and Direct Steering combining speed-sensitive power assistance with a variable steering rate make the A250 Sport expertly balanced, razor-sharp responsive and wickedly quick, taking corners with flatness and precision. Power delivery is linear and turbo lag is minimal. But the ultra-firm sport suspension’s focus on grip, traction and roadholding results in an uncomfortable, harsh ride over potholes and uneven road surfaces. For the daily commute and long drives, a car with a conservatively tuned suspension would be better.
TURBOCHARGED. The throaty exhaust note of the A250 Sport’s direct-injection, turbocharged 2-liter, 211-hp, 4-cylinder gasoline engine excites the senses. Acceleration from zero to 100 kph is a brisk 6.6 seconds. Peak torque (350 Nm) arrives early and there’s lots of pulling power below 3500 rpm. For a front-wheel-drive car, the A250 Sport displays outstandingly crisp turn-in and mid-corner grip. Thanks to the sticky Conti Sport Contact tires, there is little body roll and grip under braking is solid. Whether in Sport mode or manual paddle-shifting mode, the twin-clutch transmission races through the ratios with smooth, tremendous speed. In Sport mode, the downshifts are early, paired with a perfectly matched throttle blip, while the upshifts are late. Top speed is manufacturer-rated at 240 kph while fuel consumption is reportedly 6.4 liters per 100 kilometers in combined city and highway driving.
Built on the tried and tested, sturdy B-Class platform, the A250 Sport earned top marks for safety at Euro NCAP. Some of the standard safety equipment not found in competing brands are Attention Assist, which detects the onset of drowsiness on the basis of steering behavior and alerts the driver; pedestrian protection Active Bonnet; Electronic Stability Program; Hill-Start Assist and acceleration skid control. The A250 Sport is also equipped with five airbags and ABS with Brake Assist.
Summing up, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport looks like a sports car and handles like one due to AMG engineering inputs. But it doesn’t have the ferocious performance characteristics of the much-anticipated, fully AMG-engineered A45 A-Class. Still, with a retail price of P2.580 million, the A250 Sport offers drop-dead gorgeous looks, a riveting drive experience, plenty of high tech and the indefinable mystique of the Mercedes-Benz star.