Mercedes A-Class Facelift Sepang Experience

By Lee Pang Seng

THE Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the entry level model and since it was introduced as a saloon, it has gained wider acceptance from prospective buyers while the younger and outgoing set leans towards the more powerful AMG models. We got an insight in both the mundane and exciting part of the latest A-Class that has undergone a facelift exercise at the Sepang International Circuit.

Our foray in the Mercedes Sepang Drive Experience was in the A 200 and AMG A 45. They might share similar platforms but the suspension settings are obviously different to accommodate the respective driving dynamics and demands. Each model is fitted with different tyres too, again to meet the different grip levels as exerted by the respective power output for the corners.

To keep interest in the A-Class high, Mercedes-Benz introduced new aesthetics and model options as well as technical updates. Being a saloon doesn’t mean the A-Class has to look mundane and leave the powerful stance to the AMG models. Mercedes-Benz likens the A-Class saloon body profile to a sporty and muscular one that is defined by the forward-sloping bonnet with two ‘powerful’ bulges and steep ‘shark nose’.

What’s new here to give the latest A-Class a fresh face is the redesigned radiator grille; that on the A 200 carries a geometry pattern while the A 250 4MATIC AMG Line features a star pattern grille. This styling update is seen as complementary to the flat LED (light emitting diode) headlamps.

Underlining the sporty character are of course the wheels; the A 200 has 17-inch five-twin spoke light alloys that are aerodynamically optimised, painted in black with high sheen finish and shod with 205/55 Contentinal EcoContact6 tyres. The A 250 goes one up with similarly aerodynamically optimised 18-inch AMG five-twin spoke alloys that are painted in tremolite grey with high sheen finish. It has the same tyre model but of 225/45 R18 size.

The rear sees a new diffuser that is said to complement the standard LED lamp cluster in providing a ‘fascinating and emotionally appealing appearance both night and day’. Both models come equipped with Adaptive Highbeam Assist that enables drivers to see the road surface or hazards more clearly.

Stepping inside, the update is in the new three-dimensionally embossed ARTICO man-made leather upholstery to offer ‘high-quality comfort’ seats. The A 200’s Progressive trim features a new dark carbon-fibre look to enhance the instrument panel and doors. As for the A 250 4MATIC, the AMG Line being designed for performance features light longitudinal-grain aluminium trim and red contrasting topstitching in the ARTICO/MICROCUT fibre seats.

As it were, the A-Class interior stands out with the standard free-standing dual-screen display, each measuring 10.25 inches, that appear to float with the widescreen look. The three round turbine look air vents in the central dash area, typical to the current Mercedes interior styling, are said to pay homage to the world of aviation.

To make it a digital and smarter car, the hardware and software are said to have taken a major leap forward with the latest generation of MBUX (NTG7) that is apparently more intuitive to operate and capable of learning. Customisation is possible with the newly designed display styles (Classic, Sporty and Discreet), three modes (Navigation, Assistance and Service) and seven colour worlds.

The telematics system is also revised and set to impress with its new design and improved performance. Connectivity with smartphones is now possible via wireless Apple Carplay or Android Auto. Further connectivity comes with an additional USB-C port while all USB ports in the car offer fast-charging capabilities.

The latest A-Class comes with an update in safety assistance that includes Active Parking Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Exit Warning Assist and Active Brake Assist. The A 250 has the additional Sports Brake System that is said to deliver powerful deceleration, even after repeated hard use.

Mercedes-Benz says the engines of the respective models are also given an update. The A 200 plays its entry level role with a 1.4-litre (1332cc) turbo engine mated to a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Power is pretty good for its engine displacement class with 120kW (163hp) at 5500rpm and 270Nm torque from 2000 to 3500rpm. It accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in a reasonably quick 8.3 seconds while top speed is 230km/h.

The A 250 4MATIC has the 2.0-litre (1991cc) engine that is ‘electrified’ and mated to an eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. That means it is a mild hybrid with an additional 48-volt electrical system that provides better acceleration with 10kW (13.6hp) more power. Engine power is rated at 165kW (224hp) at 5500-6100rpm and 350Nm from 2000 to 4000rpm. It does 0-100km/h in 6.4 seconds and top speed is 250km/h.

Mercedes-AMG A-Class

There are now two model options - the new addition to the family is the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC that is available as a saloon and the Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATC+ that is available only as a Hatchback like before. Its aesthetic updates include the revised headlamps, AMG-specific radiator grille and a round badge with AMG emblem instead of the Mercedes star with laurel wreath. The new front apron and power domes that are typical to the AMG A 45 are said to provide the AMG A 35 with a new, ‘coherent AMG face’.

Underlining the muscular AMG look are the new wheel design, rear lip spoiler, revised rear lamp clusters and ‘hallmark’ round exhaust pipes (the A 45 has twin flow tail pipes). The AMG A 45 comes with 19-inch AMG five-twin spoke light alloy wheels that are aerodynamically optimised with the matt black high sheen rim flange. The AMG A 35 only has the 19-inch five-twin spoke light alloys. Tyres for the AMG variants are of sterner stuff being Michelin Pilot Sport 245/35 ZR 19.

The AMG A 45 is also the better endowed variant with the exclusive AMG Night Package that includes exterior features finished in high-gloss black for strong contrast and the AMG Aerodynamics package that is developed in the wind tunnel to improve handling at high speeds.

For the interior, the AMG A 45 has a new version of the AMG Performance steering wheel with new touch-control panels for enhanced functionality and convenience. It is wrapped in nappa leather and MICROCUT fibre while that for AMG A 35 is only wrapped in nappa leather. And like the A-Class saloons, the AMG variants also enjoy the latest MBUX generation and more USB charging power.

In technical update, the AMG A 35 now comes with a 48-volt auxiliary power supply and belt-driven starter-generator (RSG). The 2.0-litre turbo engine delivers 225kW (306hp) at 6100rpm and 400Nm from 2500 to 4000rpm. The rated output for the electric motor is the same as that for the A 250 at 10kW (136hp) and 150Nm.

It has an AMG Speedshift DCT eight-speed automatic transmission and accelerates from 0 to 100km/h in 4.8 seconds while top speed is 250km/h, The more powerful car is the AMG A 45 with the 2.0-litre turbo engine delivering 310kW (421hp) at 6750rpm and 500Nm from 5000 to 5250rpm. That gives it a faster acceleration performance of 3.9 seconds and 270km/h top speed.

For a limited time, the AMG A 45 would be available exclusively as an AMG Street Style Edition complete with extrovert and exclusive equipment elements. Highlights include body colour accents in fluorescent orange, newly-designed 19-inch AMG cross-spoke forged wheels, AMG-specific radiator grille, darkened Edition decals and Model badge on boot lid.

Sepang Drive Experience

Our first foray wasn’t in the latest A-Class models but in the electrically powered AMG EQE 53. After writing about performance EVs of various brands over the past few years, this was our first drive experience in one. And we weren’t quite sure how to approach the drive given that we only had one lap with it.

Firstly, there is so much information on the instrument panel and it wasn’t hard not to be dazzled by it. Thankfully, our co-driver Antonio set the drive mode and we took off. As EVs (electrical vehicles) are heavier than engine equivalents due to the big battery weight, we were a little cautious taking the AMG EQE 53 through the respective corners at the 5.5km Sepang Circuit.

There was no question about the good torque giving us the strong drive out of a corner but when Antonio set the drive mode to Sports, the forward push was even stronger. At the same time, when we lifted off the accelerator pedal, the deceleration rate was stronger and we had to adjust to this when approaching the corner; meaning lifting off the accelerator pedal later to avoid a slower than expected corner entry. This is part of the energy recovery system in which the battery is recharged.

There is no question about the AMG EQE 53 being a fast car if you were to step on the accelerator for the straight stretch; it picked up speed strongly and we could believe that it was easily capable of its 3.5-second 0-100km.h acceleration. And like a true EV, you don’t hear any engine roar other than the road roar, made mild by the car’s good body insulation, picked up by the tyres.

Our next car was the AMG A 45 and with a fast lead car, we could revel in what this car could offer over two full laps. Before we took off, I selected the Sports+ mode as I felt that the AMG A 45 was best experienced driven at the extreme end. After all, this was done under ‘controlled’ conditions at a race circuit, the best environment under which such a high-performance car was to be enjoyed.

And we were not let down; the lead car pace was good and using similar cornering lines, we could explore the AMG A 45’s handling limits. Steering turn-in for the respective corner was pretty neutral although our exuberance in taking the tighter ones with a higher speed led to some tyre squeals from the Michelin Pilot Sport. The auto transmission worked nicely downshifting to the respective gear in a heel-and-toe manner for the tight corners and upshifting quickly as we tore away.

Body lean was well checked and the car’s stability through a high-speed curve was confidently inspiring. Its strong acceleration power was best experienced on both the Sepang straights; we clocked a tad over 180km/h before slamming on the brakes for the approaching tight corner. We hardly felt any brake fade, boosting confidence in the drive further.

The last drive of the day was the A 200, the ‘slowest’ A-Class of the range. But slow it ain’t as we enjoyed driving it as well. It might not be a light car for its 1.4-litre engine displacement at 1450kg (kerb weight) but its turbo output gives it good power-to-weight ratio to ruffle one’s feathers quite a bit in exuberant driving.

We also had two laps and while the A 200’s handling dynamics were limited a bit by the less sporty Continental tyres, we could still ‘attack’ the tight corners with some bravado. That had the lead car driver reminding us to keep a safe distance to the car ahead. Yes, the A 200 did lean a bit more into the tight curves but its handling dynamics remained good enough for a spot of quick driving.

We had no Sports mode to select for the automatic transmission but it worked well enough to keep our adrenalin on a high, selecting gears up and down the range for us to take the respective corner at the circuit quickly and confidently. Its slower speed pick-up on the two straights were clearly reflected when we clocked slightly above 150km/h before hitting the brakes hard for the respective corner. For sure, the A 200 saloon would hold its own well dynamically against rivals in its price range.

Price summary

As an entry level model, the A 200 in Progressive trim is attractively priced at RM238,888 on the road without insurance. The higher-spec AMG Line A 250 4MATIC goes for an estimated price of RM264,000 under the same terms.

Likewise, the Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC has a price that is estimated from RM354,000 while the flagship Mercedes-AMG A 45 S 4MATIC is priced at RM509,888. The limited Street Style Edition fetches RM30,000 more at RM539,888 on the road without insurance.


Mercedes-Benz Malaysia also took the opportunity to launch the AMG SL 43 at the Sepang Drive Experience event. This is an open-top 2+2 roadster with fabric top that is powered by a 2.0-litre turbo engine delivering 280kW (381hp) at 6750rpm and 480Nm torque from 3250 to 5000rpm. It is also a mild hybrid with a 10kW (13.6hp) and 150Nm electric motor. It does 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 275km/h.

The Mercedes SL has 70 years of development history, having transformed from a thoroughbred racing car to an open-top luxury sports car. The latest Mercedes-AMG SL is said to mark a new milestone in the model’s history by combining the distinct sportiness of the original SL with the ‘unique luxury and technical excellence’ of the current day Mercedes-AMG models.

While the SL 43 is seen as an entry-level model, it is said to be the world’s first series-production vehicle to feature an electric exhaust gas turbocharger. Mercedes says this technology comes directly from Formula One and solves the trade-off between a small, fast-responding supercharger that achieves comparatively low peak power and a large supercharger with delayed high peak power.

It comes with a newly developed chassis with multi-link front axle and innovative lightweight body construction. The latest SL comes standard with Sports suspension but is the first production vehicle from Mercedes-AMG to feature a multi-link front axle with the five links arranged entirely within the rim. This is said to improve the kinematics significantly. The independently sprung rear is also served by a five-link design.

In body styling, the latest SL carries a new design language that includes a striking front end with AMG-specific radiator grille and flush fitting door handles. It sits on a long wheelbase and has short overhangs, a long bonnet and a ‘powerful’ rear end. This new AMG SL 43 comes with an estimated price of RM1 million on the road without insurance.