YOU can’t beat a good foot-tapper. Something with a strong beat is literally music to my ears.
Unfortunately, in spite of long hours perched on a piano stool with an incredibly patient teacher and lonely nights with an acoustic guitar, I still can’t play a note on any instrument. In fact, the only A flat minor I recall was the one in the schoolboy joke about the consequences of a piano falling down a colliery shaft.
So it was particularly pleasing when I discovered that the test car from Mercedes hit the right note – I’m not sure if it was an A flat minor or not – out of the back end through the twin sports exhausts. Because this was no ordinary version of the revised A Class.
The test car was the flagship, clumsily- monikered A250 BlueEfficiency Engineered by AMG – and yes, that is its full name. It sits at the top of a comprehensive range of 22 new A Class versions which starts with the lowly 1.6 litre A180 petrol.
So why would you fork out almost £30,000 for what is effectively just a five-door hatch, albeit with the desirable three-pointed star at the front? Well, this is a bit of goer, with the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine belting out 209bhp to produce some startling performance to fling you to over 60mph in about half the time it’s taken you to read this sentence.
And it’ll stay on the road too, thanks to the work done, not least on the car’s specially-developed chassis by AMG, Mercedes’ performance wing.
The contrast with the previous model couldn’t be greater. It’s lower, longer, wider, sleeker and just so much better than the old one, even, in the case of the AMG version, down to the bold red styling details on the bodywork, brake calipers behind the 18-inch alloys and stitching on the black leather seats.
At the front end, the car looks much more meaningful with a bold new grille with a small but significant red line running along the centre of the spoiler.
The standard spec is comprehensive but the test car was particularly well-endowed with almost £6,500-worth of extras such as the AMG exclusive interior package, which for just over £1,000 has black roof lining, leather heated front seats with four-way lumbar support, leather upper dash and velour floor mats with red edging. The £900 powered panoramic sliding sunroof makes the most of whatever light is available over a Scottish winter but I’m not so sure about £570 for the black metallic paint job or the £530 for the automatic climate control.
The large-screen satnav and audio system was good, if pricey at £2,300, and looks as if it’s been glued to the dash as an afterthought. I was surprised that the screen couldn’t be angled more towards the driver or front passenger.
I confess I wasn’t impressed with this car when I first got behind the wheel, largely because of the seven-speed automatic gearbox controlled through a selector on a stalk to the right of the steering wheel. It’s like a small indicator arm and for the first day or so, when turning left I inadvertently hit it, pushing the gear into neutral. I soon got used to it but I also felt the performance was a bit sluggish until I found the Sport setting, at which point the car burst into life, even if the ride felt a bit harsh depending on road conditions.
I also simply don’t like electronic parking brakes which seem to have a mind of their own and decide when they’re going to be engaged.
There’s a good amount of room inside for the front seat occupants but I felt a little restricted when I ventured into the back.
The boot is deep but access is restricted for bulky items by the rear light clusters which intrude into the opening.
From the whole newly-revised A Class range this is the model which will really appeal to the enthusiastic driver, but I’m not convinced about the auto box, which is the only option in this model. I might be inclined to save myself more than £4K and go for the manual AMG Sport which isn’t quite as special but will still give a good return.
Mercedes lost their way a bit in the early Noughties but the new A Class shows they are back on track now. You could say they’ve found their voice.
CAR Mercedes A Class 250 BlueEfficiency AMG
PRICE £28,775 (£35,095 as tested)
C02 EMISSIONS 148 g/km
PERFORMANCE Max speed 149mph; 0-62mph 6.6 secs
FUEL CONSUMPTION (combined) 44mpg