Dual Wield - Mercedes A38 AMG
The W168 Mercedes A-class is known for a variety of things. Some good, such as the first use of the ‘sandwich’ engine mounting method, some bad, like the dramatic fail at the elk test. One thing not known to many, however, is the existence of an AMG, hardcore model.
Before getting into the A38 itself however, let’s talk about the W168’s key points. The engine was mounted in the front of the car at an angle (see above), so that in the event of a frontal collision, it would slide underneath the cabin, not into it where the engine could strike any passengers in the front of the car and do damage.
As also mentioned, it failed the ‘elk test’. And quite dramatically. When undergoing the test, the vehicle’s inside tyres lifted off the ground, almost causing the car to completely flip. This was a result of the extremely high centre of gravity, as the floor was around 200mm higher than all other cars in its class at the time to accomodate the sandwich system. After people started to hear of the dangerous flaw, all cars from 1997 were recalled and fitted with modified suspension and stability control to prevent the catastrophic issue. 1998 cars and all future ones had the new, tweaked suspension and stability control as standard.
Now, back to the subject. The Mercedes A38 AMG. Not much is known about it, aside from the fact that very few were made (some sources say one, others say three or four) and that Mercedes’ F1 driver at the time, Mika Häkkinen, received it as a sort of gift. It started life as a standard Mercedes-Benz A190, with a simple 125HP naturally aspirated inline-4 engine. The crazy boffins at AMG deemed it an excellent idea to simply stick another engine in the rear, mounted under the boot floor like a Smart ForTwo.
This turned a teeny family hauler into a bit of an animal. The rear engine, as you’d expect, drove the rear wheels. It was activated at the flick of a switch next to the window controls (it normally drove on the front engine alone) and both gearboxes were connected to the same shifter. Post-modifications, it had 250BHP and 265lb/ft of torque, helping it sprint to the typical 60MPH in 5.7 seconds, fast for the early ‘00s and fast for today. It was lowered by quite a bit and fitted with the brake calipers and discs off Mercedes’ own E55 AMG of the time. These brakes were formidable enough to stop a 300+HP V8 behemoth, so imagine what they were like on a tiny little hatchback. Yup.
It was all too silly though, and couldn’t be sold to the general public, so an alternative came to hand. Originally named the A21 AMG but later changed to the A210 Evolution as it was seen as too weak for AMG designation, this was the hottest A-class you could get from the dealership. The A210 was introduced alongside the 7-inch longer LWB model (LWB A210s were available too, as pictured above) in 2001 to coincide with the W168’s facelift. It was fitted with an all-new 2.1 litre 140HP 4-cylinder engine and could be specced as an auto or a manual, delivering power to the front wheels alone. 0-60MPH was dealt with in a more civilian 8.2-7.9 (manual/auto) seconds, though still not shabby for what was just a miniature MPV. Sadly (or happily, choose a side) not many Evos were sold, making them rather rare nowadays. This rarity isn’t affecting prices hugely, as you can still pick up a good example for under £2000, but still a shame as it is very unlikely that you’ll ever see one out and about.
I hope you enjoyed this rather short blogpost about an extremely underrated little car that never saw the light of day. Tell me what you think of it down below!