Rowan Horncastle13 February 2013

This... is the Mercedes A 45 AMG

AMG enters the hot hatch market with the most powerful four-cylinder turbo in production

Two things stood out about the Mercedes AMG presentation on the eve of the Geneva show: the A45 AMG itself and the use of a certain phrase. Let's deal with the latter first, since I've whetted your appetite. AMG used the phrase ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik' (forward through technology) a quote as deeply associated with Audi as the word quattro. Which is ironic, since the main thrust of the AMG press conference was the rise of 4wd...

That's right, AMG confirmed that the new 4wd E63 AMG would not be a one-off and that for customers, the extra security and traction of 4wd was a benefit worth having. So a similarly-equipped CLS 63 AMG will be along shortly. But not a C63 with driven front axles. That one's rear-drive only and will always remain so, apparently. 

See more pics of the Mercedes A45 AMG

This is an aggressive approach though, all part of AMG's quest to grow sales from 20,000 per year in 2011, to 30,000 a mere five years later. They need 4wd to do that. And they need the A45, as well. Plus, although it wasn't officially shown, there will be a CLA 45 AMG. Same underpinnings as the A45 AMG, which it's time to learn more about now...

This little monster contains the most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine... in the world. The 2.0-litre turbo pumps out 360bhp and 450Nm of torque, or, expressed another way, 181 bhp per litre. No, Mitsubishi Evo owners, not as much as an FQ-400 in terms of power per cubic inch, but a lot, by any standards.

And yes, AMG's standard rear-drive modus operandi has been ditched in favour of a lightweight AMG 4MATIC all-wheel drive system. The A 45's got big sticky rubber on all four corners and is predominately front-wheel-drive but, when it's needed, up to 50 per cent of the power is sent to the rear. It all goes through AMG's seven-speed DCT ‘box - which changes gear at the same speed as an SLS GT.

So with the help of launch control, the 360 bhp, all-wheel-drive A 45 AMG will go from 0-60 mph in 4.6 seconds; faster than a BMW M135i and on par with Audi's RS3. Being German, it's wearing a velocity belt that prevents it from going over 155 mph. 

Mercedes reckons the A 45 carries true AMG DNA, and it certainly looks the part: aggressive lines, a new chin and rear, bigger cooling ducts and a plush interior. Underneath, it sits on AMG springs and is stopped by huge AMG brakes.

We've already had a shotgun ride in a prototype. And even though the engine is dwarfed by standard AMG V8s and V12s, there's nothing to worry about when it comes to the noise. It has the classic AMG-burble, and on lift-off, it sounds like popcorn is being made in the exhaust. There's an exhaust flap too, so if you're taking it easy and trying to get the claimed 40 mpg, it'll be nice and quiet. But if you're hard of hearing, or like things on the loud side, you can spec an AMG Performance exhaust to take things up a notch. You should tick this box.

Price is yet to be confirmed, but AMG are apparently targeting a younger audience who it hopes will have around £35,000 spare when it goes on sale in April. A tad more than the BMW M135i (one Top Gear's cars of 2012 year, remember), but crucially, cheaper than an Audi RS3. Which would you have?

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