Whereas in previous years the German horsepower war – in which the big three premium manufacturers Audi, BMW and Mercedes, all tried to outdo each other with increasingly powerful engines – was played out in the exclusive executive saloon sector, thanks to environmental pressures and the trend towards engine downsizing, that war is now increasingly being fought on the smaller battlefield of the hot hatchback market.
BMW has the astonishingly rapid M135i, Audi is primed to launch the S3 and Mercedes has just confirmed pricing for this, the A45 AMG. Starting from £37,845, it’s priced at a premium compared to its rivals, both of which start at around £30,000.
Anyone familiar with AMG’s particular brand of performance motoring will know that the 2.0-litre turbocharged engine it has fitted to the unassuming A-Class is about as far removed from its usual fare of soul-shaking V8s that is possible to get. In fact, it is the first engine to emerge from AMG's Affalterbach factory to boast less than six cylinders.
That said, it’s no ordinary 2.0-litre unit. Boasting a mighty 355bhp, it will get the A45 from 0-62mph in 4.6 seconds, a figure that around ten years ago would have been credible for a top-flight supercar.
Even more astonishingly, it has the highest specific output of any production engine, with 179bhp per litre. This towers over even the world’s fastest car, the Bugatti Veyron, which develops just 123bhp from each of its eight litres.
Power is transferred to all four wheels via Mercedes’ seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which allows near-seamless shifts for maximum acceleration.
Despite the performance on offer, Mercedes engineers have worked hard to ensure the A45 AMG doesn’t drink fuel. It manages to return 40.9mpg on the combined cycle and emits 161g/km of CO2.
The A45 AMG wears subtly different body styling to distance it from its lesser A-Class brethren. A new, more powerful braking system sits behind unique 18-inch alloy wheels while a new front bumper and grille increases airflow to that mighty engine.
Inside, AMG sports seats are fitted as standard, as is DAB radio and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity, while the leather-clad sports steering wheel is accompanied by red seatbelts.
The Mercedes A45 AMG is available to order now, with the first customer cars expected for delivery in August.
Prefer to buy a used A-Class? You can browse our classifieds here.