Mercedes-Benz’s AMG operation is preparing to enter Europe’s hot hatch ranks with its own powered-up version of the third-generation A-class.
The new entry-level AMG model aims to challenge rivals such as the next-gen Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen Golf R with a combination of supercharged four-cylinder power and four-wheel drive. It is expected to go on sale about a year after standard versions of the new A-class are introduced in 2012.
AMG’s A-class is described as a breakthrough project for Mercedes’ performance car division. “It marks the beginning of a new direction for the company and will expose AMG to a whole new, younger and more dynamic customer base,” says Ola Källenius, AMG’s newly installed boss.
Engineers at the company’s Affalterbach headquarters on the outskirts of Stuttgart are already well advanced on a new four-cylinder engine, which runs both forced induction and the latest multi-cycle direct injection.
Based on Mercedes’ existing M271 EVO unit, it is set to be the first AMG engine to receive wave-pulse supercharger technology developed in partnership with Swiss company Hyprex.
With the Golf R acting as a performance benchmark for the hot A-class, the engine is expected to deliver something in the region of 270bhp and 280lb ft of torque.
Channelling those reserves will be a new dual-clutch gearbox and the multi-plate clutch four-wheel drive system that Mercedes-Benz is preparing for the new GLC junior off-roader.
AMG insiders hint that the four-wheel drive system will be specially adapted using unique software to provide a distinct rear-biased apportioning of power.
AMG is expected to launch its version of the A-class in five-door guise first. It is likely to be followed by a larger four-door saloon-coupé version of the new Mercedes — the C117, as previewed by the F800 Style concept at this year’s Geneva motor show.
The AMG A-class will be aimed primarily at European buyers. However, the four-door coupé — described as a junior CLS and expected to take the name CLC into production — is set to be marketed aggressively in North America as part of renewed efforts there to attract younger buyers to the Mercedes brand.