These are the first spy pictures of the facelifted Mercedes-AMG A45, which is due to go on sale in the UK this autumn.
The hot hatchback, which will now be badged under the Mercedes-AMG performance brand alongside staples such as the Mercedes-AMG C 63 and the new Mercedes-AMG GT, has been spotted testing in southern Europe.
As part of the model's mid-life revisions, Mercedes is likely to increase the power output from the A45's turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine to beyond the 355bhp of the current car. Mercedes will be looking to eclipse the 362bhp offered by the new Audi RS3's 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbocharged motor.
Mercedes-AMG boss Tobias Moers has already revealed to Autocar that the updated A45 will be "the most powerful again" when it goes on sale. Sources have suggested that the power upgrade could mean the A45 comes with as much as 375bhp, which will be enough to take at least 0.1sec off its 0-62mph time, bringing it down to 4.5sec. It's likely the car's top speed will remain limited to 155mph.
AMG insiders told Autocar: "We’re not going to simply rest on our laurels. We already have certain developments in store for the M133 [the internal codename for the A45’s engine] that will see us retain a competitive edge if and when our rivals do catch up.”
Mercedes is also thought to be taking the opportunity of the A45 AMG refresh to offer greater visual differentiation between the full-house AMG model and lesser A-Classes that can currently be specced to look very similar to the A45. A new and distinctive grille is among the items that will be used by the A45 and not made available to any cheaper A-Class model.
The German firm could also follow the example set by the GT and C63 by offering two versions of the A45, with a more potent 'S' model following on from the standard car.
Even without its power upgrade, the Mercedes-AMG A45 already offers more power than some rivals, including the new Ford Focus RS, which gets 316bhp from its 2.3-litre EcoBoost engine - although that model does have the benefit of all-wheel drive.
Mercedes' return to the top of the hot hatch power tables could be short-lived, however, now that Volkswagen has confirmed that it is preparing to put the 395bhp Golf R400 into production. Although no launch date has yet been set for the R400, which is based on the Golf R, VW technical chief Heinz-Jakob Neusser recently confirmed that the project was in development.
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