► New Mercedes-AMG A35 spied
► Two-thirds of an A45 hot hatch
► New spyshots, details from the boss
You're looking at our first spy photographs of the new 2018 Mercedes-AMG A35 hot hatch - a halfway house to the full-blown A45 that's bidding to repeat the success of AMG's stepping-stone 43 models higher up the range.
These pictures capture a prototype A35 sporting a pair of serious-looking exhaust pipes, a modest bodykit comprising front spoiler, extra air intakes, side skirts and a deep real valance, and a lower ride height hinting at chassis mods to back up the extra go. The aero-spec wheel trims are thought to be dummy items on this disguised test hack.
Long-term test: CAR lives with a Mercedes-AMG C43 Coupe
So how fast will the 2018 Mercedes-AMG A35 be?
This is designed to slot beneath the rabid A45 hyper-hatch. Broadly speaking, that car competes with the 395bhp Audi RS3, whereas the A35 is aimed at the 306bhp S3. Our sources suggest another 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, tuned to produce around 300bhp in this spec. The M264 four-pot engine from the E350 Coupe is the rumoured powerplant; it benefits from EQ Boost for a small electric assistance.
With around 300bhp, it'll be plenty quick enough: key performance figures are shaping up to be 0-62mph in around five-point-something seconds and a top speed capped at 155mph.
AMG chief Tobias Moers has confirmed the project to CAR and given us not a little insight into Mercedes-Benz's new pocket rocket.
See the new 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-class: interior revealed, details teased
Tobias Moers on the new Mercedes-AMG A35
Speaking to CAR magazine at the 2017 LA motor show, Moers said that AMG was rolling out the 43 philosophy across other ranges. 'The arrival of the 43-badged car was really improtant for us,' he said. 'It gave us new customers. A lot of people come to the AMG brand, buy a 43 and then move over to the 63. It happens. Crucially, 2016 and 2017 were the most successful years for the traditional 63 portfolio. There is no substitution between the two - the opposite is the case.
'Our next new AMG model will be the 35. The 35 and 45 badges are reserved for our smaller cars. Late in 2018 you'll see our new A-class, beginning with the entry performance model - that's what we call the 35 and 43 models. The 63 range remains our performance model.'
New chassis mods for 2018's new Merc hot hatch
It's not just a firecracker engine in the new A35. Moers told us that the chassis will get a full AMG makeover too, to ensure that handling is up to scratch. 'On the A35 we've developed the whole chassis; we've designed new axles, new kinematics. It's crucial. It would be easy for us just to stick a badge on the trunk, modify the engine response and sell it as an AMG. But you can't do that. It's not sustainable. It might work for a year or two, but then you'll lose your credibility.'
Just how powerful will the new A-class hot hatches be? '4xxbhp for the A45,' Moers said cryptically. 'You'll have to wait to see exactly how powerful it will be...'
And will the A35 offer three-quarters of the performance of the A45, as befits the scale of its badge? 'You're not wrong,' quips Moers. That circa 300bhp power output sounds bang-on to us.
The expansion underway at AMG explains why Affalterbach sold more than 100,000 cars in 2017. That's an astonishing figure for a performance wing of a premium car maker. The addition of entry-level performance ranges will only add further sales. Will 200,000 AMGs be feasible by early next decade? 'That sounds too much,' counters Moers.
When can I buy one? How much is the Mercedes-AMG A35?
Expect to see the A35 later in 2018, with sales tipped for 2019. No word on prices yet but all our intel so far points to a price point around £34,000.
Are you excited by a more democratically priced Merc-AMG hot hatch? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Read our Mercedes-AMG A45 review here