AMG is a byword for big, V8-powered, tyre-smoking Mercedes, but smaller, edgier efforts aren't beyond their remit either.
The first proof of this came in the shape of the A45 AMG, based on the recently-launched A-Class - and that car's saloon brother has now arrived, the sleek CLA 45 AMG.
Launched at this week's New York Auto Show, Mercedes promises it has all the brand DNA that makes larger AMGs such astounding vehicles. It may only have half the cylinders of a typical AMG and twice the driven wheels, but at 360 horsepower it's also the most powerful four-cylinder car currently on sale. And if there's one thing AMG knows, it's power...
The 2.0-litre engine develops this Thor's hammer whack at 6,000 rpm, and the 332 pound-foot torque output churned up between 2,250-5,000 rpm will endow it with plenty of mid-range urge too. AMG is quoting a 0-62 mph sprint of only 4.6 seconds, barely shy of vehicles in the 400-500 horsepower range.
All that power is sent through an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and an all-wheel drive system. This helps put the power down to meet those alarmingly swift acceleration figures, but can also vary traction between front and rear wheels depending on the cornering requirements. A RACE START mode on the gearbox helps you rule the traffic light Grand Prix.
Despite the characteristic AMG punch it's also one of the cleanest engines around. Euro 6 emissions regulations only come into force in late 2014, but the CLA 45 already meets them.
Economy figures are more than respectable too, with a claimed 40.9 mpg figure on the combined cycle and CO2 emissions between 161-165 grams per kilometre. It'll be a while before one of AMG's V8s gets down to that sort of figure, that's for sure...
And for those worried a smaller, four-cylinder AMG would mean losing the brand's traditions, think again - each engine is hand-assembled just like AMG's larger units, and a plaque on each engine bears the name of its builder.
It barely seems possible, but there's more to each CLA 45 than its engine, too. The CLS 63 AMG-aping styling is, as Mercedes describes, "absolutely intentional" - all at once it's low, aggressive, sleek and distinctive. AMG badging twin chrome tailpipes and a matt titanium grey diffuser all mark out the 45 as something special, as do the AMG twin-spoke light alloy wheels.
Inside the cabin is similar to that of other CLAs and A-Class models, but man-made leather and microfibre cloth sport seats, red seat belts and an AMG instrument cluster all hint at the power within.
Priced from: Not yet announced
Available from: Autumn 2013
A read of the spec sheet should be all you need to confirm the CLA 45 AMG is something special, but a drive shouldn't hurt either. We're looking forward to the inevitable comparisons with the newly-announced Audi S3 Saloon, though the AMG brings signficantly more firepower to that battle. The CLA 45 might not be a typical tyre-burning AMG, but the performance DNA is certainly reporting for duty.
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For more information check out our full summary of the Mercedes-Benz CLA alongside reviews, stats, photos and videos!