The WRX is back but you won’t find it in any Subaru showroom.
This time around, the successor to Australia’s favourite all-paw turbo terror is living at Mercedes-Benz dealerships.
It’s called the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and it’s a genuine pocket rocket with performance that makes any WRX or STI look, well, tame.
It is truly, madly and deeply impressive with headline performance numbers that start with 310 kiloWatts of power and finish with a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 3.9 seconds.
It was only a few years ago that 3.9 was a very good time for a Porsche or Ferrari.
The A45 also comes with impressive all-wheel drive grip, a slick DSG gearbox and plenty of technology.
So, there must be bad news, right?
There is, because the showroom sticker for the A45 S reads $93,600.
And that’s before on-road costs or anything special that you want to add from the AMG catalogue.
But the second-generation A45 is well down the road from the hot-and-hectic original that was better know for its pop-bang-sizzle exhaust note and fast-but-feisty speed down a winding road than comfort or refinement.
This one has it all.
The first time I went all-in with the A-grader it was like the first time with an STI, except the bar has now been raised so high that the German pocket rocket would have been a Ferrari beater just a few years ago.
The A 45 is not perfect, and it could do with more personality and a (much) lower price, but it’s special.
The next-gen A45 is more compliant and enjoyable for more of the time, not as bang-crash or immature as the car that went before it, and the cabin improvements alone step it up and away.
It’s all very nicely crafted and well equipped, right down to the ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice-recognition system that can control a bundle of adjustments that would normally need a switch or knob.
There is a brilliant Burmeister sound system, four USB charging ports and a wireless charging pad, a giant panorama of instrument and infotainment displays, four cupholders, reasonable boot space and enough room in the back for kids. A heads-up display would be good, but the A45 misses out.
Mechanically, the car has an eight-speed DSG gearbox and all-wheel drive with the ability to move the grip around to the axle that needs the most help, and there is a big rear wing, oversized 18-inch alloys and a four-barrel exhaust.
But the crew at AMG has turned the dial around to 13 for the engine of the A45, which is said to be the most powerful four-cylinder in the world.
It makes a truly wicked 310 kiloWatts, with 500 Newton-metres of torque, although it takes premium unleaded and can get as thirsty as a V8 if you spend a lot of time with the right foot on the floor.
The people who will buy the A45 S are quite likely to remember the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo that were rapid on the road and starred in the World Rally Championship, but this belter Benz is newer and better and faster.
It’s quite likely to lure people who would otherwise consider a Mercedes-AMG C63, partly because it’s cheaper, partly because it’s easier around town, and partly because it’s easier to access more of the go for more of the time. The four-cylinder engine is even half of the turbo V8 in the latest C63.
So it ticks all the boxes for a hot hatch.
But there is an elephant in the garage, in the form of the AMG A35.
The 45 feels far sharper from the get-go, but the baby-brother 35 is priced from $69,300 and has more than enough go for most people. It’s also more relaxed when you’re not in the mood or not feeling the need.
When you feel the need, the speed of the A45 is truly memorable and it makes the baby Benz far more than just another hot hatch.
Transmission: 8-speed DSG, all-wheel drive
Position: hot hatch
THE TICK: yes