Spicy A-Class will rival the Audi S3 when it launches later this year.

With the impending launch of the fourth-generation A-Class, Mercedes will be diversifying the lineup by adding an all-wheel-drive-only 'A35' model to serve as the A45’s little brother. Such a model makes perfect sense considering it will allow AMG to rival the Audi S3 Sportback and at the same time bridge the gap between the A250 and the flagship A45 model.

Seen in these pictures is most likely a near-production prototype with all the body panels in place, along with a pair of oval exhaust tips. The test vehicle was riding low on not-exactly-sporty alloy wheels and had a generous amount of camouflage. Despite the disguise, we can easily see the front bumper will have generous air intakes and there will be a more aggressive grille design as would be appropriate for an AMG model, even if it is going to be the entry-level offering.

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Indeed, the Mercedes-AMG A35 will represent an entry point into the vast Affalterbach family and is expected to use a turbocharged 2-litre petrol engine. Armed with roughly 300bhp, the new model will also have to go up against the VW Golf R, another AWD hot hatch. The powertrain bound to propel the A35 could be of the mild hybrid type, so look for a small electric boost and a slightly lower fuel consumption compared to a conventional setup.

The standard version of the new A-Class is all set to make its debut at the Geneva motor show in March, but it’s too early to say whether the A35 will be making its way to Switzerland as well. Mercedes could decide to wait and bring the performance version of the new hatchback along to the Paris show in October, with the A45 crown jewel expected to show off its Panamericana grille and quad exhaust at some point in 2019.

2018 Mercedes-AMG A35 spy photos