New spy shots confirm that AMG has moved to the latter stages of testing for its next GLA 35 and 45 models, which are set to do battle early next year with the likes of Audi's RS Q3 using the same highly strung 2.0-litre as their hatch siblings. That means the range-topping top GLA 45 S will have 421hp from AMG's already fabled M139 turbocharged four-pot, while the regular 45 will come with 387hp and the less well-equipped 35 with 306hp. Despite being the practical offering of the 45 range, the quickest GLA will also be given drift mode.
Although the concept of a jacked-up performance crossover still receives a mixed reception in these parts, the last GLA 45 turned out to be a surprisingly good performer, offering the ballistic pace of the hatch with a softer, less brittle chassis. The latest 45 hatch has proven to be a much more forgiving on the road, suggesting the GLA versions might become somewhat supple options in the segment - at least when they're set to their softest damper modes.
That needn't come at the cost of handling, either, as evidenced by their still-sharp predecessor, an attribute likely to be heightened by Merc's drift mode, which comes standard on the S. It provides genuine rear-driven handling, sending the full power output to the back wheels - so it's even more extreme than the system employed by the old Focus RS - something that's been very effective on the hatch.
The AMG models will come around five months after the regular variants of all-new GLA, which are expected at Frankfurt next month, wearing the usual aesthetic additions to signal their performance. But, like the hatch, AMG's latest 35 and 45 models will also be spec-able in slightly less garish forms, meaning a rear wing and winglets won't be standard parts. Performance crossover or not, a discreet, somewhat practical and decent riding 412hp AMG doesn't sound too bad, does it?