Here’s bragging material for the golf club: “Hey, guess what? I just bought the world’s most powerful four-cylinder compact production car.” “Oh yeah? Tell us about it.”“OK…”It’s Mercedes’ A 45 AMG and it’s a birthday present from AMG to itself for the upcoming 50th anniversary of the company – due in 2017, a year in which, Mercedes says, it will produce even more AMG models and, we guess, plenty of marketing fireworks. It’s called “the AMG performance strategy”.Image gallerySome will be further compacts to expand the brand’s penetration into a market in which, until now, it has not been a predator. All will produce less than 200g/km of CO2… “but not,” the automaker said, “at the expense of driving pleasure - they will still have maximum performance” and target a market much younger than the 30 to 40-year-olds who find the bigger AMG’s financially and socially attractive.At least eight models will reach South Africa, some with the 4-Matic all-wheel drive system with which the new A 45 AMG is equipped as standard, to which let’s return.GOES LIKE HELLThe wizards who hand-assemble the car’s awesome engines (actually, I was told, one – being the first female engineer there – could be described as a witch) have gone back to their roots which were “honest performance packages”. They are not assembled at the AMG plant in Affaltersbach but at an exclusive assembly line at the Mercedes-Benz engine production plant in Kölleda in the district of Sömmerda, in Thuringia, Germany, where all BlueDIRECT four-cylinder engines are built for the A and B-Class models.Video: Mercedes-Benz A 45 AMGThe turbocharged two-litre (Heaven forbid in the world of AMG’s eight and 12-cylinder creations) produces 265kW/450Nm and, well, it goes like hell as I found out during the South African launch on August 28 at the Kyalami circuit in Johannesburg, past host to 21 F1 GP races.Perhaps one day…And if you have any qualms about the longevity of exhaust-blown smaller engines, the A 45 AMG comes with a six-year or 100 000km (extendable at a cost to eight years/160 000km) non-customer contributory maintenance plan even though they produce more power/litre than Bugatti’s devastating Veyron – 132 versus 92kW.Mercedes happily describes it as “the best four-cylinder engine in the world that happily outstrips even those in the most powerful of sports cars”.It’s capable of 0-100km/h in 4.6sec and has a rated (limited) top speed of 250km/h. Fuel consumption (no stifled laughter here, please) of 6.9 litres/100km. By comparison BMW's M135i, also a five-door hatch, makes 235kW/450Nm from its six-cylinder engine and sprints to 100km/h in five seconds and VW's iconic GTI 2.0 TSI manual makes 162kW/350Nm, tops out at 244km/h and takes 6.5sec to 100km/h.'LIKE THE REAL THING'Mercedes-Benz SA launched the cars – with some trepidation, I’d guess - at Kyalami but went a strategic step further than every other automaker that’s introduced a vehicle there: a mock rally stage, complete with skidpan, mild off-road and some really mean-looking steel gates.Just like the real thing and successfully showing off the car’s agility, road-holding and off-tar traction. We also drove the cars on the real roads of Gauteng (boy, are they appalling compared to those of the Western Cape!) for 160 or so rather monotonous and mostly freeway kilometres.Two models will be available in SA: standard (though to a typically superb Mercedes standard) and the more sportily-dressed and limited A 45 AMG Edition 1 which comes with 8x19” multispoked alloys, a rather boy-racerish roof-mounted spoiler, red highlights and extra aero bits on the bodywork, red brake callipers, “man-made leather” upholstery with red stitching on the AMG seats and a “night package”.Unfortunately, all 45 allocated to our tip of Africa have been pre-ordered and paid for – watch out for those smart enough to have signed up naughtily passing them on to the “used” market.FREE DRIVING COURSEYou can, of course, order the parts to do your own LTD Edition 1 with the “base” model which, thanks to the recent fall in the value of the rand, will cost R599 500 instead of the R550 000 on the initial price list – though those already ordered and signed for before September 1 will still be delivered at the original price of R550 000.Buyers have the option of a free high-performance driving course.Like every AMG high-performance automobile, the A 45 AMG has an AMG sports suspension: three-link at the front and four-link at the rear. The specifically tuned spring/damper units and larger stabilisers provide for high lateral acceleration and reduced body roll through fast multiple bends.The five-spoked, 18” (19” optional) AMG “titanium-grey” light-alloy rims carry 235/40 radials.Selvin Govender, MB SA’s divisional manager for cars, was at the Kyalami launch and pointed out the car’s seven-speed DSG gearbox, three drive programs through a multi-plate electro-hydraulic clutch (comfort, sport and manual – the last using steering wheel-mounted paddles), launch control, a thoroughly and happily anti-social auto flap on the twin exhausts which “blaps” like a rifle shot on gearchanges and a premium traffic congestion information service on the satnav that scans and updates every five minutes.'EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE'The AWD delivers 100% of the engine’s torque to the front wheels under normal driving, switching through various proportions to 50:50 but otherwise always with the most power going to the front wheels.Mercedes-AMG chairman Ola Kallenius said back in February 2013: "The A45 AMG will appeal to new customers and tap new markets. We are adding an attractive model with exceptional performance to our range of unique high-performance automobiles."Vehicle development head Tobias Moers added at that time: “With its impressive high-tech package and the performance-orientated AMG 4Matic all-wheel drive, it’s a thoroughbred AMG."For more information on the Mercedes A-Class models go to Mercedes-Benz SA.