For the first time ever, BMW is going to have its own front-wheel drive-based hot hatch — the BMW M135i xDrive. When that debuts, it will be the first time BMW properly competes with cars like the Volkswagen Golf R, Audi S3 and Mercedes-AMG A35. Admittedly, the previous-gen M140i did too but it was rear-wheel drive and always seemed to march to the beat of its own drum, rather than joining in with the others. Now, the BMW M135i will be BMW’s hottest hatchback. However, it might not be hot enough, as its rivals from Stuttgart have just raised the stakes with the Mercedes-AMG A45 S.
Because the team in Affalterbach is filled with wonderful psychopaths, they decided to give the little A-Class a power bump. So rather than messing around with 300-350 hp, like its competitors, the new Mercedes-AMG A45 S makes a whopping 416 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque from its 2.0 liter turbocharged engine. For the record, that’s more than the E92 BMW M3’s 414 hp, which it needed a 4.0 liter V8 to make. So this new AMG hatchback isn’t hot, it’s positively molten.
That fiery four-pot is paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and powers all four wheels. AMG says it’s capable of getting the A45 S from 0-60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. That’s flipping fast for a hot hatch. Hell, I still remember when supercars had 0-60 mph times over four seconds and not four-cylinder hatchbacks are breaking that barrier.
When the Mercedes-AMG A45 S makes its debut, it will really only have one prime competitor, the Audi RS3 Sportback. So if both Mercedes-AMG and Audi have a proper hot hatch from their respective performance divisions, not just warm hatches from their regular lineup, will that force BMW M’s hand?
We’ve already been told that the BMW M Division will never make a front-wheel drive car. However, back when the first 8 Series was on sale, BMW M said it would never make an M8 because it was too heavy. Now we have M Division SUVs and an M8. So never say never, I guess.
If BMW were to make a proper M Division variant of the new 1 Series hatchback, the technical side of it would be the easy part. BMW can easily make a four-cylinder pack 400 hp. The hard part would be marketing the thing. BMW enthusiasts might struggle to cope with a front-drive M car, so sales would be in question. Then there’s the question of what to name it? BMW can’t call it the ‘M1’ because that’s the name of the legendary supercar from the ’70s and BMW has seemingly retired its number. It could be called the 1 Series M but that’s already been used before by a car that’s not become sort of an icon. So does BMW potentially tarnish that name by giving it to a new front-wheel drive-based hatchback?
So it’s a tricky thing. On one hand, the M Division likely doesn’t appreciate its two biggest competitors having excellent cars in a segment it could play in. But, at the same time, it’s not a car that would be a guaranteed hit among BMW M enthusiasts. So does BMW create something to take on its rivals from Stuttgart and Ingolstadt — the Mercedes-AMG A45 S and Audi RS3 — or does it just stay out of it?