Once, roads like these were ruled by the rally-inspired Japanese hotrods: steroidal Mitsubishi Lancers and Subaru Imprezas. Now, the German automakers are coming on strong in the compact supercar territory. In Europe, new top-of-the-line versions of the Audi A3, the BMW 1-series, and the Mercedes-Benz A-class are vying for mastery of the super-GTI segment. For this tire-shredding, brake-eating shootout in the Dolomites, we've gathered the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG, the BMW M135i, and the Audi A3.

If Looks Could Thrill

You would think Mercedes would have offered its silver fox clientele a less uncompromising A-class, one that looked friendlier, one that had a taller roofline with more rear headroom, not to mention a bigger trunk and a softer suspension. In fact, that model already exists. It's called B-class and it aims, by and large, at well to do pensioners with a near-zero affinity to vehicle dynamics. In contrast, the latest A-class is targeted at 30-somethings, specifically trendy urbanites. This audience is primarily interested in style, performance, handling, and up-to-date convenience. Enter A45 AMG. Our fully loaded test car costs almost as much as a C63 AMG. It is painted matte pewter, runs on black 19-inch wheels with polished flanges, and shows off the optional carbon fiber body kit. Mercifully, Mercedes spared us the AMG aero treatment. Pretty? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, who will likely concede that the A45 does have presence, and the kind of novelty value draws out the camera phones. The pursed snout is long in profile, and the behind may be too broad and squashed for some, but the proportions are striking and there is no danger of mistaking the AMG for a tarted-up base A-class.

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Audi S3 vs. BMW M135i vs. Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG - Automobile Magazine Comparison Test!!

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