The next-generation Mercedes A-Class has been caught on camera for the first time in a beefier guise and it could very well be the rumored A40 model.

The current A-Class lineup feels incomplete because there is a huge gap between the A 250 Sport 4Matic and the flagship A 45 4Matic. While the former has 218 horsepower (160 kilowatts) and 258 pound-feet (350 Newton-meters) of torque, the latter is substantially stronger, with 381 hp (280 kW) and 351 lb-ft (475 Nm) at the driver’s disposal. It’s probably too late in the current model’s life cycle for Mercedes to address this issue, but it seems the fourth generation will solve the problem with the introduction of a warm derivative to fill in the void between the lesser versions of the range and the cream-of-the-crop AMG model.

Spotted undergoing testing in southern Europe was a beefier prototype, which we believe is going to take the shape of what the rumor mill is indicating will be called “A40.” The new member of the A-Class family is expected to get somewhere in the region of 300 hp (224 kW) and go up against the Audi S3 Sportback. Our spy photographers are telling us the test vehicle seen in the adjacent images was in the companion of several AMG cars, thus indicating it had more punch than the prototype spotted last month while tackling the Nürburgring.

Aside from being escorted by an assortment of products from Affalterbach, the prototype itself was exhibiting a series of clues that would indicate a performance-oriented version. Up front it had an additional air intake to cool what must’ve been a beefier engine with additional power matched by the beefier drilled front rotors providing superior braking power. At the back it’s easy to notice the dual exhaust tips, and according to the photographers, the sound coming out of that exhaust was deeper compared to the previous prototype from September.

Chances are the A40 will be available from day one and will serve as the temporary flagship until the arrival of the range-topping A45. The regular A-Class might bow in September 2017 at the Frankfurt Motor Show together with the A40, with the A45 to arrive later on with more than 400 horsepower.

As a refresher, the next A-Class will ride on the MFA2 platform set to bring a weight loss to boost fuel economy and performance. A slightly longer wheelbase is also expected to enable a more spacious interior, with more room for passengers sitting in the back. The sensors and cameras noticeable on this test vehicle’s windshield are signs the next Mercedes A-Class will feature an array semi-autonomous driving technologies and upgraded safety tech.

While the current model is not available in United States, Mercedes might decide to bring the W177 generation stateside.

Photos: CarPix

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