Mercedes-AMG knows how to build hot hatches. Remember the first A45? It proved so outrageously popular, and quick, it encouraged the brand to double the dose of AMG in the new A-Class.
So, now, we have the Mercedes-AMG A35. It’s a bit different to the incoming A45, because rather than obliterate sports cars twice its price, it’s more focused on delivering all-round ability at an accessible cost.
At $67,200, it’s the cheapest AMG and slots between the regular A250 4Matic and incoming A45. And there's more overlap with the former, as the A250’s 2.0-litre engine features with an upgraded turbocharger package, valves and exhaust system to deliver a healthy 225kW and 400Nm.
We’ve seen this diffusion before with the likes of the CLS53 and C43. And like them the A35 relies on all-wheel drive grip. Its electro-mechanically controlled centre differential is unlocked, leaving the A35 as front-drive, during steady state driving, but AMG claims specific tuning switches the A35 into four-wheel drive before the front wheels even start to spin.
Closer to the engine is the A250’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with new ratios for its top four gears. And with launch control the A35 can hit 100km/h from rest in 4.7 seconds. Which is pretty quick.
MOTOR review: AMG A45 S first drive
There’s no doubting the A35 can hustle. And that engine, relying on a twin-scroll turbine, unloads its broad torque delivery in a linear fashion. But short gearing in the first three ratios and rapid, visceral upshifts are the secret to its accelerative talent.
So while it bursts from tight corners with impressive pace and no push or scrappy wheel spin, the surge wears off on longer straights. In fact, it feels slower than its 152kW per tonne suggests. Which is fine since the A35 isn’t born to smash lap records, or disturb the peace, like the old A45.
In fact, when you’re up it, the A35’s exhaust avoids broadcasting its warcry to the whole suburb through its 90mm tips. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to you. But it still pops and crackles in its most aggressive engine mode, Sport Plus.
Suspension wise, the front and rear sub-frames are bolted solid to the chassis. The front uprights are also new, while a shear panel under the engine stiffens the front-end and engineers redesigned the steering knuckles. Oh, and the steering ratio’s now2.5 turns lock to lock.
Considering these changes it’s surprising the A35 at first feels slightly hard to place into a corner in Comfort mode, like it’s out of sync with your inputs. Switch the adaptive suspension into Sport mode, however, and things become more cohesive.
Excellent traction and strong roadholding give you confidence to work its 235mm-wide contact patches, courtesy of Pirelli P Zero rubber, even if it’s encouraging more than it is rewarding. AMG-spec brakes behind 19-inch wheels also deliver excellently judged pedal feel and travel.
The interior’s sure to be a draw card for many buyers. Starting with the already slick W177 A-Class cabin, the A35 adds a C63-spec Performance steering wheel complete with rotary dial and button pad to work through its drive modes and three-mode ESP. You can add AMG’s form-hugging Performance seats as well for a $3290. They’re excellent.
One downside to our car’s high-spec (a panoramic roof is also standard) are the drive mode buttons on the console repeat what those found steering wheel’s spokes do. But the mesmerising 10.25-inch dual-screen is useful for displaying a wealth of information and accessing the MBUX infotainment’s smarts.
Day to day driving would be even more serene if the A35 could unlock more suppleness in its Comfort mode. Because while it’s more than liveable in all of its suspension modes, it’s still not as plush as something like a VW Golf R. That’s the price you pay for its feedback-rich suspension.
Then there’s its exterior. You can have it two ways, as either subtle in its standard appearance or with the Aerodynamics pack that adds the A45-aping front lip, flics and rear wing. It’ll cost $2490. And suddenly, with only a few options, this ‘affordable’ AMG costs far from that. Especially compared to the $54,990 VW Golf R.
When cars arrive in dealers this month, you get what you pay for in a solid all-rounder that deserves a look at if you’re in the market for a classy, fast and comfortable hot hatch. More importantly, it gives you a dose of AMG without the traditional side effects. Even if you miss them a little.
Tested and rated on MOTOR reviews
MERCEDES-AMG A35 SPECS
Engine: 1991cc inline-4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
Power: 225kW @ 5800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 3000-4000rpm
0-100km/h: 4.7sec (claimed)
Likes: Secure handling, linear power delivery, interior spec
Dislikes: Pricey, muted styling, less than thrilling
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars