Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic: We love the smell of freshly-smoked P Zero’s in the morning12 July 2019
The Mercedes-AMG A35 is a performance-orientated version of the Mercedes A-Class, which death-stares similar premium hot hatches like the Volkswagen Golf R, BMW M40i and Audi S3 Sportback.
Within its own brand stable, the Mercedes-AMG A35 is the range-entry Merc to wear the prestigious AMG badge, bridging the divide between the cosmetically enhanced A250 AMG-Line and the feral A45 S, the second generation prototype of which was seen blasting up The Hill at the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The standard A-Class has a rather soft and understated look to it and, surprisingly, AMG’s design team has managed to remain relatively restrained in its reworking on the A35.
If the ‘regular’ version isn’t aggressive enough for you, then you may want to consider the optional AMG Style Pack that adds 19-inch alloys, tinted rear windows and an aero package with a rear wing, large front splitter and a rear diffuser blade.
For added aesthetic 'snootiness', you can also opt for the Sun Yellow paint job which brings a welcome level of unsubtle sportiness. We think it looks great and suits the car’s in-your-face character.
The inside story
The standard Mercedes A-Class is a class-leader when it comes to interior style, quality and comfort, so it comes as no surprise that the AMG A35 also leads the luxury hot-hatch market in this regard.
The same high standard of fit and finish is here, with a number of welcome sporty additions to help set the car from its standard siblings, as well as putting it head and shoulders above the rather frugal interiors of the Audi S3 and Volkswagen Golf R.
Head and legroom are good in both the front and the rear, though the larger sports seats might impinge slightly on rear passengers’ knee space when adjusted for taller occupants. There’s room for four adults and thanks to the A35’s five-door only layout, rear access is easier than in some hot hatchbacks.
Despite its four-wheel-drive – a system which can negatively impact on interior space in some cars – the AMG A35 keeps the same boot size as the standard Mercedes A-Class.
Luggage capacity is 370 litres with a low lip to help loading, which can be expanded by folding the 40/20/40 split rear seat down, it doesn’t fold completely flat but the option just to fold the centre does help carrying long items whilst still having seats available for 2 adults.
There’s still room for two sets of golf clubs, which is a notable improvement over the smaller, previous-generation A-Class.
AMG A35 equipment
All Mercedes-AMG A35 models come as standard with sat-nav, a reversing camera, climate control, keyless entry-go, a sports steering wheel with touch-control buttons and supportive sports seats, which are superb.
The AMG Premium Plus pack includes a Burmester stereo, adaptive LED lights, electric seat adjustment, the larger 10.25” central infotainment display and a panoramic sunroof.
There’s also Mercedes’ excellent MBUX infotainment system, that’s a doddle to use and responds quickly to commands.
In sportier modes, the AMG A35’s ride is overly firm and feels distinctly fidgety when driving at low speed or around town, but fortunately, things improve the quicker you go. The car on test featured optional adaptive dampers, which has three levels of adjustment to suit your driving style and road conditions.
Engine and transmission
The A35 is the range-entry hot hatch from Mercedes-AMG and its most affordable car to date. Both are significant milestones as the performance division of Mercedes-Benz seeks to broaden its appeal and customer base.
To facilitate this, AMG has toned down the power compared to the previous A45 and this new A35 offers a 302hp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. No real surprises there as this is the default engine capacity for so many latter-day turbocharged hot hatches. Mercedes-AMG does buck the trend to a large extent by fitting all-wheel drive as standard to the A35, which elevates it above the likes of the Honda Civic Type R and Renault Megane RS.
Drive is supplied via an AMG SpeedShift 7 speed dual-clutch transmission. The chassis has been designed to give more feedback and involvement for the driver whilst being easy to drive on a daily basis.
On the road
On the open road, there's more than enough performance on tap for most, particularly as it's shod with a series of grippy Pirelli P Zero's. The steering is well-weighted and grip and turn-in is remarkable, to say the least, with no understeer during hard cornering. The AMG A35 responds well to being driven enthusiastically, but never feels dangerous or ‘on the edge’.
There’s a natural comparison between this and Volkswagen’s Golf R, with the AMG 35 just piping the Golf R due to its chassis dynamics and feedback experienced by the driver.
Larger, more powerful brakes compared to the standard A-Class help reign things in while also improving handling as part of an AMG Dynamics programme, which can brake individual rear wheels to improve agility..
With four driving modes available to the driver, you can select between Slippery, Comfort, Sport and Sport+, each setting subtly changing the suspension, engine and throttle response whilst the DCT gearbox adjusts its change speed allowing you to dial the AMG 35 into any conditions you face while on the road.
There’s also an Individual setting that allows each of these parameters to be adjusted independently.
In its sportiest setting, the sports exhaust emits pops and bangs on hard acceleration and crackles and bangs whilst down changing and under braking, giving a sensory overload for driver and passenger mated to the superb chassis.
As with all modern Mercedes, the AMG A35 comes complete with a range of active safety systems, while an optional ‘Driving Assistance’ package adds adaptive cruise control, lane-change assist, active speed limit assist and active blind-spot assist.
The Mercedes-AMG A35 is marginally more expensive than its closest rivals, the Audi S3, BMW M40i and the all-conquering Volkswagen Golf R. Naturally, leasing will make this starter AMG a more attractive proposition, but you will need to factor in some extra spend to make the A35 the car you really want to drive.
In true Mercedes fashion, it offers a little more luxury and quality than the aforementioned rivals, with class-leading infotainment and an interior that’s miles ahead of the competition. If you like your premium hot hatch to have an expensive feel, the AMG A35 is the car for you.
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