Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic: We love the smell of freshly-smoked P Zero’s in the morning
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.
Its level of performance is up there alongside some very capable rivals from brands traditionally considered less prestigious, including the red-badged Honda Civic Type R and the brutal Renault Megane RS.
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 Mercedes-AMG A45 S, the second generation prototype of which was seen (if you were quick, or heard if you weren’t) blasting up The Hill at the 209 Goodwood Festival of Speed.
The Mercedes-AMG A35 made its debut at the 2018 Paris Motor Show. It deploys an all-wheel drive layout via a seven-speed automatic transmission. So you could enjoy a well-deserved lie in, we recently blasted KT68 YPM around the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. You’re welcome…
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 AMG A35.
If the ‘regular’ AMG A35 isn’t aggressive enough for you, then you may want to consider the optional AMG Style Pack which 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 shoutiness, you may also want to consider the Sun Yellow paint job which brings a welcome level of unsubtle sportiness. We think it looks great and suits the car’s in-yer-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.
The well-shaped, low-lipped 370-litre load area can be expanded by folding the 40/20/40-split rear bench, though this doesn’t lie completely flat in its folded position. 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.
Choose the AMG Premium Plus pack and you’ll get a Burmester stereo, electric seat adjustment, adaptive LED lights and a panoramic sunroof, along with a larger 10.25 central infotainment screen. There’s also Mercedes’ excellent MBUX infotainment system that’s a doddle to use and responds quickly to commands.
Our test car was fitted with optional adaptive dampers that offer three levels of adjustment. 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. And do expect some tyre roar from the optional 19-inch wheels, too.
Engine and transmission
The AMG 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 stonking (not a technical term) 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.
With drive coming via the seven-speed dual clutch AMG SpeedShift DCT transmission, the AMG A35 is set up to offer effortless point-to-point performance combined with measurably more driver involvement than its rivals.
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’.
It’s easy to draw comparisons between the AMG A35 and the Volkswagen Golf R in this respect, but the Mercedes just edges ahead when it comes to driver thrills.
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.
Four selectable driving modes called Slippery, Comfort, Sport and Sport+ mean the A35’s suspension, engine, throttle response and cog-changing speed can be set up to match prevailing conditions. There’s also an Individual setting that allows each of these parameters to be adjusted independently.
The car also has a sports exhaust which, in its sportiest setting, emits all the grin-inducing pops, bangs and crackles that we performance driving enthusiasts have come to love.
The standard A-Class was tested by Euro NCAP an achieved a five-star rating. 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.
Browse our latest top leasing deals on the 2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic.