Wednesday 12th December 2018
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First drive: Mercedes-AMG A 35. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

First drive: Mercedes-AMG A 35
Mercedes creates an entry-level AMG to take on the Golf R and Audi S3, the new A 35 4Matic.

 



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Mercedes-AMG A 35

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

The new Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic is the most affordable AMG ever, and the least powerful of the current crop. It aims to marry the A-Class's tech and comfort with a 300hp punch. Let's see how it gets on...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic Edition 1
Pricing: 35,580
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 169g/km (VED Band 151-170: 515 in year one)
Combined economy: 38.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 306hp at 5,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 3,000-4,000rpm

What's this?

So, what's an A 35 and how do you make one? Well, clearly it's going to be a 'lesser' AMG than the previous A 45 AMG (worry not - a new version of that is waiting in the wings), and Mercedes specifically says that the A 35's mission in life is to make the AMG brand, and its high-performance magic, more affordable and more accessible, to broaden its appeal and its customer base. Well, job done we'd say - the A 35 is certainly affordable, at least in relative terms. It's around 4,000 more than, say, a Honda Civic Type R, which doesn't seem like a huge amount extra to pay given the appeal of both Mercedes and AMG brands.

Its mechanical specification is pretty good too. A 2.0-litre turbo four-banger engine, driving all four wheels (4Matic four-wheel drive is standard) through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which gets AMG-specific software. The chassis and suspension are basically standard A-Class fare, but there are triangular stiffening panels at key locations and a 'shear panel' under the engine and front suspension, both of which help to increase body rigidity. The A 35 also gets a new, and again AMG-specific, steering knuckle, which as we shall see is possibly the car's secret weapon.

In terms of other kit, there's lots of safety gear (autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping, active cruise etc.), while the cabin gets sports seats, an AMG steering wheel (with those rotary switches for the driving settings dangling from the spokes) and the widescreen, all-digital MBUX dashboard. That, at a swoop, makes it one of the best vehicle interiors around right now, at any price. It also gets the 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated digital assistant, which can help you with satnav, or even open the sunroof if you're feeling lazy.

One word of advice - in standard form, the A 35 looks a touch too subtle for its own good (ok, not in yellow, we'll concede), and could easily be mistaken for a normal A-Class wearing an AMG-Line body kit. It's worth having a dip into the options list for a bit more visual vim on this one.

How does it drive?

Brilliantly, in a word. Mercedes brought us to the island of Mallorca to try the A 35 out, and pretty much every road that we drove it on looked like a dream tarmac rally stage from Colin McRae Rally. Even the surfaces, specially laid for the hordes of cyclists who flock to the island, were perfect - glassy smooth and consistent. So, no point in bothering with the Comfort mode in the Dynamic Select menu. Sport Plus all the way...

Sport Plus is the best mode. Even in their stiffest setting, the adaptive dampers don't allow the A 35 to bang and thump too much (although that's with the caveat that the roads really were staggeringly smooth) and it's a mode that unleashes a little more noise and racket from the engine, so that's a good thing.

Remember the steering knuckle that we talked about above? It's the A 35's secret weapon, because it uncorks a wealth of feeling, feedback and precision that's largely lacking in the standard A-Class's slightly languid rack. It's not quite as sharp in feel as that of the Honda Civic Type R or the Ford Focus RS, but it's super-precise and beautifully weighted and basically just feels lovely.

The chassis, in general, seems to have no vices, and staggeringly high limits. At no point, and occasionally in the face of some vigorous provocation, could we get the A 35 to misbehave, feel nervous or unwilling. No matter how deep the apex, how tight the corner, nor how much we tried to break the traction control system by piling on power way too early, the A 35 had answers. Lots of them. Properly researched and annotated, too. This is a staggeringly talented chassis.

If there's a quibble in all of this, it's the engine, which, while hardly short of power nor torque, did feel a touch flat at times. This is in no way a slow car, but we'd like to see and feel and hear a bit more in the way of drama from the performance. Then again, that's probably the preserve of the forthcoming A 45 AMG, and the A 35's job is to be a more useable, everyday, Golf R rival. Viewed through that prism, it's done its job to perfection.

Verdict

Mercedes and AMG were taking a bit of a risk, dipping down to try and meet the upwardly mobile (and exceptionally talented) likes of the Golf, Civic and even the Megane RS. The A 35 has done well, though. Even net of the fact that we'd love to see a bit more aggression from the engine, the A 35 is a smooth, rapid, engaging, day-to-day hot hatch that ably mixes style with performance with practicality. That's a pretty good combo, no?

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

5 5 5 5 5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Neil Briscoe - 4 Dec 2018









      - Mercedes-AMG road tests
- Mercedes-AMG news
- A 35 4Matic images

2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.

2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.2019 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4Matic. Image by Mercedes-AMG.








 

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