Mercedes-AMG A35 - Get This, or Wait For The A45?
Written by Marc Rutten
With the ever expanding line-up of new AMG models, the Germans at Mercedes-AMG could not leave the new A-Class behind. The W177 Mercedes-Benz A-Class is the fourth and current generation of the A-Class range of sub-compact executive hatchbacks. Launched last year, the new 5-door hatchback has a new sister in the shape of a four-door sedan and packs a variety of new features. One of which is the MBUX infotainment system, with its redesigned touch interface and voice-controlled smart assistant that is activated by saying "Hey Mercedes", which unfortunately in my case recognized every single word I spoke as "Hey Mercedes" and therefore constantly asked what I wanted from the car. Mmmm...
If you actively engage the voice control saying "Hey Mercedes", then it offers you easy and fast shortcuts to the most used features. Within the model range, every A-Class comes standard with two 7-inch displays for the instrument cluster and MBUX screen. If you prefer, you can upgrade it to a 10.25-inch display with touchpad controls, real-time traffic information, traffic sign recognition and augmented reality navigation, which is a wonderful addition to any navigation system. Other available options include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, ambient lighting and a head-up display that should in my opinion have shown the navigational directions.
Leaving the endless list of options and features behind me, simply because it would take me day or two to run through every single section this car has, I positioned myself behind the familiar steering wheel of the new A-Class. My first outing in the new car after having driven the previous generation AMG quite regularly.
My expectations were quite high from the start, with the fact that the 35 signature has become the step-in for the AMG model series. As the new baseline, the A35 acts as a baby-AMG within the line-up soon to be overpowered by its bigger brother, the A45 AMG. Luckily, four-wheel drive comes standard, as does Merc’s seven-speed, double clutch auto gearbox. Top speed is limited to 155mph and 0-62mph takes only 4.7 seconds.
Under the hood, you will find a lively, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo, cranking out 302bhp and 400Nm. Adjust-ability comes from a series of modes you can opt for via the dial on the steering wheel. Exhaust, traction control and responsiveness of the car can be altered. Adjustable suspension is also available at an extra cost, but it was not fitted to my test car.
The performance of the AMG hot-hatch is rather rapid. The 302bhp coming from the four-pot engine is delivered in a rather smooth, linear and eager fashion. It wants to catapult you forward with effort, but without a massive kick in the back. It wants to go, but never a moment across the rev range does it blow your mind. It is quick, but never overwhelming in its sheer ability to put a smile on your face. It is rather businesslike. You want power, it delivers. You want to stop, it stops.
The sound track from the rear of the car is a lovely fun and engineered orchestra of pops and bangs that are so predictable that you tend to drive in a way that you want to hear them more and more. The hooligan in me kept finding them on the overruns and gear changes. I know that this is rather childish, but it was at least something that made me grin.
If we look further at the handling, ride, comfort and agility, the car is pretty much more than decent, but never involving you to the max. The steering is well balanced and rewarded me, while pushing the hot-hatch across the snowy country roads in Scotland. I never ran out of traction as I rocketed out of corners and bends. Understeer or oversteer are pretty much absent due to the good use of the four-wheel drive system.
The A35 is a grippy and a precise machine that I see as a wonderful compromise between the lower position A250 and soon to be released A45 AMG. You could say it's positioned as a M140i or a S3, whilst also being aimed at clients who would opt for a Golf R.
For the enthusiasts among you, the package doesn't offer as much driver involvement as you would like. It's quite clinical in the way you are being presented with its capabilities. The VW Golf R or BMW M140i are more positioned to true enthusiasts offering more finesse and a wider, more enjoyable experience behind the wheel.
All in all, the A35 is smartly positioned for those who are in the market for a fast and daily drive-able hot-hatch, which isn't fuelled with the complete AMG hooligan gene, but does wear its prestigious badge. For those who want more, you can opt for the A45 AMG, which is expected to have over 400bhp and will be a lot more hardcore.