Mercedes-AMG A35 2019 4matic

2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 review

First international drive

Rating: 8.5
$55,590 $66,110 Dealer
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The 2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 is the cheapest ticket into the AMG club. But is it worthy of that famous automotive acronym?
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Ever wanted an AMG, any AMG, but couldn’t quite pony up the readies to land one in your driveway? This could be the car for you. Meet the all-new Mercedes-AMG A35, the German marque’s most affordable model yet.

Straddling the gap between the altogether-tamer Mercedes-Benz A250 and AMG’s incumbent ‘hyper-hatch’, the AMG A45, the A35 brings a new dimension to Merc-AMG’s line-up, not to mention a new number. The ‘35’ suffix joins ‘43’, ‘45’, ‘63’ and ‘65’ in the brand’s expanding nomenclature.

A note on that “most affordable” claim. Australian pricing and specification is still to be confirmed, and we’ll be waiting until the end of 2019 before AMG’s hot hatch arrives Down Under, but if you think this is the car for you, bank on around $65,000-$70,000 as a starting point.

And for that money, you’ll get one ballistic hot hatch, if not as manic as the A45 (a new version of which is also expected in the not-so-distant future).

Based on Mercedes-Benz’s all-new A-Class, the A35 is brimming with tech and bristling with performance. Powered by the same 2.0-litre turbo four (internal code M260, for the engineering nerds out there) found in the just-released A250, it’s totally different to the 2.0-litre unit powering the hyper A45 (internal code M133).

But where the A250 delivers 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque, its more raucous sibling ups the ante to 225kW and 400Nm. That’s enough to propel the A35 from standstill to 100km/h in a blisteringly-quick 4.7 seconds. Top speed is an electronically-limited 250km/h. Properly fast then, and making a bit of a mockery of the ‘hot hatch’ tag. It’s more than hot.

Drive is sent to all four wheels (AMG Performance 4MATIC variable all-wheel drive) via AMG’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission while an electro-mechanical multi-disc clutch integrated into the rear axle shuffles torque between the front and rear axles with a maximum 50:50 front/rear distribution.

In benign driving, such as on a motorway, drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels but dial up the fun, and the clutch starts to shuffle torque between the front and rears according to any number of influencing factors, such as car speed, acceleration, steering angle and the rotational speed of individual wheels.

Mercedes-AMG has made much of benign driving needs. It’s no secret, models AMG past have erred on the side of firm-to-uncomfortable in the hunt for handling, great for track days or hardcore blasts through the countryside, but not so great for day-to-day living. With this, though, AMG’s engineers have tried to dial out some of that hardcore-ness hunting that elusive balance between handling and comfort.

How? Try this… (bear with me).

Up front, a conventional MacPherson strut setup is augmented by a wishbone below each wheel centre, complemented by a spring strut and a tie rod. That wishbone, constructed of aluminium, reduces unsprung mass making the front end more agile, and responsive to steering inputs.

It’s a similar story out back, with a four-link rear axle connected rigidly to the body via a sub-frame while a wishbone and trailing arm at each corner continue the hunt for agility and stability.

Combined with AMG’s Ride Control with adaptive damping (an option, but standard on Oz-delivered cars according to an MB Australia spokesperson), the overall effect is of a supple and comfortable daily driver with the ability to transform into a hardcore corner carver when required.

And that duality of (intended) purpose did shine through around the tight and twisting mountain roads of Majorca, in Spain, the perfect canvas to highlight the A35’s mettle at the new baby AMG’s international launch.

Make no mistake, the A35 might not have the same high number writ in chrome large across its rear as its Affalterbach stablemates, but that doesn’t detract from its, well, AMG-ness.

There’s an immediacy to the A35’s performance belying its entry-level status and Mercedes-sourced engine (as opposed to bespoke and hand-signed AMG donks usually found under the bonnets of similarly-badged models).

Let’s start with urban. Around town the A35 – when Comfort mode is selected – behaves impeccably, soft and supple without being overly wallowy. Imperfections and the bumps and lumps of everyday life are dispatched with ease, and in comfort, not something that can be said about some other AMG models higher up the family tree.

Highway miles too, highlight the A35’s relatively comfortable demeanour: quiet, compliant and well, just enjoyable. But, find yourself in the foothills of Majorca’s majestic and swooping countryside, and the A35 takes on an altogether different demeanour.

Up the performance ante via the steering-wheel mounted dial, ala Porsche, to Sport or better yet, Sport+, and AMG’s baby stormer assumes another identity. Yes, the adaptive dampers firm up everything (but, it must be said, not to the insane levels of, say, a C63), while the 2.0-litre four-banger starts to expectorate a series of pops, crackles, and explosions that simply leave you wanting more. It’s as voracious as it is intoxicating, a cacophony of aural delight.

A note on that soundtrack: The A35’s exhaust features an automatically controlled exhaust flap which, depending on the selected drive mode, modulates sound between ‘balanced’ and ‘powerful’. Give us powerful. Every. Single. Time. Your neighbours though, will thank the good folk at Affalterbach for the ‘silent start’ setting, that ensures the A35 always (always!) starts in quiet mode. Boo.

Noise is one thing (did I mention it’s glorious?) but really, the A35 needs to perform to be worthy of the three-letter acronym chromed on its tailgate. And in short, it does. That 4.7-second claim, while untested scientifically at launch, is entirely believable. Apply some heft to your right foot, and AMG’s baby throws itself at the horizon at a rate you can barely comprehend (and with a soundtrack to match).

But, straight line speed isn’t the be-all-and-end-all. Never has been. Sure, the straight bits between corners afford an opportunity to floor the throttle and hang on, but it’s the dynamic dance through some left- and right-handers – of varying degrees – that are the main course. The A35 doesn’t disappoint.

Simply, the A35 is unflappable. With torque vectoring under-wheel and Sport+ drive mode doing its job of holding onto revs as you blithely throw the car at the next corner, it’s the electro-mechanical steering that shines. With a variable transmission ratio rack, the steering is razor-sharp in its precision, even the most minor of adjustments translating to the front wheels and back through the hands.

It’s delightful in a way engineers dream of. And of course, as expected, the steering is weighted according to the drive mode selected – lighter for Comfort, added weight for those times you want to hustle like (Lewis) Hamilton.

Of course, being a Merc, even an AMG-fettled hot Merc, brings with it an expectation of premium comfort in the cabin. And the A35, again, doesn’t disappoint. Based on the all-new A-Class, the cabin offers the latest in the company's styling and infotainment technology.

AMG sports seats offer plenty of support (necessary when you’re hustling like Lewis) but are also comfortable for longer and altogether more sedate driving. And even with those optional sports seat, there’s still decent enough space in the back row for those consigned to third- and fourth-seat purgatory.

In Europe, the A35 will be available with variety of display options, but an Aussie representative of the company has assured CarAdvice all local A35s will feature the brand’s top-of-the-range twin 10.25-inch displays which really have moved the infotainment game forward a generation.

The left-hand display (on our left-hook cars) serves as the A35's instrument cluster. It’s configurable to show any number of the car’s vital statistics and in a number of styles. The default Sport+ display, or what AMG calls ‘Supersport’, it has to be said, reeked of 1980s sci-fi movie spec digitisation. It’s a bit naff, really.

Luckily then, you can fiddle around with the steering-wheel mounted controls (left-hand cluster for the left-hand screen, right-hand set for the right-hand display) to find your personal preferences. I opted for ‘classic’ instrumentation every single time. Classy. Timeless.

The right-hand 10.25-inch display is the nerve centre for the A35’s infotainment. We’re on record as saying the new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) system is next level. The clarity of those screens matched by the intuitive, simple ease of use, really does enhance the, ahem, user experience.

The myriad functions can be controlled in myriad ways – using the touchscreen as, well, a touchscreen provides quick responses while using the steering wheel mounted controls allows for an ease of use without the need to remove your hand from the tiller. Alternatively, there’s a touchpad in the centre console, but it’s clunky to use, especially on the move.

And finally, using voice commands which are activated by saying ‘Hey Mercedes’ results in yet another way to control and configure the A35’s functions. Look, it’s nice to have choice, but there’s choice and then there’s too many choices. We like the touchscreen and the controls on the steering and even a little bit of ‘Hey Mercedes’. The touchpad could probably go, though, an unnecessary complication for a system that already features plenty of input options.

If practicality is a consideration for you, the A35 can pack 370 litres into its boot, expandable to 1210 litres with the rear seats folded.

As already mentioned, we won’t know local pricing and spec until closer to the A35’s Australian launch towards the end of 2019. But, it’s expected all local-delivered A35s will feature as standard equipment reserved for higher grades in Europe: 19-inch alloys (over 18s), those twin 10.25-inch displays (against the more mundane 7.0-inch numbers), MBUX with Mercedes me Connect, AMG Ride Control suspension with adaptive damping, and AMG exhaust.

It’ll be a compelling package when it lands, especially if it does indeed come in at that circa $65,000-$70,000 price point. That money not only makes the A35 the cheapest entrée into the genuine AMG club, but will also net you a genuine beyond-hot-hatch that is brimming with tech and bristling with performance.