Mercedes’ cheapest AMG reviewed
June 25, 2019
The A35 is designed to go where no other Mercedes-AMG has been before. When the all-wheel drive hot hatch reaches Australia it will be more affordable than anything the brand has ever built.
Exactly what it will cost isn’t yet known. Scheduled to begin rolling into showrooms across Europe from January, the A35 won’t go on sale in Australia until very late next year. Its price here will be finalised close to the local launch date.
Mercedes-AMG describes the A35, based on the new A-Class hatchback, as its “new entry-level model”. In countries where pricing has been announced, Germany and the UK among them, it’s significantly cheaper than the outgoing A45.
That car, introduced in 2013, was close to $80,000 here at the end of its production life. All this points to a price in Australia no higher than $70,000 for the A35, maybe less.
Though less costly, the A35 is an authentic Mercedes-AMG. This is a car that’s clearly been given a lot of engineer love. Fiercely fast in a straight line, it steers, brakes and corners with real finesse.
Its engine is based on the turbo 2.0-litre four in the just-launched A250 but extensive AMG upgrades unleash a herd of extra horses. With 225kW, the A35 has more power than all-wheel drive hotties such as the Subaru WRX and Volkswagen Golf R.
The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch auto, also with AMG modifications. Even the electronically controlled clutch at the heart of the car’s 4Matic all-wheel drive has AMG-developed software.
AMG gave the A35’s body and chassis similarly thorough treatment. Extra panels and braces under the engine compartment increase stiffness where it counts. Front and rear suspension feature many new AMG specific parts.
The brake discs are the same size as the previous A45 but the front rotors are clamped by new four-piston calipers. The A35 also has more direct steering than the standard A-Class.
New-design front and rear bumper panels endow a more macho look — AMG spent more time and money making the car’s interior special.
Some of the changes are obvious, for example the extra AMG-specific switches on the steering wheel, sports seats and new centre console layout. The three different AMG-designed driver-selectable instrument displays, among other touches, are noticeable only on start-up.
But it’s the driving that proves beyond doubt that AMG went all-out to make the A35 something special. On the winding roads of Majorca, site of the A35’s presentation to international media, the car showed real depth of talent.
It’s not as quick as the old A45 (there’s a new A45 in the pipeline) but the A35 is superior in every other way.
Its steering is super-sharp and the A35’s front-end grip is terrific. There’s more suspension excellence at the rear, endowing the car with a sense of beautifully balanced equilibrium.
On the smooth and winding roads of Spain’s big Mediterranean island, the Mercedes-AMG made carving countless corners no chore at all. The big brakes never wilted and the all-wheel drive never failed to deliver ample grip when accelerating.
The engine has plenty of punch from low in its rev range and throttle response is good compared with other turbo fours.
The A35 also gives its driver a great degree of control over the way it behaves. The combination of settings can match almost any mood.
With the Sport + driving program, ESP Sport Handling and manual shifting selected, the Mercedes-AMG is set for speed. The engine and transmission are more responsive, the steering becomes weightier and a valve in the exhaust opens to unleash extra raspy decibels.
This is no one-trick pony, however. Dial everything back and the A35 becomes a smooth riding and none-too-noisy hot hatch, ready for comfortable commuting or cruising.
This A35 is a hot hatch with a broader than usual spread of ability, and no shortage of speed. Worth waiting for? Definitely …
Price: $70,000 (est)
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 225kW/400Nm
Safety: 5 stars
0-100km/h: 4.7 secs