The Germans are entering new turf, turf that is heavily fought over
AWD, around 300 HP and a hatch shaped body. Now where did we see that before? Yes, exactly, plenty of other manufacturers offer a similar setup. It seems to be market worth entering, else Daimler would have never given the Mercedes-AMG A35 the proverbial green flag for production. We got the keys back in April, but only I managed to finish the review now as the loss of a close family member (biggest fan of CJ) nullified my brain activity for a while.
It was around 20 degrees the day I picked up the Mercedes-AMG A35 from Brussels, so I was happy to find out it was on summer tires. We sadly didn’t get the AMG GT 63 S (review here) on softer rubber, leaving us lusting for more. But lets not dwell in memories and go back to the littlest AMG on offer, a car that in some ways forms the counter part of the flagship. It literally is where the AMG fun ‘starts’ as you’ll be driving an A35 for € 51K.
For that heavy money, the A35 should be offering more than the competition. But does it? It is a question I still find difficult to answer. Why you ask? I’ll try to run you through what this car is like IRL, what I came across while driving it and I’ll be mixing in pictures (not that this should be a surprise). After that, you’ll hopefully understand what the question is so hard to answer.
Residing in the Mercedes-AMG A35
After I picked up the car from Brussels, I went straight back to the Netherlands. I wanted smooth tarmac (sorry, Beau). But to be fair: the A35 sucked up the big pot holes without hassle. Making the car’s reaction to smaller discrepancies in the road even more confusing. Don’t get me wrong: the drive is where it should be for the money, but there’s a tendency for too much of the shock to travel through to the cabin. While we’re talking about the cabin anyway, it is worth mentioning that it is far ahead of its competitors with the epic MBUX. But quality feels below that of Audi S3, that has everything to do with the materials used in the cabin feeling cheaper to the touch. Sliding the luggage compartment cover in the centre triggered me each time. Note: this wasn’t just me, I asked friends to slide it. Same response.
Beau dives deeper into MBUX in his review of the Mercedes-Benz A200 here.
Hammering the Mercedes-AMG A35
Getting a feel of the A35 meant taking it into the city, the car’s natural habitat. But I also spent a few hours hammering it across curvy, flat, Dutch roads. Driving in the city meant getting attention, something some buyers of this car will go for. The exhaust resonating nicely in between the buildings, drew eyes in. The looks also draw in plenty of eyes, I even had to explain people that it really was the A35. Some people couldn’t wrap their head around that it was on the road back then. A good indication of how popular this segment is.
Back to the drive though! It being equipped with 4Matic, it has a different AWD setup than the GT 63 I mentioned earlier. It lacks the ‘+’ and that basically means it is a lesser version. But that is no way a bad thing (okay, driftmode would have been epic), the system displaces torque between the front axle in a similar fashion. That translates in a drivetrain that maxixmes power in a way you feel where it is either pushing or pulling you forward. I found myself enjoying the feedback this gave through the front wheels, where Beau said the A45, he drove from Soul, was more communicative in that way. Although Beau did trigger a good dose of oversteer in the A35.
That drivetrain is such a prominent factor in the way the car presents itself, it hides that it isn’t that quick in a straight line (0-100 in 4.7). it becomes a sport not to lose too much speed in a corner, as pulling out doesn’t feel that rewarding. The seamless 7 speed is almost a disadvantage here, as it so clinically clean at shifting. With 3 other people in the back, you’ll notice that the 306 HP and 450 Nm don’t make you king of the road. But you shouldn’t feel like that, you should be lusting for more AMG-candy. And that is exactly what the Mercedes-AMG A35 is meant to do: show you what AMG can offer, only to never let you go.
Is it worth more than the Golf R, S3 and such?
If the A35 is worth the extra few thousand over the competition, is really up to the buyer’s preferences. It’s like the difference between a Gucci bag and normal bag: they both do the same, but you’re paying more for the heavily branded one. The drivetrain is a major plus over the competition though, as they are far more prone to understeer than the little AMG. Same goes for the infotainment, that is also miles ahead of its competitors.
Mercedes-AMG has created a worthy entry-level hot hatch and even managed to enter this segment with a damn serious contender. Maybe even the best out there right now.