A Golf R destroyer? Road testing the 225kW Mercedes-AMG A35
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2019 Mercedes-AMG A35
• Great sound
• MBUX infotainment
• Mild styling
• Worth waiting for the A45?
You love the Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback but want a more sporty performance, just not the teeth jarring suspension set up you get from the AMG A45? Meet your new car: the A35, Mercedes’s entry-level hot hatch.
Priced from $85,800, the Mercedes-AMG A35 has a 2L, four-cylinder direct-injection turbocharged petrol engine producing 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque. That means an impressive 0-100km/h in 4.7 seconds.
It has Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system for stability and AMG’s speedshift DCT seven-speed transmission for super swift gear changes.
Our test model was specced up to include the Driving Assistance Package ($1790 more, but thoroughly recommended). This added active distance assist distronic — simply put it’s the next-level cruise control or level two autonomous driving.
When you engage it, the car stays in the lane, keeps a set distance between you and the vehicle in front and remains at the speed you want. You can also remove your hands from the wheel (that’s the level two autonomous driving bit) and the car changes lanes by you using the indicator stalk.
Our test car also had the $990 Vision Pac, including panoramic glass electric sunroof, a handy extra as it made the cabin of the hatch feel bigger. The A35, like all new A-Class models, also had “Hey Mercedes”, which gives you a Siri-like system.
The interior has to be one of the smartest in its class, thanks to the dual screens integrated into the dash.
But what makes the A35 stand apart from its closest sibling, the A250 4Matic, is the AMG drive unit on the steering wheel. It’s what you’ll find in the C63 S and the fantastic GT 63 S coupe.
With this, you can set the chassis, steering and engine to different modes; comfort, individual, sport and our favourite sport+. In sport+ you get the pops and crackles from the AMG sport exhaust in gear change-down — and that sound never gets old.
So, what else makes this hatch special?
The AMG transmission means sharpened shifting through the gears with AMG-specific ratios.
Sure, you might think you are Lewis Hamilton and could use the steering wheel-mounted paddles to move through the gears better than the A35, but you can’t outsmart the AMG team.
In all drive modes — from comfort to sport+ — the car blips through the gears at the right ratio for optimum performance.
And if you still think you’re Hamilton, the four-wheel-drive system operates on a maths-based torque model, says AMG. This means the drive goes to the rear, not just when the front ones start to slip, but in anticipation of that. Among the calculation’s inputs are how hard you’re going at the throttle and steering, plus the gear you’re in.
Around the city, comfort is the best drive mode, but hit the motorway you go into Sport+ and you’re ready for action. The A35 is great at straight-line speed and overtaking but it’s also fun on winding roads.
The 4Matic system means you don’t have to worry about back flicking out; it is very surefooted, so it’s great to drive at speed around corners, testing the car’s limit.
Even at low speed round a tight bend, the A35’s four-wheel drive system puts all that power to the ground without a hint of wheel spin.
We liked the performance and AMG soundtrack from the A35, but also the fact it’s easier to live every day than the manic A45. We spoke with a A45 owner a few years ago who swapped into a GLA as the daily commute over speed bumps was too harsh for him, and it was too much of a hard-core beast.
That’s why AMG created the A35. The engineers wanted a balance between handling and comfort and did this by having a MacPherson strut setup supplemented by a wishbone below each wheel centre, with a spring strut and a tie rod.
The aluminium wishbone makes the front of the A35 more agile, and responsive to steering inputs.
At the rear, the four-link rear axle is connected to the body via a sub-frame and there is a wishbone and trailing arm at each corner. This also adds to the stability.
Competition includes the VW Golf R, Audi’s RS3 sportback — and you could even put the Renault Megane RS in there for the premium segment.
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