Entry to the AMG club just became fractionally cheaper with the advent of the a 35. But is it a real AMG, or just an a 250 turned up a notch?
Before we meet the toughest little punk in the Affalterbach gang, we get to go a few rounds with AMG’s latest trouble maker, the A 35.
This wee hooligan represents a new entry point to the otherwise exclusive AMG club. It’s positioned to take on the likes of the Audi S3. That goes for $84,900, deploys 228kW and 400Nm to help it realise 100km/h in 4.6sec. The A 35 targets this directly, costing $85,500 with 225kW and 400Nm, blazing to 100km/h in 4.7sec. BMW will be in on the action soon too with its new M135i xDrive, and it’s no coincidence its corresponding numbers all start with the same figures; $83,500, 225kW, 450Nm, 4.8sec. It’s always been that where one goes, the others must follow with these three. Except in the case of the 5 Series GT; no one wants to go there.
But anyway, like the AMG 43 C and E ranges, the A 35 is not quite the full monte AMG, using a fettled mass-produced engine and gearbox, but it receives a decent going over in the suspension and styling departments. The engine is a development of the 2.0-litre found in the A 250, given a new twin-scroll turbo to blow more boost. That helps it produce 60 more kilowatts and 50 extra Newtons for duty in the A 35. Typical of most long stroke, charged 2.0-litres, its strength is the broad supply of torque, which it rustles up briskly from idle.
While the peak isn’t tapped until 4000rpm, there’s a lot happening below 2000rpm but it really starts ripping from three thousand onwards. She’s done by 6000rpm, power peaking 200rpm earlier, and it’s here where the box usually upshifts anyway.
The action soundtrack isn’t epic, but then it is a four cylinder. The exhaust gets a noise flap, so you at least hear it in the Sport mode, but there’s no button to run it loud all the time while there’s just a hint of a burble and pop on the overrun.
The A 35 uses the same seven-speed dual-clutch as the 250, but software fiddling enables faster shifting. This is smooth in town, occasionally slurring off the mark and while the A 35 has the torque to pull third gear at lower speeds, the box doesn’t need much persuasion to hook second to access a more AMG-appropriate pace.
It feels potent around town, rapidly accelerating whenever you give the throttle a wee tickle. It’s quite low geared, 1800rpm in top at 100, and the ratios are closely stacked to keep it pulling. When you’re really into it, this is rapid on the changes, both up and down the ‘box. The Sport+ setting is about perfect for rapid transit outings, and you can leave the paddles be as suboptimal gear selection is a rarity.
It will hold a cog when you lift off the gas, and bangs it down when you’re hard on the brakes. It just loves shifting gears this, and so that warmed over 2.0-litre is always up and spinning. The 4matic AWD system uses an electro-mechanical multi-disc clutch on the rear axle to vary the torque split, which ranges from 100 per cent on the front to 50:50. This combines masterfully with the twin-clutch to ensure maximum thrust from a standstill. Race start is included, and active in Sport mode. There’s no convoluted initiation sequence, just stall it up, the engine will hover at 3500rpm, and then bang, you’re away as soon as you release the pedal.
Even with a few wet patches about, this pulled 4.65sec to 100. AMG has gone to town on the front end. To ensure maximum turn-in and stable suspension geometry there’s an aluminium “shear panel” plate and two diagonal braces added underneath, an aluminium wishbone locates the strut to reduce unsprung mass, and it has AMG steering knuckles. The rear subframe is more rigidly mounted and there are AMG-specific wishbones, trailing arms and hubs employed.
Variable adaptive dampers are fitted, with three modes to offer a more relaxed ride in Comfort to a track-ready set-up in Sport+. Comfort is genuinely accommodating for an AMG, removing the harshness of the chassis stiffening. This only crashes over the nastier potholes and, despite its low ride height, the A 35 offers compliant progress. Sport+ really adds the starch, and the A 35 will start moving around over the more serious bumps, so Sport is the happy place on road, the roll neutralised yet it’s better able to ride out most of the lumps.
The drive modes are easily accessed via a rotary switch hanging off the steering wheel. Configure the Individual setting, and then this can be accessed immediately by tapping the centre of the switch.
And there are a further two customisable buttons on the other side of the wheel, which can be set to alter the suspension quickly, for instance. Four-piston monobloc calipers live up front with 350mm rotors which offer plenty of power, though the pedal can feel a little inconsistent under hard braking. The variable ratio steering has a quick rack and they’ve reinforced the mount points of the column to increase precision.
AMG Dynamics is a further layer of electronic driver aid where the ESP applies targeted braking inputs to the rear inside wheel to ‘create a yawing moment’ which helps the A 35 turn in more sharply. Selecting the Sport driving modes put this in to its Advanced setting where it delivers ‘lower yaw damping’ so that less steering input is required to get it turning for added agility.
These elements combine ruthlessly to have the A 35 rocketing around the curves. It’s fairly ferocious on the turn, pointing quickly, and precisely. The AMG Dynamics must be helping in some way for it to do this, but the electronics are imperceptible in operation. The steering assistance is firm but there’s little input needed to get the A 35 heading for that apex, and there’s some feedback there too. This can amass hefty G levels in the bends; you can lean hard on the front tyres and they just keep digging in. Traction is never in doubt, torque steer non-existent and so too any real tramlining.
The ESP lets you have a go; we didn’t even venture into its ‘sport handling’ mode for ‘more agile handling’. It’s that mid-corner grip that astounds, and it’s genuinely a rabid cross country sprinter. Rear-drive purists will label it a point and squirt machine, and it is, but they’d likely struggle to keep up on winding roads. This is sensationally efficient at decoding the curves. And it’s way quick enough along the straight bits.
The A 45 is going to be right bonkers. If there’s any gripe, it’s to do with road noise. The tyres sound off, and the stiffer front end transmits more NVH. This is noisy even at 70km/h on coarse chip and can also rumble over city streets. But it’s otherwise a civilised AMG. The quick steering also helps in the city and the weighting is light in Comfort.
There’s a superb parking camera and the turning circle is even okay despite the aggressive chassis settings. Our fuel consumption spiked at 16.5L/100km at one point, although the trip computer told us the average for the morning commute via school, with a few motorway miles, was 11.5L/100km.
Being an AMG it has a fairly comprehensive standard fitout, although active cruise is extra. ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control is present, helping with on board tasks, like quickly and easily setting the sat nav. It’s an A-Class so isn’t overly spacious in terms of interior accommodations, but at least the sports seats aren’t too aggressive in the bolstering department.
You can option hi-po AMG seats if you must. And if the exterior styling isn’t AMG enough for you, there’s an aero pack with a bigger rear wing and flics for the front bumper. As for an answer to our original question, well yes it is a pumped up A 250, but it’s plenty good enough to warrant that AMG badge.
|Model||Mercedes-AMG A 35||Price||$85,800|
|Engine||1991cc, IL4, T/DI, 225kW/400Nm||Drivetrain||7-speed twin-clutch, on-demand AWD|
|Fuel Use||7.4L/100km||C02 Output||169g/km|