Introducing baby AMG A 35

The game changing Mercedes-AMG A 45 4MATIC was Merc’s first foray into the hot hatch segment and suffice to say they knocked it out of the park. Silly horsepower combined with all-wheel drive produced an entry level AMG that was incredibly fun to drive. The latest A 45 has not yet been seen in Australia, but we have received a sneak-peak of its genetic markings via its younger sibling, the new baby of the Mercedes-AMG range, the A 35 4MATIC.

The AMG A 35 has a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder twin scroll turbocharged engine with 225kW (306hp) of power and 400Nm of torque. The official combined fuel consumption is 7.6L/100km and for my week I used 11.1L/100km. The AMG Performance 4MATIC driveline transfers this power to all four wheels and propels the A 35 from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds.  The engine still has some turbo lag, but is improved from the previously generation AMG A 45 I have driven and the all-wheel drive gives you a lot of confidence thanks to its neutral balance.

What do you notice is missing from this Mercedes-AMG engine?

 If you wanted to explore those limits further you will need a racetrack and if this is something you are planning to do then you would be best to install the AMG Track Pace option, which in addition to giving you lap times, also gives you vehicle data that can be downloaded and analysed via an app on your phone. My A 35 was not fitted with Track Pace, but I have experienced on the AMG C63S I previously drove and I liked it. But be aware if your vehicle is presented with a concern and it is found that the cause of that concern is attributed to the way it was handled during the track day that particular failure might not be covered under manufacturer’s warranty. The other option is to do one of the many Mercedes-AMG drive days that are held around Australia and drive Merc’s cars instead.

There are five drive modes to choose from on the A 35; Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual, but no Race mode. In Comfort mode the AMG Ride Control suspension is firm but OK, in AMGs I always bypass Sport mode and go straight to Sport+ and the suspension becomes noticeably firmer and bouncier. The exhaust is also louder with pops and bangs as you go up and down the AMG Speedshift DCT 7G transmission. The dual clutch transmission offers fast gear changes, but only when the revs match what gear the car thinks you should be in.

When considering the design of the A 35 it is fair to say that the external design of the latest generation A-Class is more conservative than the previous model, but you can still look like a girl racer in the A 35 with the addition of the AMG Aerodynamics package ($1,915). A fair bit of tyre noise makes its way into the cabin of the A 35, so possibly Mercedes could have used some more sound deadening to reduce this. When it comes to the interior design I was not keen on the dash design in particular the black ‘hump’ that runs along the middle of the dash, which vibrates badly when you go over bumps.

The digital driver’s dash and infotainment system is futuristic looking and can be configured multiple ways and I still like the disco ambient lighting system that I first experienced in the Mercedes-Benz A 200, but I wish you could set it too change with the beat of the music. I spent quite some time chatting with the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) in the A 35 to gage how she compared to the BMW Connected Drive assistant. In some ways the Merc system works better, like changing the temperature settings in the car for example, but it didn’t work as well for finding places like a hairdresser or a supermarket. The voice control does do the basic things well though like making calls and setting a destination in the sat nav.

The matt finish on the area of the centre console where you rest your wrist and the touchpad do not get finger marks, but the gloss black surround and touchscreen does so you will need to carry a micro-fibre cloth in the storage cubby under the arm rest; where you will also find two mini USB ports. In one of the cup holders is a wireless charging point for the car key, but the key does not fit flat onto the base so I question whether the charging would actually work. Under the sliding cover at the front of the centre console is a wireless phone charging pad for compatible devices, another mini USB port and one 12V outlet. For staying hydrated there is a good-sized drink bottle storage cubby in the front doors.

I have never been fond of the current generation Mercedes-Benz steering wheel design and after driving the Tesla Model 3 at the same time as the A 35; I much prefer the clean look of the Tesla. I particularly don’t like the two growths on the bottom of the wheel, both of which only duplicate controls that you already have within easy reach on the centre console so really aren’t necessary if you ask me. The thumb pads at the top of the wheel work well, but you have other means of making adjustments, so are they really needed?

The front seats in my A 35 are the optional AMG High Performance Seats ($2,531) in Classic Red/Black Lugano leather; they are comfortable and hold you in snuggly, can be power adjusted and you have three memory positions for the driver and passenger. The front seats are also heated and cooled ($604 option), with the cooling working among the best of any car I have driven with this feature and it was greatly appreciated in this hot summer that we are having in Sydney.

The rear seats have enough head and leg room for two adults, but the seats are firm and do not offer any support. You get two ISOFIX/three rear tether child seat restraint points, but you will not actually be able to fit three seats across the back. The centre seat folds down as an arm rest with two drink bottle holders at the front that are adjustable and would fit a range of different sized drink bottles.

Rear occupants get air vents in the centre with speed control only, plus there are two mini USB ports to keep smart devices charged. This is good considering you can set up the A 35 as a WiFi hot spot to keep the munchkins connected to their online worlds. For transporting all of their gear the boot is an OK size for a hatchback, but you have to bend down to lift things in, a downside of a small car. In the boot there is one 12V outlet and you get a run flat tyre kit.

The excellent 360o reversing camera is included as part of the Vision Package ($761) and this package also includes Multibeam LED Headlamps, the Parking package and Adaptive Highbeam Assist PLUS. The camera system is just not quite as good as the BMW system, which has the ‘look down’ feature when you approach an object and enables you to see directly in front or behind the vehicle.

A-Class variants from October 2018 onwards all have a 5-star ANCAP safety rating, with an adult occupant protection score of 36.5 out of 38 (96%) and a child occupant protection score of 45 out of 49 (91%). They come with dual frontal airbags, side chest-protecting airbags for both the front and rear occupants, side head-protecting airbags (curtains) and a driver knee airbag are standard.

My A 35 was also fitted with the Driver Assistance Package ($1,454) and this includes adaptive cruise control, Cross Traffic Assist, Driving Assistance package Plus and Active Lane Change Assist. The steering assist and active lane change assist in the A 35 is one of the best systems I have used. The lane change assist changes lanes for you when you indicate and it is safe to do so and the lane keep assist remains active so you don’t need to reengage it.

All new Mercedes-Benz vehicles come with a three year/unlimited km warranty, which includes 24 hour road side assistance. The service interval on the A 35 is one year or 25,000km, whichever comes first. You can elect to purchase an upfront service plan, a cheaper option than pay-as-you-go servicing, it costs $2,150 and covers the first three standard services on your A 35.

The A 35 is the new baby hot hatch in the Mercedes-Benz model line-up and the soon to be introduced A45 will be a hyper hatch with more than 400hp. The problem for the A 35 is the competition it faces and its price; starting at $67,200 this is by no means a cheap hot hatch and as tested my A 35 was $80,024 plus on-road costs. Visit your preferred Mercedes-Benz retailer to drive the A 35 or why not check out the entire AMG range at the only dedicated AMG dealership in Australia, AMG Sydney.

Pros Cons
Easy to use MBUX  interface The complicated design of the dash and steering wheel
Fun car to drive You have to option the A 35 in order for it to look like a hot hatch
Very good Lane Keep Assist technology With added options the A 35 gets expensive

Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.