All wheel drive and over 300 horsepower in a compact hatchback sounds intoxicating and our first drive in the cheapest full AMG model from Mercedes-Benz doesn’t disappoint. The Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic will cost from an estimated €65,000 when it arrives in Ireland in early 2019, a full 15 grand more than the starting price in Germany where its built.
The beefy Edition One model we tested will cost even more! Surprisingly the baby AMG doesn’t want to tear the road to shreds as with most AMGs. When driving with enthusiasm the AMG A35 even manages to leave one’s internal organs pretty much in right places too and this begs the question is the A35 hardcore enough to merit the AMG badge and the high price tag.
The A35 slots in the A Class range above the A250 and under the yet to be built AMG A45, a machine that promises a more powerful hardcore driving experience. Mercedes-Benz says there is massive global growth among younger buyers in this compact sector, especially in China and so predicts good things for the hot A Class. Power comes from a tuned 2 litre four cylinder petrol engine. A twin scroll turbo helps deliver the 400nm of torque and 306hp to the wheels in a surprisingly linear way. The 4Matic fully variable all wheel drive system distributes power to the axles that can utilize it best. The sprint from standstill to 100km/h takes 4.7 seconds and is utterly composed. A35’s top speed is restricted to 250km/h.
We test drove the less that’s subtle, and in this case that’s a good thing, Edition One model in Mallorca on a variety of roads in dry and occasionally damp conditions. Gorgeous BBS-like alloys fill out the arches and sticky rubber gives assured grip. Aerodynamic aids like the huge hatchback spoiler help mark this A Class out as more than an urban shopping trolley. There were other AMG A35s at the launch venue but without all the boy racer kit they looked dull, so dull in fact they could easily slip in to a Brown Thomas car park unnoticed. With AMG models you really have to go big and bold. The performance car needs to look as good as its exhaust note sounds when in Sport+ mode, foot to the floor, windows down, in a tunnel.
Inside, the new A Class when fully equipped is packed with impressive new technologies such as it “Hi Mercedes” voice AI. The striking new Mercedes-Benz interface (MBUX) with its fully digital widescreen display cockpit allows a number of functions including three choices of display theme. The AMG A35 gets the lot plus some sporty seating and a cool new AMG steering wheel.
The roads around the Spanish island of Mallorca are well surfaced in the main. Mallorca is a famed training base for professional cycling teams, Stephen Roche runs a cycling tourist business there too. Thankfully November is a quiet time for two wheels so the hills were a happy playground for my four.
The AMG A35 delivers its power through a DCT 7G auto. The seven speed dual clutch delivers smooth changes and paddle shifts on the steering wheel add to the sporty driving experience. There are five AMG dynamic select drive modes that can be selected by a toggle switch: slippery/snow, comfort, sport, sport+ and individual. An additional rotary dial selector on the new AMG steering wheel features. No prizes for guessing its sport+ that delivers the most thrilling noises and dynamic performance. I spent a ridiculous amount of time being juvenile just popping up and down through the gears to generate the glorious sounding blips and burbles from the contrived engine overrun. The stiffened A Class chassis copes brilliantly and features very trick suspension and excellent anchors too. The AMG A35 is utterly sure footed and has endless traction delivered by its all wheel drive. In truth more power would be very nice and the chassis can take it but more horsepower is not necessarily a good thing. With the AMG A35 you can exploit a higher percentage of its 306hp more of the time and that’s driving fun. The steering feel is premium and solid, while its gearing is direct and neither too quick or autobahn slow. Inner wheel braking is just one of the electronic tricks employed by Mercedes-Benz performance arm to deliver the car’s precise handling and driving characteristics. The A35 is rapid but composed unlike some overly powerful hatches that can be scary at times.
Under the skin there is impressive engineering. AMG has reinforced the front section of the bodyshell to improve initial steering turn-in. The improvements aid stability too when pressing on. Two additional diagonal braces help reduce twisting. The front suspension is McPherson strut with a special geometry to reduce torque steer under hard acceleration. New type aluminium tie rods are used to reduce sprung mass. The steering knuckles with radial mounted clippers are unique to AMG also. At the rear is a four-link axle that is rigidly connected to the body via a subframe. Optional AMG ride control adaptive adjustable damping delivers a choice of three levels of suspension comfort. Camtronic variable valve control is a key part of the high efficiency engine. Intelligent thermal management helps reduce the risk of the engine and its oil overheating. Multi spark ignition and his precision piezo injectors all add to the AMG35’s petrol engine’s impressive credentials.
Orders will be thin in Ireland, especially when there are substantially cheaper alternatives in what is a very small, albeit conspicuous sector.