Mercedes-AMG A 35 2019 review

Mercedes-AMG A35 2018 first drive review - hero front

A more convincing hot hatch than the old A45 AMG, if not as thrilling as the most focused hatches

Asked if he would describe the new Mercedes-AMG A35 as more like a fun car or more like an everyday car, AMG engineering lead Steffen Jastrow is unequivocal. “The A35 is a fun car first and foremost,” he says. That could be significant.Mercedes-AMG’s first attempt at a hot hatch was strangely unsatisfying, despite its frantic straight-line performance and bonded-to-the-Tarmac cornering grip – as well as what you might tastelessly call ‘driveway appeal’. Costing more than £40,000, the A45 AMG was a touch expensive, too. That made overlooking the fact that it didn’t quite deliver the single most important commodity for any compact performance car, which, we can all agree, is driving fun, all the more difficult.Nonetheless, the A45 and its coterie of derivatives – the high-riding GLA45, the CLA45 saloon and the CLA45 Shooting Brake – were runaway sales successes. Mercedes-AMG says it shifted double the number of 45-badged models it had originally anticipated, many of those going to younger buyers who hadn’t been able to afford any sort of AMG before.Eventually, there will be a new A45 based on this latest A-Class – expect it to have more than 400bhp – but for now, we have the A35 to become acquainted with. Priced from £35,580 in the UK, it is several thousands of pounds cheaper than the old A45 and its purpose is a very simple one: bring even younger buyers into the AMG fold so that they might graduate every two or three years up the ranks.This, then, is the most affordable AMG yet. It hardly seems to be the runt of the litter, though, because the depth of engineering that turns an A-Class into an AMG is even greater here than it was five years ago when the A45 was new. The new A-Class body is much stiffer than its predecessor’s for one thing and, for the first time, AMG has fitted an aluminium shear panel beneath the engine compartment that reinforces the front end of the bodyshell, while a couple of additional braces do more of the same. Better torsional rigidity improves steering precision and allows the suspension to do its job more effectively. (Imagine trying to hang a heavy light fitting high on a wall while standing on a step ladder with one wonky leg, compared with standing on a perfectly stable one.)The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine is a development of a unit you’ll find in the A-Class, but it uses a twin-scroll turbocharger for immediate throttle response. Peak power is 302bhp and torque is rated at 295lb ft from 3000rpm. The gearbox is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and the four-wheel-drive system powers the front axle only in normal driving before sending up to 50% of the available torque aft.The drivetrain is still somewhat restricted, then, and it’ll never make the car feel as adjustable or as playful on the throttle as the more rear-biased four-wheel-drive system in the recently departed Ford Focus RS, for instance, but AMG does insist that this latest version is a big improvement on the system used by the A45.The multi-disc clutch that is integrated into the rear axle and is responsible for diverting drive towards the rear wheels is now actuated electro-mechanically rather than electro-hydraulically, so it’s quicker to respond. The system as a whole is predictive now, too, and therefore able to determine exactly when drive should be shunted rearwards, rather than simply waiting for slip at the front axle, by which point it is, by definition, too late.The 4Matic system also has a Sport mode – activated in ESP Sport Handling or ESP Off – which favours the rear axle more readily for even more agile handling behaviour.Beyond all of that, there’s a rigidly mounted rear axle and uniballs rather than rubber bushings for the front wishbones, a range of five driving modes with a new one labelled ‘Slippery’, four-piston brakes on the front axle with 350mm discs, optional adaptive dampers and an active sports exhaust that’s standard equipment (and sounds very good indeed in its noisiest setting). The A35’s top speed is 155mph and 62mph is registered in 4.7sec.

Source: Autocar Online

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