Car Reviews

2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 Review

Paul Horrell’s 2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 Review with Specs, Performance, Ride and Handling, Safety, Verdict and Score.

In A Nutshell The cheapest, slowest full-house AMG made, although by other measures it’s not cheap or slow, with all-conditions performance and a lavish cabin.

2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 Specifications (EU)

Price $65,000 (approx) Engine 2.0L petrol turbo four-cylinder Power 225kW at 5800rpm Torque 400Nm at 3000-4000rpm Transmission 7-speed auto DCT Drive all-wheel drive Body 4436mm (L) 1797mm (W) 1405mm (H) Turning circle 11.5m Towing NA Kerb weight 1480kg Seats 5 Fuel tank 51 litres Spare No Thirst 7.3L/100km combined-cycle European average

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THE Mercedes-AMG division made a version of the outgoing A-class, called the A45. There will be a replacement A45 based on the new A-Class too, but this isn’t it. The A45 sat above a yawning gap down to the mainstream A-Class and that’s the gap this A35 is here to fill, just like how Audi makes the S3 to sit between the RS3 and the regular A3.

So we’ve got a 225kW engine getting its surge to the road via all-wheel drive and grippy tyres. The AMG engineers say the new car is about as fast around corners and as strong in its brakes as the old A45. Pretty hefty claims, then.

To hold it all together and improve the steering accuracy, the techs redesigned the front uprights, changed the steering mounting, put in solid bushes for some of the suspension arms and subframe bolts, and added body reinforcement under the engine. Brakes are bigger too. So it’s far from just a tarted’n’chipped A250 – at least on paper.

What’s The Interior Like?

No compact car hatch has anywhere near as high perceived quality or as plush cabin design as the A-Class. Any A-Class. Look at the high-resolution screens, the air-jet vents, the soft-touch materials and ambient lighting strips.

Even so, AMG has taken that foundation and added a dose of its own fairy-dust. It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect: super-embracing seats, some splashy decor in the dash, aluminium pedals. The steering wheel has a thick contoured rim. That’s easy to love: what takes longer is the initially bewildering array of buttons and touchpads on its spokes. They control hundreds of infotainment and display functions, and they’re too easy to knock or stroke accidentally when you’re turning a sharp bend.

Down on the centre console is a batch of switches to alter driving characteristics one-by-one: damping, transmission program, degree of electronic stability control (ESC) intervention. You can also combine batches of settings into favourites.

An optional pack includes a superb head-up display showing speed, navigation signage, driver-assist graphics and entertainment. It’s configurable, too, so you can spread info across the head-up and the dash displays.

In the back, space and amenities are like the normal A-Class, including lights and vents. Head and legroom aren’t bad for a compact hatch, but foot space is limited.

Also, in the A35 it’s hard to see out around the tombstone front thrones. If you’re in the back, your last meal might well return to haunt you if you can’t see forward when the driver is throwing it through the bends like an A35 wants to be thrown. A 370-litre boot lies behind, which is exactly expected of this sort of hatch.

What’s The Infotainment And Controls Like?

We’d point you in the direction of our A-Class and B-Class reviews for a fuller explanation on Mercedes’ remarkable highly connected, voice-activated, twin-screen layout. Those screens are vast and ultra-high in resolution.

For the A35, AMG has added several different additional displays, giving you readouts of any number of mechanical parameters and your G-force loadings. Fun to play with, perhaps, but for the business of driving they’re just a distraction.

Still, there’s some extremely useful stuff in there. Every A-Class has navigation with traffic, and the ‘learning’ system that’s supposed to figure out what you’re likely to want next based on your past habits and the time of the day – destinations, radio stations, phone numbers.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto work well if you don’t want to learn the rather complex Mercedes system, but if you’re an aesthete you might want to stick with the unified colours and fonts of using the car’s native operating system and displays.

A trackpad in the centre console is a second input method, so you don’t need to use the touchscreen if you don’t want to get jammy fingerprints all over it.

In any case it’s hard to use a touchscreen when the car’s moving energetically.

What’s The Performance Like?

It’s a properly quick little hound, but it stops short of violent acceleration. A figure of 4.7 seconds from 0-100km/h is a rollicking good boast, but it’s partly flattered by the epic traction away from the start-line. Turbo-lag is there to be found if you’ve locked the transmission in manual and prevented a downshift.

But normally it’s not an issue, especially once you’re up into the higher regions of the rev-counter. It’s an engine that sucks keenly towards redline, and it’s smooth enough, so you never feel you’re punishing it. The sound’s not as fruity as you’d expect from AMG, though. It’s a bit of an anonymous hum in Normal mode, and although Sport  adds some rasp (via both exhaust flaps and speaker enhancement) it’s just louder, not all that inspiring. A V8 this is not.

The automatic dual-clutch transmission (DCT) operates presciently in Auto mode, and generally very crisply when you take charge. The gaps between its gear ratios have been closed-up compared with a normal A-Class, so it’s easy to keen the engine on the boil. All good.

What’s It Like On The Road?

The A35 sits on tyres 205mm-wide at the front and 235mm behind. All four wheels share the drive, and the wide-set chassis strongly resists lean in corners. So as you’d expect it clings on like a demon through any bend or acceleration spurt. Damping is potent too, and the steering progressive and accurate. So if you want a compact car to sling at speed down a difficult twisting road, you’ve found one.

The niggle is in the lack of multi-layer engagement. Steer, accelerate, brake: those inputs do what they say, and nothing more. Don’t try adjusting the cornering balance with the throttle, even in the Sport modes that channel slightly more drive rearwards. Or tipping it in more effectively under brakes. It won’t have it. Not unless it’s a very slippery road, or maybe dirt.

By the same token, it doesn’t feed back much of its efforts. It anaesthetises you from the action. Away from such vein-popping antics, it rides pretty firmly but there’s not much crashing or jiggling, and at a cruise it sits placidly.

What About The Safety Features?

The base-model A-Class collected five stars in ANCAP, and some superb scores in the various sections: 96 percent for adult occupants, 91 for children, an excellent 92  for pedestrians, plus 75 for the safety assist systems.

There are two rear i-Size points (that’s the international successor to ISOFIX). In the front seat, the airbag is deactivated automatically if a rear-facing child seat is fitted. It doesn’t need a transponder – the seat detects the pressure of the baby seat.

Standard driver-assist includes lane-departure warning. The collision mitigation and autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system recognises vehicles, walkers and cyclists. An active pop-up bonnet should protect these vulnerable people if the car does hit them.

The blind-spot warning system is also now able to detect cyclists to the side.

A more advanced optional (at least overseas) driver-assist pack includes what’s close to level-two autonomous highway driving: lane centring and vehicle-following even when the white lines aren’t clear.

The adaptive cruise control uses navigation and camera data to slows the car down for speed limits, junctions and bends. (It takes those bands faster if you’re in sport mode). Those driver-assists are of course only safety systems if you use them to cut long-distance fatigue. You’ve absolutely gotta keep full concentration on what’s going on.

Editor's Rating

How do we rate the interior?
How do we rate the controls and infotainment?
How do we rate the performance?
How do we rate the ride and handling?
How do we rate the safety?
Practical Motoring Says: The AMG name carries a lairy reputation, but this one is actually surprisingly mature. It's quick in a straight line and brutally so through difficult corners. But it's slightly too aloof if you're a driver who wants to feel every layer of sensation and really become involved in the driving. Still, that mature nature goes well with the beautifully furnished cabin, for what should be a far more affordable price than the outgoing circa-$75K A45 AMG...

Paul Horrell

Paul Horrell

Paul's working life has been paced out in cars. He began road-testing when the VW Golf was in its second generation. It's now in its eighth. He covers much more than the tyre-smoking part of the road-test landscape. He roots around in the financial machinations of the car corporations and the apparent voodoo of the technologies. Then he clarifies those complications so his general readers – too busy to lodge their heads up the industry's nether regions – get the fast track on what matters and what doesn't. A freelance writer living in London, he usually gets around the city by bicycle, which adds to his (sometimes justified) reputation as a bit green and a bit of a lefty. He's a member of Europe's Car of the Year jury.