We are late on this car, we know it. Every car magazine has tested it and you might know its technical features. After meeting a Mercedes enthusiast who always greets the brand’s performance in every aspect, we started to gain interest on the Silver Star. We are not here to talk about statistics or other pointless figures but to determine if buying a new sporty Mercedes is worth it. So why not testing the baby AMG as a starter? Text: Luca W. © Photos: Luca W. ©

Presented at the Paris Auto Show in 2018, the Mercedes A35 AMG 4MATIC (please give it a proper name next time) seems like the fresh entrance to the AMG Club, with a turbocharged 2-litre that develops 306 HP. Nothing new here, nothing transcending on paper, as Volkswagen, Renault, Peugeot and many other sporty hatchback car makers adopt the same engine architecture. Except BMW. Oh no, wait… Frankly, in principle, it is as boring as a Volkswagen Golf GTI, or R: turbo-charged, 4-cylinder, all-wheel drive. On the contrary, after driving it for a week, we can tell that theory is just theory. The Mercedes, with a slight touch of AMG is just another proof of the following thesis: “F*** theory, let’s practice”.

Originally, we should have had a red car with dark rims, but it crashed. Instead, we got that sober grey, which is kind of disappointing. Anyhow, it makes it a great sleeper and the first look is not that impressive. In fact, there are only a few differences to an AMG-Package equipped A Class. The dark intakes and diffuser are the only significant differences we have noticed. Thus, there were no extensive changes aesthetically speaking, which fits the role of this baby AMG. However, what a beautiful car. We didn’t like the basic A Class when it was revealed but with time, eyes get used to new shapes and the sporty extensions clearly have an influence on our judgement. The A35 AMG is a shy yet aggressive and elegant looking car in a way.

Inside, we clearly are in the luxury Mercedes world: well finished, beautiful and simple. Yes, the A35 comes with the alluring AMG steering wheel, full of functional buttons. Otherwise, inside, it is an A Class, clearly. One of our members uses one as daily (with an AMG-Package) and there is no change at all. We would have been glad to see differences (except the steering wheel, the cluster and the AMG door trims) like the use of carbon fiber or different door handles, whatever. Nevertheless, we do understand the purpose of the car: AMG, but not too much, like a half-blood.

The interior is very relaxing mainly because it is nice to watch, ergonomic and so clean. Its pureness really upturns with the ambient light option. The different modes can adapt to your driving on one hand or, on the other hand you can adapt your driving to the light mode. There is pretty much everything: from Blue Moon to Miami Vice, there is an unlimited amount of color tone options, enough to please every taste. Furthermore, the cluster’s displays are fully customizable, according to your wishes. There it is, your new Gameboy. 

In addition to this saloon-ish interior, the car we tested was equipped with the last Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS – the scientific acronym for “autonomous” driving): automatic lane switch, Adaptive Cruise Control and many other technologies that enhance comfort and safety. Unlike many production cars equipped with those systems, it seems like Mercedes got it right: they are not too invasive and really useful in some cases. Except the seatbelt that automatically tightens when you’re approaching another car a bit close.

Since there is the Aufrecht Melcher Grossaspach (AMG) mention, the A35 should inherit the nobility of this big, yet exclusive family. The powertrain is certainly not that “AMG” but it works: the engine is flexible, responsive but obviously not that melodious. By contrast, the exhaust counterbalances – as it can – the lack of noise and melody. Speaking of noise, it is well finished (not as brutal and metallic as a Renault Megane RS for example) but, to us, insufficient for pleasure. Yet, back-fires are amusing but also superficial (actually it has a real purpose: prevent turbo-lag). The gearbox, a dual clutch 7-speed AMG Speedshift DCT 7G boasts comfort and is sufficiently reactive for a sporty driving style. Except the shifting (which seems a bit slow), there is nothing much to say about the gearbox: ratios are perfect. Actually, with it, you can enjoy the best of both worlds. 

However, the big mystery of the A35 AMG is the chassis. The suspensions have some similarities to a “basic” A-Class but some elements, like the front wishbone joints, the front uprights, the back subframe (solid-mounted), springs, dampers, etc. are different and make a difference. A basic A220 is very under steerable while the A35 does not move at all. Clearly, it feels like the engine is undersized for this chassis. We clearly had to push too far and drive like a maniac to get a small understeer. Thanks to the four-wheel-drive system that operates with torque vectoring. The car is precise, sharp and very efficient but it doesn’t have that “hooligan” part that is so dominant in the AMGs. Actually, it feels like an Audi, it simply engages both axles when turning in a corner and will always give traction when needed. 

Yet, feelings emerge when driving the A35, especially one: satisfaction.

The satisfaction to drive fast and clean for 10 minutes and then, go on Eco mode because Grandma feels sick and needs a bit of comfort. Barring that, don’t expect to be startled by the engine noise or other “old-fashioned-yet-cool” features because it is aligned with the modern sport-compact cars trend, which is, by definition, boring. Whereas the baby AMG has that pinch of madness that is sufficient enough to draw out your cheeks. Furthermore, the A35 is efficient: after a week, the average consumption is 8L/100 km, due to a perfect transmission ratio: at 120/130 kph, the engine only revs at 2000/2100 RPM, which is quite economical.

The A35 AMG 4MATIC is simply the best compromise on the compact market between sport and comfort. Forget Volkswagen, Audi or other lifeless compact car. Mercedes is here and simply wins it.