Charl Bosch
Online Motoring Reporter
5 minute read
31 Dec 2020
10:47 pm

Thinking man’s AMG? Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan wants to be practical but brutal

Charl Bosch

At the turn of a dial, everything becomes very AMG.

The face of an unassuming brute

Next year will see the unveiling of what is likely to be one of the most important new models of the decade, the W206 or fifth generation Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Undergoing final development tweaks as this piece is being written, the already billed mini S-Class will usher in a raft of features, some allegedly from its sibling, in creating was is likely to be the most advanced segment offering to date. For many though, the biggest and most unwelcoming shock will be the AMG C63, which reports have alleged will swap rear-wheel-drive for all-wheel-drive and for the first time in Affalterbach’s C-Class history, not counting the 190E, derive power from a four-cylinder engine, more than likely the M139 2.0-litre turbo from the A45 S, with hybrid assistance.

As frustrating as this would be to many AMG fans still lamenting the loss of the sledgehammer normally aspirated 6.2-litre V8 for the punch fest that is the bi-turbo 4.0-litre V8, the assisted four-pot could well spring a surprise if its capability in the 310 kW A45 S and CLA 45 S is anything to go by. When it comes to the A35 though, things are a bit different.

The entry-level AMG fettled model in the A-Class line-up, the ‘35’ represents the supposed balance between performance and everyday usability without shouting about itself in the way the A45 S does. In this context, the understated-ness certainly applies to the sedan which arrived for the ubiquitous seven-day stay recently.

Occupying the position between the hatch and the A45 S, the sedan can well be described as the modern-day interpretation of the 190E 2.3, but as mentioned, it plays the discreet card by appearing to be nothing but a A200 with the AMG Line styling pack, a persona enforced by the non-aspirational Polar White paint finish.

On closer inspection though, subtle details to its identity emerge such as the gloss black winglets on the bumper and thin lip splitter below, the gloss black faux diffuser with integrated dual exhaust outlets, the protruding bootlid spoiler, gloss black mirror caps and the silver AMG branded brake calipers. Despite this, as well as the optional forged 19-inch black AMG alloy wheels, the sedan’s long bonnet and comparatively stubby rear facia makes it seem oddly proportioned when viewed in profile and not as elegant as the CLA or even the C-Class.

Matters are a lot different inside where the A35 follows the standard issue A-Class look, but with sporty touches such as the (optional) AMG Performance steering wheel trimmed in Nappa leather and dinamica micro-fibres, red inserts, alloy pedals, red stitching and the optional grained aluminium inserts on the doors.

In addition to the dual 12.3-inch instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment system, our tester also sported the superb Burmester sound system, a sunroof, heated and cooled front seats, red seatbelts, the Driving Assistance Package, Parking Package and illuminated AMG door sills but strangely no satellite navigation.

In spite of being up to date as can be, A-Class foibles remain such as decidedly cheap feeling materials, a lack of rear passenger headroom, finicky touchpad which can fortunately be bypassed by saying those familiar words; Hey Mercedes, and the inexcusable, at this price, lack of electric seats, which although comfy and supportive, creaked badly with each movement. As for the boot, capacity is rated at 420-litres which expands to 1 210-litres with the rear seats down.

Being an AMG though, the A35 is all about the drive and although nowhere as brutal as the A45 S, it easily shook off its understated regalia when pushed. Outputting 225kW/400Nm, it clocked a best 5.1 seconds from 0-100 km/h at Gerotek with colleague Mark Jones behind, a mere 0.3 of-a-second off of Benz’s claim. The full report can be seen here.

Sedate with an addictive and strong surge of power it might have in Comfort mode, everything becomes very AMG-like when the dial at the base of the steering wheel is switched to Sport or Sport+ modes and the secondary dial for the suspension also to Sport. In short, the A35 becomes an animal; brutal to the extent that the creaking seats became inaudible.

With the invitingly large paddles of the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox gripped, the A35 goes hard with an incredibly instant response and an almost violently sounding turbo whistle when coming off of the throttle. Adding to this, the gearbox goes from acceptable to slick, the steering becomes razor sharp and thanks to the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, the level of grip relentless. Of course, there is a price to pay in the shape of a hard ride that becomes coarse in the sportier settings, as well as a fair bit of road noise which could well be alleviated by option for the standard 18-inch rubber.

It might be the most accessible and practical way into AMG ownership, yet the Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan is far from the option for the people. Aside for its mentioned interior shortcomings and that ride, the standard sticker price of R890 520 makes is eye-wateringly expensive, compounded further by the options which saw our tester breeze past the R1-million mark with ease. It’s dual purpose ability to go from an everyday inconspicuous sedan to a dynamically gifted AMG remains its biggest highlight, but at cost that sadly makes it anything but the AMG for all.

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