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Calling the AMG A35 an ‘entry level’ model doesn’t really do it justice. It may be the first rung on the ladder as far as AMG is concerned, but it’s already near the top of the hot hatch tree compared to other ranges. Based on the hugely impressive A Class and with 306HP powering all four wheels, it’s a seriously fast machine with high levels of refinement.
AMG doesn’t want you to mistake the A35 for a standard A Class. So the specification includes an AMG-specific grille, as well as an AMG front apron with special air deflectors on the outer air intakes. At the back, you get a diffuser-style rear apron with four vertical fins and round tailpipe trims. Multi-spoke alloy wheels and side skirts are available, and for true track-day fiends there’s the option of a full AMG Aerodynamics package including a whopping great rear wing. Perhaps a bit full-on for the company car park, though.
The A35 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving through a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox that can rocket you from 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds. Power can be split 50:50 front to rear through the Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC system or sent exclusively to the front wheels. There are five driving modes (Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual), and in the more aggressive settings the AMG Dynamics system uses the ESP and torque vectoring to aide corner turn-in.
The chassis has been completely revised when compared to the non-AMG A Class, with re-designed joints and lower wishbones, metal bearings on the lower front arms and a rear subframe solidly mounted to the body for extra feel and feedback. The steering is specific to the A35, as are the uprated brakes, which feature monoblock four-piston callipers up front. Even the body structure has been stiffened.
Much of the tech is carried over from the A Class range, which means it’s class-leading. So it’s based around the Mercedes-Benz User Experience system (MBUX), and you can use a Siri-like ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice command to unlock a wide range of actions. As well as voice command, you can also control infotainment by touchscreen, a touchpad on the centre console or touch-sensitive panels on the steering wheel.
MBUX can be programmed to user preferences, but it also uses artificial intelligence to adapt to your needs. AMG-specific tech includes an AMG instrument cluster and centre console. The AMG start-up display and features like a race timer are shown in high resolution and in colour on the central 11.4 cm TFT multifunction display.
Mercedes-Benz has a well-merited reputation for prioritising safety so it’s hardly surprising the A Class (on which the AMG A35 is based) is packed with safety-related hardware as well as driver assistance systems. Highlights of the spec include Active Brake Assist (which can mitigate the effects of a rear-end collision or even prevent it completely) and Attention Assist, which warns you if you show signs of fatigue.
The Active Distance Assist Distronic system, which features technology from the S-Class, allows semi-autonomous driving in certain circumstances. It will maintain a set distance behind the vehicle in front and give steering assistance, even in corners. It also uses map data to adjust the car’s speed approaching bends or roundabouts.
The AMG A35’s predecessor was an all-or-nothing performance car, which was perfect if you’re lapping the Nürburgring, but less than restful after a long day in the office. This time around the AMG A35 manages to be both refined and thrilling, sports-car fast yet executive-car sophisticated. An A45 is scheduled to be released later for the ultimate in hot hatch performance, but the A35 could be the ‘Goldilocks’ model for many. If you’re looking at the Golf R or Audi S3, take a long look (or long test drive) at the AMG A35 first.