Back in 2013 when the Mercedes A-Class arrived in India it was all the things we wanted it to be – well made, luxurious, good looking and overall, worthy of the three-pointed star it carried. It also looked really cute in the eyes of many, like a car equivalent of a puppy or a baby penguin cute. Over the years, however, the A-Class ascended out of that cutesy persona into something more mature yet ominous looking and a prime case in point is this yellow-as-a-sun-and-just-as-hot A35 AMG you see here.
Based on the latest A-Class sedan, the A35 AMG is meaner and angrier looking than the old CLA45 AMG, but has it got the firepower to match up to the looks? Click here for our first drive review and you will know. For this story we are highlighting five things that we like about the A35 AMG and two that we don’t.
1. Strong, usable performance
The A35 AMG is your entry point to the world of AMG; however, you cannot take too many liberties with it. It is still plenty potent with 306bhp and 400Nm under its arsenal but because you also have all-wheel drive and a host of extremely effective driver aids, you can mash the throttle pedal over any straight piece of tarmac without any fear of the tail kicking out and biting you. It’s just the right amount of power for the size and it’s all controllable thanks to the all-wheel drive traction. The A35 is surprisingly quick off the line and will smash past the 100kmph mark in less than five seconds. In fact, we managed a 0-100kmph time of 4.98 seconds under conditions that weren’t exactly ideal. What’s even more impressive is that it takes minimal effort to holeshot the A35 - hold it on the brakes using your left foot, throttle flat to the floor, lift off and boom! You are off without any wheelspin whatsoever.
2. Reassuring handling and grip
It may not have that delicate pick up and point feel to its front-end that many sports cars have, but we found the A35 AMG to be really adept around the corners. It will eat up the twisty bits with such poise and ease, not to mention high levels of grip and cornering speeds that you will simply not find in an equally fast rear-drive car. Much of the reassuring road manners are down to how well AMG’s variable all-wheel-drive system distributes power, depending on how much load and grip each wheel has at any given point around the corners. Better still, the system never sends more than 50 per cent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels yet the A35 feels neutral and poised, especially through tight corners and switchbacks. Overall, the car feels tight and agile and there is enough feedback from the beautifully assisted steering to give you that much-needed sense of connection with the tarmac.
3. Better rear seat car than the old CLA 45 AMG
The A35 AMG has a much better rear seat proposition compared to the previous small fast sedan from Mercedes-Benz India i.e. the CLA 45 AMG. What really spoiled the comfort level for rear seat passengers was the same thing that defined the CLA back in the day – its sloping roofline. The headroom, as a result, was barely there and the tiny rear windows only added to the cramped feeling. The A35, on the other hand, has a more traditional roof line and as a result, you get noticeably more headroom and the cabin itself feels more airy. So while you may not get the same aggressively sloped C-pillar anymore but the trade-off for more space and glass area certainly helps in elevating rear seat comfort.
4. Brilliant MBUX infotainment system
Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system may look complicated at first glance, what with so many buttons between the front seats and large displays replacing analogue dials and features, however, there is no denying that it is currently among the most intuitive and feature-rich systems out there. First up, there is the sheer number of ways through which you can control it – you can use buttons on the steering wheel or just reach up to the main display since it’s a touchscreen. If you don’t fancy either you can use voice commands or make use of the touchpad on the center console. The three spoke steering has several buttons including two touch points that you can use via your thumb. Although they aren’t very reassuring at first because of the lack of haptic feedback, you can make them work effectively with time. As for the main display itself, it’s large and crisp and you can also wirelessly use Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on it.
5. Clever safety tech
The A35 AMG comes with several airbags, ABS, EBD, all-wheel drive, clever stability assists and speed warning chimes but all that is expected in a car that costs beyond Rs 60 lakh. The highlighting safety tech though is the active brake assist feature which can help avoid a serious accident due to insufficient distance or inattentiveness. Basically the system will give out a visual and acoustic warning if it senses that a collision is imminent. It will also apply the brakes eventually if it doesn’t receive any braking input from the driver. The other noteworthy feature is called PRE-SAFE Sound which claims to make use of the time prior to an impending accident on your behalf. According to Mercedes, it will generate a noise in the form of a short interference signal before a collision and the idea here is that the signal will cause a reflex in your ear to activate, protecting the eardrum and reducing the damage that the crash can cause to your hearing.
1. Limited visibility
Even though it’s a relatively compact vehicle, the A35 AMG isn’t the easiest thing to pilot in city traffic. Like all AMG sedans it is traditionally sporty in the sense that it’s low but unlike the C63 and the E63, the glasshouse is quite small which means visibility is severely restricted. And to make matters worse, the wing mirrors are small and ineffective at times although they are nowhere as daunting as the view you get from the tiny rear window and because the C-pillars are so thick, overall rear visibility is severely restricted. Thankfully, there are proximity sensors all around the car and the visuals you get from the rear-view camera are also extremely clear.
2. Sits too close to the ground
There is a major downside to that lovely, hunkered-down stance and it’s manifested as soon as you come across a big speed hump. The low ground clearance is perhaps the A35’s biggest Achilles heel and you always have to be super careful when going over speed bumps or crumbly city roads. The car rides fine over most broken roads but you will have no option but to approach the tallest of speed bumps at an angle and if there are passengers at the back you will end up scraping the under-body.
The new A35 AMG is every bit as special as other entry-level AMGs that we have tested in the past. In fact, it’s plusher on the inside, more tech centric and undoubtedly a better four-seat performance car than the old CLA 45 AMG. The A35, then, should be praised for its dynamic abilities; however, we are not sure if it can be held in high esteem among its more powerful and more expensive rivals (Read: BMW M340i and Audi S5) as the ideal performance sedan. Time and a proper on-road comparison will tell if the underdog is any good, so watch this space.
Pictures by Kapil Angane