2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 review: No chill

The A35 is arguably a little less threatening in a brighter color.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

You know the Futurama episode where Fry drinks 100 cups of coffee? This is the 2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 in a nutshell. There is no shutdown switch. There are no lulls. It is a ball of perennial energy, a continuous frenzied tumult. If you’re wondering what sacrifice is required in an AMG vehicle starting at around $ 45,000, it’s hidden in the fact that this little sedan will never take your breath away.

I do not like

  • Fast DCT tuning
  • Inconsistent power delivery
  • Stiffness lasting more than 4 hours

Light as a feather, stiff as a board

OK, the A35’s lack of cold isn’t quite complete. Starting the car is actually a pretty quiet affair, its turbo 2.0-liter I4 leaping to life with (predictably) less hype than some of AMG’s heavier hitters. Considering there has to be room for the A45 on top, this isn’t a big surprise, although I admit I’m a cold start fanatic.

Every other femtosecond of existence within the A35, however, is designed for high energy, not always for the best. Let’s take the engine – its 302 horsepower and 295 pound-foot power isn’t record-breaking, but it’s more than enough to send this sedan on the horizon. And this will happen often, thanks to a strange power delivery. The four-cylinder takes a second to increase thrust, and somewhere before 3,000 rpm, the car will go from a leisurely pace to a strong forward motion with less regard than I would like for the throttle position when reaches the maximum torque range of the engine. Half the time I try to snap a crack in the street, I miss it because I got over it quickly. Sure that sounds excellent while the hand sweeps the tachometer, I just wish that the delivery was even remotely linear.

This feeling of tension also extends to the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. When the A35 goes through corners, the DCT smoothly shifts from gear to gear. At any rate below that, it becomes more than a little annoying. Starting from a stop requires what feels like a full second of clutch slip, making starting off a side road to an artery difficult, and the problem is compounded further when the engine decides it’s time for maximum acceleration. If my brain is working fast enough to say, “No, I’m not going to make this space,” panicking the throttle midslip causes a rather unnerving noise deep in the powertrain. Slower and round-the-city shifts look janky regardless of vehicle mode. A conventional automatic torque converter would go to long way to make this machine more normal during daily operation.

Just like the larger Mercedes-AMG C43, the A35 is consistently stiff. My tester’s optional sports suspension ($ 850) contributes to this, but the mode labeled “Comfort” never lives up to that moniker, as I’m keenly and constantly aware of every bumpy piece of road. Put it in Sport and the car will stay flat, which is great for driving down curvy back roads to the beat. It’s hectic, sure, but the A35 is well composed, never once makes me feel like the car is unstable as I dig deeper. The steering is well thought out and direct, and combined with large steel brakes that could stop a much larger car, it’s very hard not to have fun on the A35. Just make sure you’re constantly on the lookout for that kind of fun, because again, there’s no stopping it.

Mercedes-AMG has to save most of the A35’s chill for highway speeds, because its fuel economy is pretty decent. I have no trouble meeting and beating the EPA’s estimates of 24 miles per city gallon and 31 mpg on the highway, although the fuel tank is a bit small at 13.5 gallons.

Medium on the outside, comfortable on the inside

While I’m a little disappointed that the US can’t find the A-Class Hatchback in Europe, I’m just happy we have the A-Class. Ever since I first drove this little sedan, I’ve loved its proportions and its slightly angry visual behavior. Clad in black paint and devoid of chrome, my tester is a menacing little thing, with the standard AMG package offering a little more aggression through the fascias, and further enhanced with a $ 750 AMG night package that throws a whole bunch of black finishes.

The interior also looks special, despite the (relatively) low starting price of this AMG. My tester’s leather and suede seats are snug and have just the right support. The vents and buttons are largely the same as you’ll find in the more expensive Mercs, although the AMG vinyl treatment on the passenger-side dashboard is a bit kitschy. Aside from a $ 580 heated seat option, all of this stuff is standard too, including the perfectly sized suede-wrapped steering wheel.

The AMG stripes on the passenger side are fortunately optional.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

The A-Class might be a compact car, but inside it’s not overwhelming. There’s enough head and leg room for all passengers, and the roof isn’t sloped enough to cause consternation to taller passengers, but don’t worry, there’s a CLA-Class for that. Storage space abounds even for a small car, with adequately sized door pockets and a cupboard in front of the cup holders that is large enough to hold almost any tchotchke I have with me. The 8.6 cubic foot capacity of its trunk might be an issue if you’re looking to take an entire family on a trip, but it’s more than roomy enough for grocery shopping, shopping, and anything else you’d normally do.

MBUX knocks him out

While the lower A220 has a variety of screens on offer, the A35 automatically comes with the premium configuration. A pair of 10.3-inch displays are mounted at the top of the dashboard, with the sporty right-hand side MBUX, Mercedes-Benz’s latest and greatest infotainment system. It takes leaps and bounds over outgoing COMAND technology, with a simplified menu collection, excellent natural language speech recognition and the usual Apple CarPlay is Android Auto integration. It also comes with a few tricks up your sleeve, like augmented reality turn-by-turn directions (part of a $ 1,150 media package) and a screen you can actually touch. The USB-C ports handle smartphone charging and data transmission.

The second 10.3-inch, slammed in front of the driver’s face, handles the work of the measurement group. You can keep it traditional with a large speedometer and tachometer, or you can swipe your thumb on the steering wheel’s left touchpad to open a variety of options. You can replace specific gauges with large maps or fuel economy information, or you can switch to a design that looks a little more futuristic. It might be theater, but it is well Theater.

MBUX takes all the annoying parts of COMAND and relegates them to the past.

Andrew Krok / Roadshow

On the safety front, the automatic emergency braking is the only piece of the standard kit. The $ 550 expense opens up blind spot monitoring, while a $ 1,090 package adds a surround view camera system and active parking assistance. Everything else is hidden in the $ 1,700 driving assistance package, which includes adaptive cruise control with active steering assistance, lane keeping assistance, active lane change assistance, and route-based speed adaptation. My tester lacks these, but previous Class A experience dictates that these packages should be quite useful on long journeys.

How would I specify it

My tester doesn’t come with an obscene price tag, starting at $ 45,745 including the destination and rounding up to $ 51,635 with options. My ideal A35 starts with a $ 720 shade of Denim Blue Metallic, while I add $ 900 for the LED headlights and $ 750 for the AMG night package, as I despise the exterior chrome. Since I’m not even a fan of suede, I’ll spend $ 1,450 to upgrade to a leather interior while dropping another $ 950 for heated and ventilated front seats. Another $ 800 opens auto-adjusting mirrors and keyless entry, but I’ll skip the navigation package as I prefer CarPlay. I’ll pass the safety systems as well, but I’ll splurge on the $ 1,090 surround view camera and $ 990 adaptive shock absorbers. That brings the price of my ideal A35 down to $ 53,195. Yowza.

Up to brass tacks

Mercedes-Benz’s biggest competitors for the A35 can actually be found in the same dealership lot. The AMG CLA35 offers a slimmer silhouette, but also costs a little more. The AMG GLA35 will likely be a hot seller, given the public’s fondness for the elegant, twee utes, and the same goes for the GLB35. Its closest non-Benz competitor is the Audi S3 and, what do you know, there is a brand new one on the way for model year 2022. Finally, the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf R is coming out the door and arises. as a perfectly suitable (albeit less luxurious) competitor as dealers should be eager to write off stock – not that the Vee-Dub isn’t cheaper to start with.

The 2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 is fun. Tons of fun, actually. It’s always ready and rare, which means it’s not hard to have fun behind the wheel. You just have to be ready to have fun all the time.

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