Mercedes-AMG has introduced its most affordable new model in South Africa – in hatchback, sedan and “4-door coupe” guises. The newcomers are rivals to the upcoming Audi S3 variants, BMW M135i & M235i Gran Coupe and the Volkswagen Golf R.
The 5-door and 4-door variants A35- and CLA 35 4Matic were always intended to be part of the W177, V177 and C118 Mercedes-Benz compart car line-up; they were developed in conjunction with their A45 S and CLA 45S 4Matic+ siblings.
Mercedes-AMG had to walk a tightrope with the A35's styling; it has to be purposeful, but without stealing the A45's thunder.
They effectively fill the gaps in the A-Class and CLA line-ups between the 250 and A45 S derivatives. Whereas the 250 AMG Line derivatives are front-wheel-driven and powered by a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbopetrol engine that produces 165 kW and 350 Nm, the newcomers’ motors are tuned to produce 225 kW and 400 Nm.
What’s more, they direct torque to all 4 wheels courtesy of an AMG Speedshift DCT 7G dual-clutch transmission mated with a 4Matic all-wheel drivetrain. Mercedes-AMG claims a 0-to-100 kph sprint time of just 4.7 seconds for the hatch, 4.8 seconds for the sedan, and 4.9 seconds for the CLA 35 4Matic.
The A35 4Matic has an identical power output to the BMW M135i xDrive (225 kW), but produces 50 nm less torque (400 Nm).
The newcomers are distinguished by a markedly sportier radiator grille, an AMG Line front bumper with a large central air intake and splitter, while the twin louvres in the outer air intakes complement those in the grille. AMG has more or less kept the flanks the same (with wide wheel arches and a slim waistline), while the rear bumper features a black apron and a pair of large-bore exhaust ends.
Inside, the most notable AMG-themed differences are contrast stitching and the flat-bottom steering wheel, replete with metal shift paddles and touch-control buttons, which can be used to toggle between instrument cluster display themes and access the class-leading MBUX multimedia system (which includes the “Hey Mercedes” function) by swiping the little black pads horizontally and vertically.
The shapely optional AMG sports seats certainly add a sense of theatre to the otherwise understated cabin execution.
If the Widescreen Cockpit is specified, the driver can choose between three AMG display styles. The Supersport mode, for example, incorporates a central, round rev counter and additional information presented in the form of bars on either sides of the rev counter. The 3-dimensional perspective is particularly striking.
But it is on the road where the A35- and CLA 35 really set themselves apart from lesser A-Class and CLA derivatives. The driver can choose between AMG Dynamic Select driving programs: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Individual; the modes alter vehicle characteristics from comfortable to dynamic by changing relevant parameters, such as the responses of the engine and transmission.
The A35 4Matic sedan is, unlike its hatchback and CLA siblings, the flagship of the 4-door range.
The AMG suspension is optionally available with an Adaptive Damping System, which enables the driver to choose between 3 modes, ranging from comfort-focused to sporty. The system operates automatically, adapting the damping forces for each wheel according to the driving situation/road conditions.
For extra stopping power, the A35- and CLA 35 4Matic are fitted with 350-mm brake discs with 4-piston Monoblock fixed calipers (silver-painted with AMG lettering) at the front and single-piston sliding calipers at the rear. The discs are internally ventilated and perforated to better dissipate heat and prevent fading.
Mercedes-AMG 35 derivatives are shod with 18-inch AMG alloys as standard, while 19-inch items are optional.
To ensure that the baby AMGs sound the part, their exhaust system features an automatically controlled exhaust flap as standard. Depending on the drive program selected, the exhaust note is modulated from balanced to powerful.
For those who’re keen to develop their driving skills at the wheel of their Mercedes-AMG, the AMG Track Pace function is optionally available. The “virtual race engineer” is part of the MBUX multimedia system and records more than 80 vehicle-specific data points while driving on a race track – lap and sector times are displayed, as well as the respective difference for a reference time. That way, the driver can use the recorded data to analyse and improve their driving skills.
If buyers specify the Widescreen Cockpit, the CLA35 4Matic's fascia positively pops with the AMG-specific displays.
The MBUX Augmented Reality function also allows the ideal line of a stored race track to be displayed on the multimedia display or optional head-up display, allowing the driver to improve lap times with a virtual instructor on board.
The A35 4Matic hatchback and sedan, as well as the CLA 35 4Matic, are sold with a 2-year/unlimited km warranty and a 5-year/100 000 km maintenance plan.
Mercedes-AMG A35- and CLA 35 4Matic (2020) Prices in SA
|A35 hatch 4Matic||R850 000|
|A35 sedan 4Matic||R858 520|
|CLA 35 4Matic||R956 640|