Mercedes Benz A35 AMG - Little Yellow Spaceship!
Updated: Mar 21
As we progress further towards electrifying our modes of transportation, we surely are going to miss the true essence of owning fast petrol-powered cars. A few years ago, when the fuel prices rose to the heights of Mt. Everest, manufacturers toned down their war on who has the biggest block under the hood. Instead, the trend of downsizing became a common scenario and manufacturers shrunk their engines to the size of laptops. But all of this downsizing made some amount of sense, and one of the cars that did catch my eye with a small yet 'powerful as a mothership' motor is the new Mercedes Benz A35 AMG.
What you see in the picture above is the glorious A35 AMG in its sedan avatar (hatchback form left for the A45S for now) painted in the glorious and head-turning shade of Sun Yellow ( Hexadecimal Code: #f9d71c), everywhere I took this car it was attracting eyeballs, unlike anything I've ever had with 4 doors.
The A35 is the polar opposite of how the regular A-class limousine looks. It is a tad wider both in the front and the rear and has its muscle lines accentuated further by a set of big fat bumpers, side skirts, air dams and that kinky rear lip spoiler. Two REAL exhaust tips spew, crack and bang whenever you upshift or downshift and they make driving this car fast a brilliant experience.
There are a few fake vents at the rear and the rear bumper diffuser which is there just to add the sex appeal of the car. What adds up to the overall visual appeal is the lowered front and rear suspension, wider track both in the front and the rear and the 18-inch star alloy wheels which although are a standard design from AMGs of other classes too looks pretty appealing with this form and shape.
Surrounding these alloy wheels are the Michelin Pilot Sport 4 soft compound tyres which not only help in getting the best grip levels at higher speeds but also help in maintaining optimum tyre temperature and sidewall strength. Packed into the wheels are the 350mm cross-drilled disc brakes in the front clamped with a triple calliper braking system and the 330mm cross-drilled disc brakes at the rear which ensure superb braking performance for this rather lightweight fast saloon. The tyre temperature is further kept low with the side vents in the front bumper which channel air from the front considerably.
What's under the skin?
The A35 AMG has a smart powerhouse planted in the front, Mercedes Benz's M260 DE20 LA which is the successor to the M270 does duty on the 220 and 250 petrol models internationally. This transversely mounted, 1991cc, 4 cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts and 4-valves per cylinder features a twin-scroll turbocharger with variable valve timing and a 48V that powers the electric auxiliary compressor and integrated starter-alternator. The system with a larger and more powerful turbocharger and bigger intercooler produces 302 bhp of max power at 5,800 rpm and 400 Nm of max torque at a higher 3,000 rpm.
This incredibly potent unit is capable of doing 0 to 100 kmph in 4.5 seconds if fueled with 100-octane premium petrol and there is 34 psi pressure in the tyres. There are many other minor advancements done over the CLA45 AMGs of yesteryears (that were sold in India) in the kitty of mechanical upgrades, for example, there is a sheer panel underneath the engine bay which acts as a body strengthening bracing to make the structure firmer so it flexes less, that means the suspension setup has a much stable platform to do its job. This stiffer front setup means that you get a sharper, more direct steering response which does help a lot when you're throwing the A35 AMG around the corners like a mad girlfriend throws her cheating boyfriend's stuff out of the window.
Just like the CLA 45 AMG, it still uses a Haldex type 4-wheel-drive system which, with the transversely mounted engine, sends power to the front wheels most of the time and when there is a need for better traction at high speeds and corners, it sends up to 50% of the power to the rear axle. It isn't like the all-wheel-drive system you might get in the Audi Q2, this one is a proper front biased 4-wheel-drive system. But unlike the CLA 45 AMG, the rear axle is now actuated by an electro-mechanical differential rather than an electro-hydraulic one, which essentially means that the power sent to the rear wheels happens in a much quicker way making the overall 4matic setup more responsive and predictive. This is a very important change because these were some of the issues I had with the CLA 45 in the way it behaved on the corners and in times of losing grip which has been properly fixed.
How does it drive?
With a kerb weight of 1,600 kgs and 300 bhp on tap, the A35 feels anything but slow. The way it pulls from 0 to 60 kmph is spine shifting. 100 kmph comes in 4.5 seconds which is just 0.2 seconds slower than the C43 AMG which has a 6 cylinder engine producing an additional power of a Suzuki Swift. V-Max is electronically limited to 250 kmph and cannot be removed from the factory officially. This weight advantage also plays a vital role in making the A35 AMG quick as a hummingbird on the track. There is hardly anybody roll due to the super stiff bracing and suspension setup in Sport+ mode, even when I was doing triple-digit speeds and willingly changing the lanes between the cars the A35 just hunkered down like a magnet. A lot of these characteristics have to do with a lower centre of gravity, thanks to the intensive use of aluminium all around the body panels.
There is no way with all the traction aids on can you make this car slip, be it under or oversteer! Although the trade-off is a little bit of fun, what you get is a sedan which super sticky on the road and the track at all times. The exhaust note too is raspy, shifting up or down at 4,000 rpm gives your access to the most glorious soundtrack of this M260 engine. It pops, bangs and crackles like a 4-cylinder rally car.
How is it on the inside?
The A35 essentially is an A-class limousine with a lot of horsepowers. On the inside, there is an ample amount of space for 4 adults that would want to take this sports saloon on a long trip or 5 average-sized adults for grocery or mall runs.
What I appreciate is the choice of materials around the cabin. There is Alcantara in the seat centres which is a sweat/water repellent suede type material, this is also helpful during peak summer months where the fabric/leather seats usually get pretty hot, the seats in the A35 remain relatively cooler. What I would have highly appreciated at this price point is the addition of a seat ventilation system, which would have made the baby AMGs even more valuable among enthusiasts who are looking for a daily driver.
At the rear seat situation, there is an ample amount of legroom and headroom for a 5 feet 8-inch structure of mine. The seats are properly designed with thicc side bolsters and underthing support, also, fortunately, there are 3 headrests for rear passengers which does make the 5th passenger's life a little less miserable. What I sorely miss is the deletion of type-A USB for charging not just for the rear passengers but all around the cabin! Luckily there is wireless charging which was good enough for my 3-year-old Samsung Galaxy S10, but what if you have an ancient phone with which you have an emotional attachment and are not willing to upgrade to the flagship phones of today, you'll have a hard time!
The dashboard is logically laid out and has all the controls in perfect spots which makes it very ergonomic for the driver to control different functions in the car. The touch screen however does get intruded by the thick steering wheel on this AMG model and you have to peep left to see all the details on the screen that gets hidden.
Talking of the screen, it runs the latest MBUX programme that is super intuitive to use and does have an easy layout to access various data on the car. The UI too is cohesive with the overall design of the cabin and is simple to toggle through once you get used to it. The updated voice command system does understand Indian accents and languages which makes it a pretty easy experience to live with this car.
Is it thirsty?
Not at all! In fact in comfort mode, it does feel like you are driving a smaller / lighter hatchback than a luxury performance sedan. The A35 AMG returned anywhere between 11 to 12 kmpl in the city with the standard 95 octane petrol and what it would do best on the highway had me intrigued. Downsizing, although takes away the pleasure of the sonorous ecstasy, it makes the overall dynamic ability (due to lighter weight) and efficiency a lot better than larger capacity engines. I took the car up north towards Sonipat via the Western Peripheral Expressway to my favourite Parantha place, Gulshan Dhaba and back home, a total trip of around 150 kms to and fro.
The A35 AMG returned a staggering 20.0 kmpl! Something which I couldn't believe with my eyes, as this little sedan is properly capable of shaming most performance-oriented cars on the road and it returning such brilliant economy. But with a high-pressure turbo, clean fuel and a compression ratio of 10.0: 1, it was pretty much obvious to happen! The calculated thermal efficiency of A35's engine is well over 70% which is about 15% more than industry standard making sure that every millilitre of petrol that goes into the combustion chamber gets properly used with minimal emission.
I did a short trip down to Sikar, Rajasthan too a few days ago with a full load of 4 people on board, 5 bags and a spare wheel kept on the boot floor. A total distance of 563 kms that we travelled and the A35 AMG still managed to scoop out 14.3 kmpl with an average speed of 80 kmph on the highway and about 40 kmph in the city/town limits.
When I picked up the A35 AMG, I doubted if I would like it. Let's face it, a sports saloon fitted with a 2.0L 4 cylinder motor really won't ignite the enthusiasm in a hardcore car enthusiast. But after living with it for so many days, using it to go to work, do site visits, random breakfast trips and a long, almost 600 km road trip with 3 friends beside me in the car, I think this car deserves all my applauds and love.
There is an essential delivery of greatness in the way the chassis behaves and the engine management system works sharply too giving you the best experience on the road. It does plaster a massive smile on your face. It is a great car indeed! Probably not the greatest AMGs, but something that does and will wake me up at 4 am to chase the sunrise. Convinced? Get yours immediately!