The Mercedes-Benz A-Class was first introduced in 1996 with miniature dimensions as a city car. It was sold primarily in Europe, South America and South East Asia. After three generations, the A-Class has finally grown big enough to be sold in North America. The A-Class is now in its fourth generation growing from a subcompact city car into a compact hatchback. This 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC is the moderately spicy version of the A-Class, a true firecracker that sets your pants on fire.
Historically, the A class was a hatchback only model. However, to better cater to the North American market which is not as crazy about hatchbacks as Europeans, Mercedes has released the A-Class as a sedan. The short wheelbase with short overhangs and a wide stance in the rear emphasizes its feisty nature. It’s always on its heels and ready to pounce. As the A 35 is an AMG model, it has more aggressively-formed bumpers with larger air ducts. The rear bumper has a blacked out lower valance with integrated twin tailpipes. The rear lip spoiler adds a bit of subtle aggression, and 18-inch wheels fill the fender gaps nicely.
The interior of the A 35 is both signature Mercedes-Benz as well as a huge departure from the quality you would expect. Contemporary metallic vents with built-in ambient lighting scream modern elegance. The seats have nice suede inserts with Artico faux-leather bolsters. The lack of real leather in a Mercedes feels odd, but Artico is fairly high quality with superb fit and finish. The red stitching adds a nice finishing touch to the sports interior. Sadly, it’s in some of the materials where the A 35 falls short, with more hard plastics than expected from a Mercedes.
The latest iteration of MBUX infotainment in the A 35 gives the driver an up-to-date experience in technology. The versatile system is controlled with integrated touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel or through a touchscreen. A trackpad on the center console offers a computer-like interface for those who prefer a closer reach to the controls. One can interact with you’re a 35 by saying “Hey Mercedes” to activate voice control, and can speak to the digital assistant using such prompts as “I need a coffee.” Opportunities to integrate appear to be infinite with options such as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. With such a high-level of tech on hand, it’s obvious the A 35 is targeted at the younger, tech savvy audience.
The engine in the A 35 is an AMG enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder engine producing 302 horsepower. The AMG enhancement focuses on improved power and response. Boost is increased from the liquid-cooled turbo to produce 295 lb-ft. of torque as early as 3,000RPM, achieving a 0-100 km/h time of 4.8 seconds. The most interesting observation is despite AMG’s attempt to improve response, turbo lag is a noticeable trait of the power plant.
Once boost kicks in, response is instantaneous, otherwise turbo lag is evident at lower RPMs and becomes a sticking point for daily driving. However, with the way the A 35 rockets to speed, drivers will quickly forgive the lag and enjoy the unique experience it offers. The engine is attached to a seven-speed DCT SpeedShift transmission which fires off shifts at a very satisfying rate. There is no loss in thrust between shifts. Once boost kicks in, you won’t be able to wipe the grin off your face as the transmission snaps through gears at a quick pace. The AMG sport exhaust system is throaty with plenty of crackles and pops to enhance the A 35’s exciting driving experience.
With all the power on tap, the A 35 has AMG tuned 4MATIC all-wheel-drive to put its thrust to the ground. Cornering agility is enhanced with three stages of ESP along with torque vectoring. Power is electronically distributed based on conditions and driving inputs. The result is seemingly-unlimited grip with limits that cannot be tested on the streets. Combined with the firm AMG tuned suspension, the A 35 handles very well. The lightness and optimal weight distribution allow for neutral handling; the fun factor in the A 35 is through the roof.
It’s incredible that even with all of this performance, efficiency is not forgotten. Our average consumption for the week came in at 9.7L/100km with plenty of spirited acceleration and liberal use of the sportier modes. Better consumption is definitely possible with more mundane driving. However, I don’t think anyone can resist not driving this like it’s meant to be driven.
As one would expect from any Mercedes product, pricing is higher than average. The A 35 starts at $49,800, with our as-tested price quickly rising to $56,350 with optional packages. Not much is standard on the A 35, hence it is easy to get out of control with the price. At this price, it competes with the BMW M235i Gran Coupe, and the Audi S3. Both rivals are front-drive based sedans with some added oomph to them.
In conclusion, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A 35 4MATIC is one of the best additions to the AMG family. It’s a departure from the luxuriousness of a Mercedes product, to a point where cost cutting is evident in the interior, but the driving experience is absolutely worth the trade-off. Those who want some extra practicality can also opt for the A 35 Hatchback, or the full-on GLA 35 crossover. All of these are excellent options within the segment.