Auto123 reviews the 2021 Mercedes-Benz A 35 AMG 5-door.
Mercedes, synonymous with expensive cars? Yes, of course. And yet, it’s possible to get a Silver Star-badged car that is well designed and well equipped for less than $40,000. The little A-Class can be yours for $37,800 in the 4-door version or $39,900 in the 5-door version. Both are available with a 4-cylinder engine delivering 188 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque, or in a beefier AMG version delivering 302 hp. This is the model we had occasion to test-drive for a week.
In fact, we had already had the opportunity to drive the 4-door version; this time, it was the turn of the 5-door variant. The latter is powered by the smallest AMG engine in the group, a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder developing 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. With this cavalry at its disposal, combined with its weight of only 1,555 kg, the little AMG A 35 guns you from 0-100 km/h in just 4.7 seconds. That's not bad for a small car that sells for $49,800.
The 4- and 5-door versions – which are priced the same by the way – represent the portal into the world of AMG models at Mercedes. But, cheaper doesn't mean cut-rate sportiness. We've had the chance to drive several AMGs, from the A 35 to the volcanic C 63s, and the A 35 and A 45 are our favorite cars, quite frankly.
The AMG version of the A-Class is easily recognizable from the outside by its two gaping mock holes under the front LED headlights, which we can confirm provide excellent illumination at night. In between those peepers is a large front grille with a gigantic Silver Star logo in its centre. On the side, there's an 18-inch black rim with a rear spoiler that rises to the sky to reinforce AMG's sporty look.
At the rear, the tapered lights, centre window and especially the two large chrome exhaust tips tell everyone around that this car means at least some kind of business. Our tester didn't have any AMG badges, yet the feedback we received confirmed that many if not most observers quickly recognized the signature of Mercedes' performance division.
The interior was also reworked by the AMG division. This little A-Class exudes luxury. First of all, there's the panoramic roof that provides a welcome feeling of space inside the vehicle. Second, the dashboard with its unique and innovative design gives the vehicle a true premium feel.
Behind the AMG steering wheel is a huge screen that stretches across much of the dashboard, covering the section of the dashboard in front of the driver all the way to the centre console. Turbine-style air vents are another salient feature of the interior. To liven things up, no fewer than 64 mood lighting colours are available to choose from.
In the centre, a digital keypad and quick keys provide access to the main functions of the vehicle. By the way, this keypad - and this is valid for all Mercedes vehicles tested - has little or no control over the CarPlay application. So you have to go back to the good old method of using your finger on the screen! Otherwise, the pad can be manipulated very well when working all vehicle functions.
On either side of this console, you'll find beautiful bucket seats that provide very good seating, although they do lack in lateral support. It’s frankly surprising, in fact, to produce such a high-performance vehicle and offer seating that’s not up to snuff.
The little hatchback is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine producing 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque managed by a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This combination results in a very responsive car that does its thing well, delivering on-the-fly shifting. The very sturdy chassis and powerful brakes also contribute to the overall performance of the vehicle.
Our test week took place in winter, and our car equipped with Pirelli sottozero 3 proved nearly flawless in the way it comported itself on the road, with special mention to the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. In our opinion, the small A 35 equipped in this way is capable of facing the worst conditions despite its relative puniness. That AWD system actually works by default in FWD mode, but can transfer 50 percent of the engine torque to the rear wheels if and when needed.
In the process of getting in, you can’t help but understand, immediately and jarringly, that this is a very low-sitting car. For those longer or wider folks, this A 35 will seem like a challenge to get into and out of ! But once well and truly installed, things settle naturally. One press on the ignition button and the roar of the little Mercedes says a brisk hello. Once the car is in motion, you can choose from five different drive modes. The default mode, "Comfort", allows the driver to enjoy a comfortable ride... because in this mode, the suspension and steering are set for comfort, and the ECO start/stop function is active.
Want a little more zip? Sport" and "Sport+" modes emphasize agility and driving pleasure with the engine becoming more responsive. In "Sport+", the turbocharged engine sound becomes much more pronounced and the ECO start/stop function is inactive. You'll have fun blasting your exhaust pipe with disconcerting ease.
If you still want more, an "Individual" mode will allow you to adjust the settings manually and save them. Finally, to adapt to our climate, a "Slippery" driving program optimizes the A 35's handling on slippery roads, notably thanks to power and smooth gear changes.
For our part, we stayed in "comfort" mode on slippery roads and, to be honest, there was nothing wrong with the car being screwed to the ground. The only downside, however, which ended up annoying us, was the delay in acceleration. Regardless of the mode and the situation, there was always a short delay between the movement of the right foot and the moment the engine reacted. This feeling was even worse with a cold engine. We hadn't experienced this feeling with other AMGs driven during the year.
This little A-Class is a real Mercedes! The interior finish and assembly quality are beyond reproach, and the AMG engine makes you want to eat up the road. It may not please everyone, because its suspension is rough, even in "comfort" mode, and its ride is sporty at all times. With the roads we have in Canada, that can hit hard.
Very dynamic vehicle
We like less
Limited space on board
Tank size and therefore autonomy
No heated steering wheel
Delay during acceleration
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