Mercedes-AMG has built a new entry-level hot hatch for 2019, squarely aimed at people who wear their hats backwards. The A 35 4MATIC is a spunky little 306-hp (228-kW), all-wheel-drive turbo shopping trolley with a spiffy interior and voice-controlled MBUX AI assistant.
There's a lot to love about hot hatches – the go-kart cornering, the way they squeeze so much performance out of smaller motors, the fuel bills when you drive them sensibly. As proper driver's cars, they punch way above their pay grade, and this new A 35 looks like it'll be an affordable way to get your paws on an AMG badge.
It sits just below the 375-hp (280-kW) A 45 at the top of the Mercedes A-Class pile, using a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder turbo motor newly developed from the 221-hp (165-kW) M260 engine to reach a governed top speed of 155 mph (249 km/h). In AMG trim it makes 306 horses and 295 lb-ft ((400 Nm) of torque, thanks in part to a twin-scroll turbocharger that helps to reduce back pressure. It's rated for 7.4 liters of fuel per 100 km (32 mpg).
The transmission is a 7-speed AMG SpeedShift dual-clutch auto with paddle shift for when the road gets curvy and it's time to give this thing a paddlin'. It's mainly a front-wheel drive, but a multi-disc clutch on the rear axle lets the car distribute up to half its torque to the back wheels for all-wheel-drive shenanigans when you're driving on the limits.
As with most cars these days, you've got your choice of driving modes – in this case, Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. Slippery cuts the power and smooths out the gear changes for driving in difficult conditions, and Comfort is your typical round-town eco mode with early upshifts, soft suspension and engine start/stop at the lights.
Sport opens up a "more distinctive" sound from the motor, firms up the suspension and steering, and tunes the transmission to hold gears longer, while Sport+ adds double declutching on downshifts, and partial cylinder cutoff. Individual mode lets you fiddle with the parameters as you like.
In the sporty modes, you can expect the A 35 to quietly brake the inside rear wheel when you hurl it into a corner, helping combat understeer and making the car as agile as a hot hatch ought to be.
The suspension is semi-active, with adaptive damping adjusting itself every few thousandths of a second to suit the road conditions, the mode you're driving in and what you're currently doing behind the wheel. The brakes are fade-resistant 4-piston monoblocks with 350-mm discs at the front, and single-piston sliding calipers on 330-mm discs at the rear.
The interior looks nice, too, with a double widescreen MBUX system taking center stage over a set of air-con vents that really look like they're trying a bit too hard to appeal to the fast kids. The steering wheel has more buttons on it than you'll know what to do with, including some that are configurable, and others that have their own built-in color displays.
The dash displays change color and character as you change driving modes, naturally, and the A 35 gets Mercedes' latest natural language voice control assistant, which you can access by saying "hey, Mercedes!"
The A 35 4MATIC will make its first public appearance in a few weeks' time at the Paris Motor Show, with sales starting soon afterward. Prices are not yet available, but you can expect this thing to be competitive with the Volkswagen Golf Type R, which, you'll note, doesn't have an AMG logo on it.
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