The 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic spools up 302-hp from a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine
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It was late September on a drizzly Sunday morning when I steered the Mercedes-AMG A35 toward the backcountry. It was a seasonally cool 70 degrees in San Diego, but in the foothills where I was headed the sun would be peeking out and the roads would be dry. The conditions were ideal to go out, get it and get home in this 302-horsepower AMG sly-scrapper of a small sedan.
The Mercedes-AMG A35 is a righteous upgrade of factory-finessed performance.
The three letters that define AMG date to 1967. The abbreviation is associated with two former Mercedes-Benz engineers: Hans Werner Aufrecht and Erhard Melcher. The G is for Großaspach, the German village where they set up shop as race-engine developers. Today, Mercedes-AMG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler AG.
Mercedes-AMG enhancements begin with a big boost to horsepower and high-speed control. The hardware improvements include the AMG Speedshift transmission, the AMG suspension, and the variable AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
There is an AMG model for nearly all M-B vehicles, whether for the big G63 SUV, the Mercedes-AMG ONE hypercar concept, and down to the A35.
Mercedes-AMG engines are the baseline to the AMG experience. Many of the engines are hand-built by meticulous technicians. Their names are engraved on a small plaque and affixed to the engine shroud.
The engine in the A35 is not hand-built to that degree, but it has all of the other AMG attributes.
From A220 to A35
The compact-class A35 is based on the Mercedes-Benz A 220. It is the brand’s smallest and most affordable sedan. The A-Class was completely redesigned for 2019 with handsome exterior styling, more back seat room and trunk space, and a more refined interior.
Pricing for the A220 starts at about $34,700. The A220 is sold with standard front-wheel drive or optional 4Matic all-wheel drive. The A220 powertrain is a 188-hp, turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
From this foundation, Mercedes-AMG transforms an entry-level family sedan into an aspirational object of artful engineering. Compare the A35 with the Audi S3 and BMW 235i.
Pricing for the Mercedes-AMG A35 starts at $46,900, including the $1,050 freight charge from Rastatt, Germany. My tester was $56,875. The nearly $10,000 in options and accessories were primarily cosmetic. Most buyers would select the upgrades, which are highlighted in the specifications box at the end of this story.
But I would have added three more options, totaling $2,990:
- Wireless phone charging, $200;
- Driver Assistance Package, $1,700, adds the electronic elements for Level II assisted driving. Among those technologies are Active Distance Assist, Active Steering Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Lane Change Assist’
- Parking Assistance Package, $1,090, is valuable for its surround-view camera system and Parktronic with Active Parking Assist. Park assist is especially helpful to protect the car’s low chin spoiler from being poked into a wall or other parked vehicle.
Build your Mercedes-AMG A35 here.
Mercedes-Benz engine development is masterful at providing gratuitous power with absolute accelerator response.
The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the A35 has a stunning 302-hp. The twin-scroll turbocharger catches its breath quickly with just a moment’s delay as the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission engages first gear. In Sport or Sport-plus, there is no hesitation to jump off the line.
Fuel economy ratings are forgiving at 22 mpg city, 29 highway and 25 mpg combined on the recommended premium fuel. My mileage in combined driving was a consistent 25 to 29 mpg. But hoonyism will drop the range precipitously.
If 302-hp seems outrageous for a four-cylinder, Mercedes-AMG also builds a 2.0-liter with 416-hp and peak torque of 369 lb.-ft. from 5,000-5,250 rpm. The company says this 2.0-liter M 139 engine is the world’s most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine in series production.
The AMG A35 is very likable for its levels of drivability. The car is a study in higher power. Choose performance attitudes of Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport-plus, or Individual to electronically set preferred qualities for steering response, suspension stiffness, and other fine tuning.
Comfort mode is reasonably assertive and boisterous when the gas pedal is floored, such as in an evasive maneuver. My preferences were Sport when making the commute or Sport-plus when headed out for a good time.
Like a steely street-fighter, the AMG35 punches above its weight. Its control fits in the hand like a roll of nickels (if anybody still rolls coin). The calibrations know to let the driver have that AMG experience when possible.
Flick off a double downshift and the engine blips and fires off a hearty report. The tone is sound-generated but rich and satisfying.
A steel-spring suspension with MacPherson front struts provides excellent road adhesion, at least in my less-than-blistering test. But even the Comfort setting is sports-car firm.
If that is not enough control, there is the optional AMG Ride Control suspension, $990. The adaptive adjustable damping allows the driver to switch between three stages of control.
4Matic All-Wheel Drive
The 4Matic all-wheel-drive in this car is more about performance adhesion than all-weather surefootedness.
The power split is front-drive biased, moving seamlessly to AWD as needed or when the computer sensors say it is necessary. The power delivery runs from front-drive only to a 50:50 percent split front to rear.
When committing to a corner at speed, the driver can push out the nose with the accelerator pedal or pull it back by a careful lift of the right foot.
Optional 19-inch, 235/35 Pirelli P Zero tires have a grippy (but low) treadwear rating of 280. That wear rating is expected of ultra-high-performance tires, but there was noticeable droning at highway speeds.
Tight parking situations are very manageable with a turning circle of 37.9 feet. But do be careful of that larger front splitter in the AMG Aerodynamics Package, $1,550. A driveway entry that looks harmless can inflict a painful scrape.
To handle the stress of the AMG-enhanced powertrain, the front section of the bodyshell is reinforced. Turn-in precision was sharpened and the toe and camber alignment was modified a few degrees for handling dynamics, especially at speed. In addition, an aluminum “shearing plate” under the engine increases torsional rigidity at the front. And two other diagonal braces at the front also increase stiffness.
The high-performance braking system brings the A35 sedan to an absolutely flat stop in an impressively short distance. The front axle is fitted with four-piston monoblock fixed calipers and 13.78-inch brake discs. At the rear is a single-piston caliper with 12.99-inch discs that are internally ventilated and perforated to dissipate heat and prevent brake fading. The silver-painted brake calipers have black AMG lettering.
The speed-sensitive, electro-mechanical power steering has a unique rack with a variable transmission ratio and two characteristic curves. Depending on which drive program has been selected, the calibration provides taut and sporty or more comfortable steering feedback.
AMG Track Pace
For those drivers who will run their A35 through a slalom, there is an optional data logger. The AMG Track Pace ($250) is a virtual race engineer that permanently records more than 80 vehicle-specific data. Among the displayed results are speed, acceleration, and lap times.
Specific display elements are shown in green or red. The color variations show at a glance whether the driver’s times are faster or slower than their best time.
Well-known race tracks, such as the Nürburgring or Spa Francorchamps, are already stored. Furthermore, it is also possible to record your own circuits. The map display can be switched from 2D to 3D and can also be updated online.
The MBUX Augmented Reality function also allows the ideal driving line of a stored racetrack to be displayed on the multimedia display or optional head-up display. It is like having a virtual instructor in the passenger seat helping the driver to improve lap times.
The A220 is one of the more convincing entry-level small sedans. Technically, the car’s footprint is subcompact, but the interior space is more compact-class in roominess.
Driver sightlines are unhindered over the shoulder or across the hood. Entry and exit are low but not a struggle for taller adults.
Front headroom with the sunroof is tall at almost 40 inches with long legroom of 41.8 inches.
The driver faces a digital dashboard with a 10.25-inch digital instrument array and a 10.25-inch touch-screen display for infotainment and other cabin controls. The electronics are non-threatening to use, and there are alternate buttons for audio, fan speeds, and AC.
There are several spaces for small-item storage and door panels that will accommodate tall bottles.
The back seat legroom of 33.9 inches is snug but with comfortable shoulder room for two adults. The space does not feel cramped.
Trunk space might seem small at just 8.6 cubic feet, but the space is wide and square with a wide entry of 37.4 inches. And the back seat has a 60/40 split and folds flat for longer items.
AMG is the art of engineering. It is a stealth display of performance, which many owners prefer over the alternatives.
Building a model-line halo from a base model can have disappointing results. But the A220 now embodies the measures expected of a luxury car, even if it is the least expensive in the lineup.
The plastics have appealing texture and color. I saw no unfinished corners or misaligned panels in the test car. The trunk, too, had neatly installed carpeting, a pair of sturdy seatback-release handles, and even a red warning light, NOT just a reflector, when the trunk lid is raised.
The A35 starting price of $46,900 is a baseline of AMG credentials. From there, it will take driving enthusiasts another $10,000 to hand-pick their preferred conveniences or technologies.
From its economy-car foundation, the pleasure provided by a $57,000 A35 becomes a value statement.
Body style: compact, 5-seat, 4-door sedan with AWD
Engine: 302-hp, AMG-enhanced twin-scroll turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder ; 295 lb.-ft. torque at 3,000 rpm
Transmission: AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with manual mode and race-start function
0-60 mph: 4.6 seconds (est.); top speed, 155 mph
Fuel economy: 22/29/25 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended for peak performance
BY THE NUMBERS
Fuel tank: 13.5 gallons
Trunk space: 8.6 cu. ft.
Front head/leg room: 40.3/41.8 in.
Rear head/leg room: 37.2/33.9 in.
Length/wheelbase: 179.4/107.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,525 lbs.
Turning circle: 37.9 ft.
Standard equipment includes: Keyless locking and push-button ignition, panoramic sunroof, 10.25-inch touch screen display and 10.25-inch digital instrument array, rearview camera, Apple CarPlay (wired) or Android Auto infotainment apps, Bluetooth phone and streaming music, power (heated) front seats with lumbar support, LED headlights and taillights,
Safety features include: 7 air bags, active brake assist, blind-spot assist, crosswind assist and adaptive braking, Hill Start Assist and HOLD function
Base price: $46,900, including $1,050 freight charge; price as tested $56,875
Options on test vehicle: Patagonia Red metallic paint $720; black leather upholstery $1,450; satellite radio $460; Burmester surround-sound audio system $850; heated front seats $500; USB-C adapter cable (in armrest console) $25;
Multimedia package, $1,295, includes navigation, map updates, MBUX augmented reality for navigation and traffic sign assist;
Premium package, $800, includes Keyless Go, hands-free trunk access, auto-dimming side and folding rearview mirrors;
- Performance steering wheel in Nappa leather, $400;
- 19-inch AMG multi-spoke wheels in matte black, $800;
- AMG steering wheel buttons, $400;
- AMG Ride Control Sport suspension, $990;
Night Package, $750, includes front splitter, grille trim and louvers in the side air intakes, AMG side panel inserts, gloss black beltline and window trim, black side mirror covers, and exhaust tips;
Aerodynamics Package, $1,550, includes larger front splitter and diffusers, larger rear spoiler lip, rear apron, and black diffuser blade
Where assembled: Rastatt, Germany
Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles with roadside assistance