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7/10
Overall verdict

The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz AMG A35

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7/10
Overall verdict
Is this a goldilocks car, or is it stuck between stools? Depends what you're looking for
 

For: 

Fast on the straights and in corners. High-end cabin. The cheapest AMG

Against: 

Curiously light on spice and engagement

Overview

What is it?

The Mercedes-AMG A45 sold about twice the number its maker expected, but on the other hand it sits on a high and inaccessible shelf. The A35, on the other hand, is AMG’s diffusion line, the entry-level ‘real AMG’, sitting midway between the full-fat A45 and the watered-down A250 AMG-line. 

That territory, even by hot-hatch standards, still demands pretty big spec. So the A35 fields a 306bhp engine, a standard seven-speed DCT transmission and four-wheel drive. That rubs it firmly up against the Audi S3, Golf R and BMW M240i xDrive. It is not, as we’ll see, quite in the A35’s nature to revive the spirit of the lamented Focus RS.

The base price looks tempting, not just for that mechanical spec but also for the brilliant interior quality. But bear in mind this is an A-Class and there’s pretty well zero chance of going on the configurator without clicking the boxes for the signature Imax dash, available in three upgrade states culminating in the world’s biggest and most configurable head-up display.

You can have it in yellow paint with an optional aerodynamics pack of honking great rear rooftop wing, a bladed diffuser and corner flics at the front. It’s actually functional, and my how you’ll be the toast of the trackday pitlane. Albeit a bit of laughing stock anywhere where actual mature and tasteful humans gather. Or you can do without the aerokit and go stealthy in dark blue or grey. It still looks pretty meaningful, stanced down on wide-set wheels that go up to 19-inch.

The engine’s not entirely a pure AMG unit, having its roots in the A250 motor. Still, it’s modern enough. The transmission is a DCT job, with AMG-specific software to sharpen-up the shift times, and AMG-specific gear ratios. 

The four-wheel-drive system operates on a maths-based torque model. In other words drive goes to the rear not just when the front ones start to slip, but in anticipation of that. Among the calculation’s inputs are how hard you’re going at the throttle and steering, the gear you’re in and other chassis variables.

Suspension modifications are far more than cursory too. Deep breath… the steering is solid-mounted to the body and has its own ratio; the front wishbones have solid joints not rubber bushes; the front uprights are different, the brakes are big discs and four-piston monobloc calipers from the A45. A stamped plate is bolted under the engine to keep the suspension mounts more stiffly located. At the back the subframe is solid-mounted rather than bolted through bushes. The springs, dampers and anti-roll bars are all specific.

It’s a long list of changes and we’ve not been complete, but this is enough to show they’re serious about making it more precise as well as grippy. The claim is it’ll corner and stop as well as the A45. If not accelerate as hard.

As to the A45, well as the original was such a success, you can be sure AMG will have another one along soon. It’s due in a year actually, likely with some kind of ‘EQ’ hybrid boost trickling down (a long way down) from the AMG One hypercar.

Continue: Driving

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