What is it like on the inside?
Even if you don’t fork out a brass farthing in options, AMG adds cabin fitments to lift it beyond even the standard A-Class’s superbly rich cabin. The seats strike a good balance between holding you in place during corners and caressing you the rest of the time. Step through the options packs and they’re first leather-dressed and heated, then electrified. Even the back seats are better shaped than usual, and the big chairs in front don’t rob too much leg room.
A special AMG steering wheel has rotary knobs to cycle through the sport modes. The centre console is scattered with buttons for particular subsets of the strategy: dampers sport or comfort; transmission manual or auto; ESP on or off or partial. In a fully optioned A35, with the two big screens and the head-up display, there are a near-infinite number of graphical setups. Many of the performance-related readouts are specific to the AMG. You can light the dash up like Piccadilly Circus, with dials and graphs and numbers and arrows and maps and pictograms – and that’s just the driver’s pod, not the central screen. You’ll probably spend ages experimenting with them while stationary in traffic, then revert to a slightly quieter, simpler layout when you actually need information to drive.
While it’s fine to have the choice, the system is controlled by a pair of touch-pads on the steering wheel spokes. It’s far too easy to accidentally brush them with the pad of your hand and alter the whole setup. We’ve never actually seen an A-Class with the base system but we suspect it might be less distracting. The displays shrink from 10.25-inch to 7.0.
Then there’s the voice activation system, which responds to your saying ‘Hey Mercedes’. Or maybe saying something else entirely. Bottom line, there are too many conflicting ways to control this car, and you’ll end up deactivating some or most of them. Maybe it’s good to have the choice, but as with the driver-assist systems, the learning curve is steep and can be slippery.