Cars/ First-drive/ Mercedes-AMG A35 | First Drive Review | BBC TopGear India

Mercedes-AMG A35 | First Drive Review | BBC TopGear India




Do you want an A-Class that is slightly faster than the standard one? Do you want an A-Class that is lower and impractical? Do you want an A-Class that is more uncomfortable? Yes, you do. Because once you drive it, against all odds, you will want the A35 AMG. The entry to the AMG range, the A35 might not be the fire breathing, gnarly monster like some of its bigger siblings, but it is like a baby tiger that has just learnt to hunt. It packs in a punch, looks the part and is all the performance car you will need for everyday use.


But let’s start with the hype that is against it. The A35, according to many purists and even some AMG aficionados, is soft and docile. Globally, you have the A45, which has a lot more power and is a lot more fun. And I agree that more power is more fun. But, I also agree, that useable power is the most fun. You see the first thing to do with an A35, is to ignore the AMG badge. That way, you avoid any expectations of a V8 or a hilariously loud exhaust.


What you will appreciate though are the design changes, especially when you see one next to a standard A-Class. Everything on here is focused and more aggressive. The bumpers, the grille, the bonnet, the AMG wheels along with the lowered stance. A profile view will make you nervous about its ground clearance and that is something to be worried about as I shall explain in a bit. The rear, again, is equally sporty and in line with the muscular AMG theme and thanks to the massive exhaust tips you are hopeful of a sweet sound as well.


The interior too is fantastic of the A35 AMG and without a doubt is the best one in this category. In fact, few performance cars make you feel this special on the inside. That said, there is a good amount of red and black contrast to satisfy the racy appeal and I especially love the bright red seat belts. Features too are in abundance as you get a sunroof along with MBUX and a lot more, but when you are seated this low, wrapped in sport seats with a chunky steering wheel in front of you, the tech and features might as well be non-existent. Fire up the engine and the first thought is, “Umm, okay…”. You are waiting to hear a brash, loud exhaust that rings your ears, but in fact, what you get is a mild thrum. Those exhaust tips then are the equivalent of an Instagram filter. Hiding way the truth under pretence. A small help is the Sport+ mode that clears the throat a bit and lets in some more sound, but do not expect it to bring a grin to your face. At this point, it should be mentioned that the engine powering the A35 AMG is a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol unit that isn’t part of the AMG family. It makes 302bhp and will do 0-100kph on just 4.8 secs thanks to ‘Race Start’. Power is transferred to all four wheels via a 7-speed DCT gearbox. And to be fair, once you set off, none of the negatives matter. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t a full-bore AMG. It doesn’t matter that the engine isn’t a ‘V’ because when you stomp on the accelerator, it moves and how. The light kerb weight and compact dimensions mean the A35 is like a dart that just attacks. 302bhp is more than enough for the roads in our country and I am including the long highway stretches as well. It can sit happily over 150kph and be nimble and agile in the corners. The body balance, the grip from the 4MATIC and the quick-shifting gearbox all make up for the lack of exhaust note. It is an absolute hoot to drive and what makes it so much fun is all the nerdy tech under it. It isn’t by any means a regular tune-up of the standard A-Class.


The engine gets a twin-scroll turbo for better initial response, the clutch is electromechanical for faster shifts, and the suspension has been upgraded for better performance. Sure it is firm and the ride is far from comfy, but it all comes together when you are out on an adrenaline-fueled drive. There is also AMG's ‘Direct Steer’ system that allows you to give minimum input and have better control while cornering. It really is a bang for buck car that will have you smiling at the end of each drive. The only glitches are that muted exhaust, which I am sure will be swapped out for something more raucous and the painfully low ride height. Seriously though, the 160mm clearance requires supercar-levels of navigation over the bumps and even then it might not be enough.


However, if you can manage the occasional big bump and keep some money aside for a new exhaust, you are looking at an absolute riot with the A35. And what makes it even more appealing is the price that starts at just Rs 56.24 lakh making it a ridiculous value proposition. There simply is no alternative that is in this price range that offers so much. The Mini Cooper JCW is fun but lacks space, the BMW M340i is faster, but also more expensive and the Skoda Octavia RS245 is just not as snobbish or fun to drive. So to whomsoever, it may concern, buy the A35 AMG. It is aces.

For - Handling prowess, interior quality

Against - Ground clearance, muted exhaust note

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