2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan review

The A35 sedan isn’t just worthy of the AMG badge, but one of the strongest representatives in Mercedes-Benz’s large fleet of compact models.

When AMGs account for a healthy percentage of Mercedes-Benz sales, you can’t blame the German brand for capitalising with more performance variants.

So, following on from the ‘43’ and ‘53’ badges introduced below the full-fat AMG 63 models in Mercedes’s medium and large model ranges, 2019 saw the freshly founded ‘35’ number applied to compact models below the fully fledged ‘45’ AMGs.

At least, they do in the case of the A-Class hatch and GLA compact SUV.

For the first ever A-Class sedan, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 is actually the range-topper. Buyers seeking AMG’s manic, hand-built 310kW 2.0-litre turbo in a four-door body style need to head in the direction of the CLA45 ‘ four-door coupe’.

With that model costing from $111,300, the $73,500 A35 sedan looks significantly more attainable. Priced just $1030 above the shorter A35 hatch, the sedan saves just over $12,000 compared to the CLA35.

While design-focused buyers may be drawn more magnetically towards the more flamboyantly shaped CLA, the A35 brings the requisite muscularity to the A-Class sedan’s good proportions.

Our test car included the $2490 AMG Aerodynamics Package that adds a larger boot lip spoiler and aero flicks at the front of the car. The 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels are standard, though feature a $790 matt black finish.

There’s plenty of AMG-specific performance wares to help lift the A35 away from accusations of being a marketing-led bodykit special: AMG exhaust system, AMG high-performance braking system, AMG Ride Control adaptive suspension, and an AMG Performance version of the company’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

Driver-assistance technology related to safety includes adaptive high beam, lane-keeping assist, speed-limit notification, blind-spot monitoring, fatigue alert, crosswind assistance and low tyre pressure warning.

Adaptive cruise control is about the only glaring omission – available instead as part of a $1890 Driving Assistance Package that also adds active lane-change assist, front cross-traffic alert, and route-based speed adaptation.

The A-Class cabin has an inherently sporty look regardless of variant – notably through its triplet of centre turbine-style air vents – and the A35 adds further AMG-ness, as it were, with the flat-bottomed, partially dimpled steering wheel and well-bolstered front seats.

Plentiful electric adjustment for the seats includes lumbar support, while manual cushion extenders are there for longer journeys and longer legs. There’s also a heating function.

The cabin abounds with excellent materials and switchgear tactility, while a high-tech ambience is created by the stunningly sharp and vibrant dual 10.25-inch displays – a central touchscreen for the infotainment system and a highly customisable digital driver display manipulated via steering wheel buttons.

Put the AMG element of the A35 aside and it’s still fundamentally an executive/luxury sedan, and in this respect rear-seat space is adequate rather than generous. Head room is good, though, and ingress/egress is aided by a large rear door.

Rear head room is 36mm more than you’ll find in the CLA, in fact. (Don’t expect more leg room in the longer Mercedes, either, as the CLA shares the A-Class sedan’s wheelbase.)

A 430L boot provides extra luggage volume over the A35 hatch, and perhaps most importantly for an A-Class sedan it will hold a couple of golf bags.

The AMG A35 is a car designed for another type of driving, of course, and here there’s plenty to satisfy those behind the wheel – and certainly more agility and involvement than you’ll find with BMW’s M235i Gran Coupe, a natural price rival.

There’s a welcome tautness to body control and a neutral balance to its handling that encourage a keen driver to press on in winding-road territory.

The steering isn’t great for feedback, though its weighting feels well suited to a sporty luxury sedan, and its accuracy and directness are both highlights.

There’s an abundance of grip from the Pirelli P Zero tyres, and the A35 sedan’s all-wheel-drive system, while lacking the more playful rear-biased set-up found in the A45 hatch and CLA45 sedan, is highly effective at providing strong traction out of tight corners.

Rotating the steering wheel’s driving-mode dial into Sport+ puts the A35’s engine, gearbox and suspension into their most aggressive settings, and also brings more pops and crackles from the exhaust system. The paddle levers, as key interactive tools, could have greater tactility, yet each flick brings a satisfyingly quick response from the seven-speed dual-clutch auto.

Mercedes quotes 4.8 seconds for the A35’s 0–100km/h sprint; a couple of tenths quicker than we could achieve. (We similarly could manage only a 4.2-second time for the A45 S hatch compared with its 3.9sec claim.)

While there’s no doubting the maniacal brilliance of the world’s most powerful production four-cylinder in the A45 and CLA45, there’s still an abundance of performance to be found in the 225kW/400Nm A35 sedan.

All but five per cent of its maximum torque is produced between 2000 and 5000rpm by the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder that is a beefed-up, powered-up version of the A250’s engine.

It equips the A35 with the kind of satisfyingly quick in-gear progress that will have only the most hardcore of drivers yearning for more. The absence of an A45 sedan doesn’t seem like an oversight.

When drivers want the A35 sedan to be more Mercedes than AMG, vehicle settings can be toned down in Comfort.

There’s still a firmness to the ride, though some stiffness is almost reassuring for an AMG model. And there’s sufficient everyday comfort. The suspension, for example, avoids the busy nature of the M235i Gran Coupe’s underpinnings.

If there’s one tiring aspect of the A35 experience, it’s the AMG’s persistently noisy tyres.

Filling up the A35 won’t be super-cheap, either, as 98RON premium fuel is recommended. We registered average fuel use of 7.7 litres per 100km in normal driving that encompassed freeways and commuting, which compares well with the official 7.4L/100km.

Most AMG A35 drivers are likely to see higher figures – which is at it should be (otherwise they may as well buy an A250 sedan).

Mercedes offers a five-year warranty as an upside of ownership, though it also charges a lot for servicing. A three-year maintenance plan costs $2150, four years is $2950 and five years is $4000.

To put that in perspective, servicing an M235i Gran Coupe over five years with BMW’s five-year plan costs $1550. It’s worth factoring that into any negotiations with a Mercedes dealer.

The Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan is certainly a tempting package and one of the German brand’s most convincing compact models, regardless of body style.

At slightly over $80,000 drive-away, the A35 sedan can hardly be described as a bargain performance car. And its standard equipment specification isn’t perfect, missing features such as adaptive cruise, head-up display and a branded audio system.

But it brings a better value proposition than the CLA35, while delivering keen handling and punchy performance befitting of the AMG badge.

And it could easily persuade a buyer to downsize from a C-Class without disappointing them.