Since Mercedes-Benz transformed the A-class from a high-roof minicar to a sporty compact, it has enjoyed success, and for the first time the latest generation is coming to the U.S. market. We won't get the A-class hatchback, though, which launched in Europe earlier this year; the only A-class body style to come to the U.S. is the sedan. (The stylized CLA "four-door coupe" and the baby GLA crossover will both also get new generations soon, based on this new A-class.) Now the regular A-class has been joined by the Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch, powered by a 302-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. Our drive of that model provides us a preview of things to come, since this engine is U.S.-bound in the CLA, the GLA, and the A-class sedan.
Even though the A35 is rated at about 100 horsepower less than the upcoming A45 will be, it comes with many of the same upgrades as that top-rung model will receive. The chassis has been stiffened throughout; there is an aluminum sheer plate below the engine, and the front axle features AMG-specific components. The rear suspension links and bearings are strengthened for the AMG as well. The braking system is more powerful than on the standard A-class, on par with the current A45. In Europe, the tires are sized 235/40R-18, with 19-inch wheels as an option.
Although the A35's engine is not built on AMG's specialty "one man, one engine" line, it is strong enough to satisfy elevated expectations. Its 302 horsepower is available at 5800 rpm, and the peak torque of 295 lb-ft is on tap from 3000 to 4000 revs. Mercedes says that the A35 reaches 62 mph in 4.7 seconds and will top out at 155 mph. The only available transmission is a quick-shifting seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
The A35's responsiveness is a joy. The almost nonexistent turbo lag is successfully masked by the automatic's quick downshifts, acceleration is strong, and the engine sounds especially rorty in Sport+ mode, with a nice exhaust crackle during shifts.
The standard 4Matic all-wheel-drive system can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels. The limits of adhesion are high, and the A35 turns into corners sharply, aided by brake-based torque vectoring. This is a fun car on curvy country roads, and the difference between the driving modes is pronounced. The A35 can be a sporty driving tool or a luxury compact with especially high reserves of power.
Inside, it's easy for the driver to find a good seating position, and the rear seat is fine for most adults, too. The A35 is fitted with the new MBUX infotainment system, which includes an AMG-specific Supersport screen style that looks futuristic and delivers ample visual indications when an upshift is in order.
You may have noticed that the new A-class looks a bit more restrained than its predecessor, which may disappoint some AMG customers. For them, the company is offering an aero package that includes a front splitter, winglike "flics" on the front bumper, and a sizable rear wing.
In Europe, the new A35 hatchback is priced at a premium over its closest competitor, the Volkswagen Golf R. Nonetheless, Mercedes claims it will allow "new, young, and active customers" to take a step up "to acquire their first Mercedes-AMG." Buyers in the United States may be out of luck when it comes to the A35 hatchback, but this powertrain in one of the other new A-class variants should make a tempting beginner's AMG.
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