What is it?
At a touch over £35,000, the A35 is the most affordable car AMG has ever produced.
You might guess as much from the look of it. Despite it sitting closer to the road on wider, 235-section tyres and having a more aggressively open-worked grille, you’d struggle to tell this car apart from the Mercedes-Benz A250 AMG Line upon which it’s based were it not for the optional rear wing.
Walking around to the rear reveals a pair of fat exhaust tips sitting plum within a deep gloss-black valence replete with diffuser, but it’s obvious that AMG is holding plenty of aesthetic clout back for the fire-spitting, 400bhp-plus A45 that's due later this year. Many will appreciate the Q-car appeal of the lesser AMG A-Class.
We’ve driven the A35 before, on forgiving European Tarmac, and you can read Dan Prosser’s dispatch and plenty of engineering detail here, but this is our opportunity to see how it handles British roads. Just over 300bhp and four-wheel drive in a hatchback body – such a popular recipe – sounds quick, and a 4.7sec 0-62mph time duly drops the A35 into serious performance car territory, but the right blend of usability and entertaining dynamics is harder to achieve.
There are only two bona fide rivals for this new Mercedes, and they the hugely successful Volkswagen Golf R and its corporate cousin, the Audi S3. This is an interesting pair, because if the expensive A35 can closely match the dynamic breadth of the former and couple it with the latter’s outright sophistication, it will stand a good chance of topping this versatile corner of the class.
It's an expensive corner, mind, and while the A35's basic price puts it on a par with the S3, you’ll probably want to spend more. This example, in Mountain Grey metallic paint (£595), was fitted with the AMG Style Package (£2595), which gets you 19in alloys, tinted windows and the questionable rear wing. For the full digital showcase within, you’ll need the AMG Premium Plus Package (£3895) and the AMG Advanced Navigation Package (£1295), which adds an excellent head-up display and augmented reality for the sat-nav. All in, the outlay for a well-equipped A35 isn't a million miles away from what you’ll pay for a BMW M2 Competition, which should give serious pause for thought before you even push the engine start button.