[REVIEW] 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan

For several years now, Mercedes has been on the path of creating “insane” sporty versions of their cars in order to reach all subsects of their customers, regardless of their demographics.

It seems that most luxury auto makers have now subscribed to a similar line of thinking that has spawned whole line-ups of sportier models of cars, coupes, convertibles, and even SUVs.

BMW has their M sport line, Audi Sport has their RS and S line, Lexus has their F sport line, and Mercedes-Benz has their AMG, now known as the Mercedes-AMG line.

One such latest example of Mercedes-AMG’s latest efforts is the example of this week’s test vehicle, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 sedan.

A case of AMG Deja-Vu?

You might have read my 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback review before. For the most part, not a substantial number of things have changed between the hatch and the sedan, aside from the obvious, its body shape.

Although the A-Class compact sedan is Mercedes’ least expensive entry, it still feels like a true Mercedes. Fit and finish throughout the cabin is excellent, albeit missing some of the fancier trim pieces from the higher-end Mercedes-AMG models.

Similar to the A35 hatch, this entry level A35 sedan is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivering 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

Mercedes-AMG’s engineers have strengthen the front section of the body shell to improve the A35’s  turn-in ability compared to the standard A220 sedan. A bolted aluminum shear plate under the engine increases the torsional stiffness of the front section. Two additional diagonal braces at the front of the underbody also reduce torsion when cornering and help to increase stiffness.

Like the hatch, the A35 sedan has a strong character line along its side. I’m a big fan of the sloped “shark-nose” design of its hood, which emphasises its aggressive upright front despite its small car dimensions.

Characteristic AMG elements differentiate the A35 from the A220 sedan. These include a radiator grille with twin louvres, an AMG front apron with flics on the air intakes, a front splitter and silver chrome elements are distinguishing AMG design features at the front.

I particularly liked the aerodynamically optimized Mercedes-AMG 18-inch twin-spoke light-alloy wheels. To emphasise the width of the compact sedan, there are two-part LED tail lamps and a new diffuser. The rear also features a spoiler lip and two round tailpipes.

Sedan or Hatch?

Compared to its two main competitors, the Audi S3 and the BMW 2-series Gran Coupe, the A35 sedan’s cargo space is a smidge less at 9 cu ft of trunk space compared to 10 and 15 cu ft respectively. With the rear seats down, this expands to 16.6 cu ft.

When we compare the A35 sedan to the hatch, the former offers more space at 16.6 cu ft versus 13 cu ft.

Even though it’s the smallest of the Mercedes-AMG models, the A35 still accommodates most people reasonably well in the back. But two adults will be far happier in the back versus three across.

How’s the rest of the inside?

Mercedes has come a long way in improving the interiors of all their models, including their entry-level cars such as the A-Class.

True to its Mercedes-AMG branding, there are a lot of sporty touches throughout. All of the switchgear is similar to its more expensive stablemates, from the satin finished aluminium switches, to the MBUX dual LCD screens. By design, the control weights from the various stalks, switches, and buttons also feel similar, from A-Class to E-Class to S-Class.

The AMG steering wheel comes wrapped in perforated leather with metalized flappy paddles, and the 64 colour ambient-lighting system completes the interior with the backlit turbine centre air vents giving the A35 a youthful night-club vibe.

My test vehicle was equipped with handsome aluminium trim but real wood is also an option.

I particularly liked that Mercedes didn’t cheap out on the MBUX infotainment system, offering the unique AMG track pace features on the A35, even though most will likely only use it as eye candy or for show and tell with friends.

Still, this is one of the brand’s entry level models, so perhaps there is more likelihood for an owner to take this to the track versus with a much more expensive Mercedes-AMG model with more expensive replacement parts.

The MBUX infotainment system’s AMG-specific content includes specific details such as the AMG start-up menu with three selectable AMG display styles.

The Supersport mode is particularly striking, with a central, round rev counter and additional information presented in the form of bars to the left and right of the rev counter. Via the AMG menu, there are various special displays such as Warm-up, Set-up, G-Force and Engine Data.

The touchscreen multimedia display can also present drivers with telemetry data, visualizations of various driving programs, and AMG TRACK PACE.

How does it drive?

With 4MATIC all-wheel-drive and a launch control feature as standard equipment, the 3,513 pound A35 sedan is good for 0-100 km/hr runs in approximately 4.4 seconds, a good showing for an entry-level sedan regardless of segment.

The A35 doesn’t get the trick torque-vectoring 4MATIC+ system found in the more expensive AMGs though, so power can only flow fore-aft. Still, the car feels neutral and tossable, even though it’s front-wheel-drive biased most of the time.

Particularly when in Sport+ mode, the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox pops through the gears quickly and with enough feel to make the experience entertaining.

Although it was similarly equipped to the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 hatch I previously reviewed, the A35 sedan felt better put together, with none of the creaks and rattles that I heard in the A35 hatch. Inexplicably, my A35 sedan test unit also seemed to have less turbo lag than the A35 hatch despite having the same powertrain. Still, the turbo four needs a second to build boost, around 2,500 rpms before peak forward motion is felt.

I appreciated the optional three mode AMG Ride Control suspension, which could be adjusted from Comfort to Sport. This system adjusts within milliseconds and adapts the dampening force for each wheel according to the driving situation and road conditions.

The high-performance braking system of the A35 ensures fade-resistant deceleration and short braking distances. Up front are 4-piston Monoblock fixed callipers and 350 millimetre brake discs, and the rear with 1-piston sliding callipers and 330 millimetre brake discs. The discs are internally ventilated and perforated to better dissipate heat and prevent brake fading, even with extreme use.

The AMG engineers have also upgraded the A35’s steering over the standard car by use of a special speed-sensitive electro-mechanical rack with variable ratios and two characteristic curves that are tied into the drive modes.

Final thoughts

Compared to the already fairly rigid Mercedes-Benz A220 sedan, the A35 sedan offers better than expected responsiveness expected in an entry-level performance luxury compact car. Despite its small size and relatively modest price, the Mercedes felt rock-solid, quick, and presents a good value for money.

The power and sharpened dynamics are entertaining enough to justify the increase in price over the A220 sedan. And if the A-Class is not for you because you’re looking with something with even more power, style, and more money, but less practicality, the boffins at Mercedes-AMG can help you out as well with their superb 2021 Mercedes-AMG CLA45 four door coupe.


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