Want to get into the hashtag AMG life but can’t quite afford it? Well, we have good news. Merc’s performance arm has made a new, entry-level baby hot hatch called the A35 AMG.
It’s essentially a cheaper, de-tuned version of the next A45 AMG that we’ll see at some point next year. But even though it’s the cheapest offering from AMG, it’s will likely still be around R750 000 – putting it directly in competition with the VW Golf R and Honda Civic Type R.
Fitted with a new turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder kicking out 228kW and 400Nm, the A35 AMG is sandwiched neatly between the 213kW Golf and 236kW Honda.
Like the original A45 AMG, the standard rear-drive modus operandi of AMG of old has been ditched in favour of a lightweight AMG 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system. The A35’s is predominately front-wheel drive but, when it’s needed, up to 50 per cent of the power is sent to the rear and is controlled by a new ESP system that makes it, apparently, eager to drive on the limit.
To make sure it doesn’t wibble-wobble in corners, the A-Class’s chassis has been stiffened up thanks to a bolted aluminium plate under the engine and two additional diagonal braces up front.
Actually, all the important bits (engine, suspension, all-wheel drive, transmission, driving programmes, electronic fine-tuning) of the new A-Class have been breathed over by AMG. So don’t think of it as some cheap knock-off badging exercise. And considering how punchy the current A45 is, we’re expecting good things at a more accessible price. Plus, what the Merc has in its favours compared to its competitors – especially the plasticky Civic – is plushness.
Just check out the cabin. The interior is the highlight of the new A-Class and it’s been brought over to the A35 AMG, then sportified. Like the S- and E-Class, the A35’s swish new cabin is dominated by two widescreen LCDs. But now they can be filled with performance info and shouty red displays to show your car is angry and ready to perform. There’s also a funky wheel; perforated, leather-wrapped and flat-bottomed (because all sporty things have flat-bottomed wheels) that you can fill with more configurable buttons than Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car. There’s also contrast stitching and cool mood-lighting in the door cards and air vents. Outside, it’s the normal AMG’d affair: basically, an A-Class in a tracksuit. You know the score – wings, spoilers, flicks and diffusers.
But why has AMG gone for the A35? Well, it’s a product of the now incomprehensible power struggle that’s happened on Planet Hot Hatch over the past few years. With various manufacturers constantly trying to out-power each other, the new A45 (which we’ll see in 2019) has to outpunch the 2.5-litre five-cylinder engine in the Audi RS3 that produces a nice round 290kW. Enough power to consequently dethrone the A45.
Remember, kilowattsis AMG’s currency, and it won’t settle for second best, so prepare for the era of 300kW-plus all-wheel-drive hot hatches that will be way faster than the supercars you loved growing up as a kid. But these hyper hatches are also expensive, with the next A45 probably knocking on the door of a million rand. So this is where the A35 comes in.
Plus, AMG is on a warpath to sell more cars, and it needs to compete in more parts of the market. That’s why, since 2011, we’ve seen the introduction of all-wheel-drive, mild hybrids and hatchbacks. And soon, probably, all three in one. Just as AMG now offers a smaller C43 AMG version of the C-Class and E-Class (for people who want into the AMG brand, but don’t want the throbbing, thirsty V8 of a ‘63), the A35 AMG will act in the same way for the A45.
We’ll see the A35 AMG for ourselves at the Paris Motor Show next month but you’ll be able to get one yourself early next year.
But what do you think about an entry-level AMG? Should those letters only relate to V8s, tyre smoke and skids?