2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic First Test Review: Subcompact Sleeper

Mercedes-Benz A-Class Full Overview

It makes all the right noises when you want it to, it can hustle like some of the top sport sedans on the market, and its chassis delivers at the test track. It had better, because it wears an AMG badge. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic isn’t what you’d call a traditional model from the go-fast division of Mercedes-Benz, but the AMG team has done its best to bring its amplified aesthetic to the entry-level A-Class sedan.

This isn’t exactly foreign territory for AMG, given it has already worked its technical mastery on versions of the related CLA- and GLA-Class. But this is the first AMG-tuned version of the latest-generation A-Class, the automaker’s front-drive-based, four-cylinder subcompact sedan introduced to the U.S. market for the first time back in 2018.

The AMG A35 swaps out the 188-hp 2.0-liter turbo I-4 in the base A-Class for an AMG-enhanced variant of the engine making 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, which is also found in the AMG versions of GLA and CLA35. Power routes through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and is delivered to the pavement via all-wheel drive. AMG engineers optimized the Benz DCT and the 4Matic system to get the most out of a car that weighs 3,480 pounds and has 61 percent of its weight over the front wheels.

How Quick Is the A35?

Although its performance at the test track wasn’t breathtaking, the 2021 AMG A35 4Matic did the 0-60-mph hustle in a brisk 4.4 seconds, which shaved 0.2 tick off the official time quoted by the automaker. For some context, that’s 0.4 second quicker than a 2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe (which has a near-identical 301 horsepower and weighs about 50 pounds more than the A35). Pushing it to the quarter mile took 13.1 seconds at 105.1 mph, which edged the M235i by 0.3 second.

To get those numbers, the test team used the A35’s Race Start function (launch control). Race Start holds the engine at about 3,500 rpm before you drop the hammer, and it delivers shifts that are “snappy and aggressive” off the line. Oh, and there’s a “rowdy engine note” to go along with it, something we experienced during our on-road drives, as well. This four-banger can really get its bang on, and if you want the world to know you’ve got something special under the A35’s hood, you can make it pop and crackle harder than the Rice Krispies elves on a milk bender.

Brakes Could Be Better

Stopping the AMG A35 4Matic wasn’t quite as impressive as launching it, however. Our 60-0-mph braking test netted an overall average of 112 feet, not quite what we were expecting from 13.8-inch vented front discs clamped by four-piston fixed calipers (13.0 inches and a single caliper at the back). “Wooden” was a word used by the test team to describe the pedal feel. This is where the M235i exacts a measure of revenge, with a 108-foot stopping distance that easily outpaces the A35.

“I’m not a fan of the short-travel brake pedal,” road test editor Chris Walton said of the A35’s binders. “It’s hard not to get into the ABS in aggressive braking.” In around-town and freeway driving this isn’t as much of an issue. You’ll likely find yourself stopping a bit short in low-speed situations at times, but it’s more of a feel thing that a regular driver no doubt would acclimate to.

Improving the Handling

As you’d expect, AMG has also tuned the 2021 A35 to handle well, layering several enhancements onto its MacPherson strut/double A-arm front design and multilink rear setup, such as the optional ($990) AMG Ride Control adaptive adjustable dampers. There’s also the aforementioned AMG-massaged 4Matic. On our figure eight, the A35 set a 24.7-second time at 0.77 average g and recorded a 0.96 average g  on the skidpad, both of which easily beat the M235i (25.8 seconds at 0.71 g and 0.91 g).

Walton had this to say about the A35 during his time flogging it through our dynamic tests: “In Sport Plus mode, I like the medium weight of the steering and its precision. There’s very mild understeer on the skidpad, and it starts to go wide, but on the exit you can use the all-wheel drive and put the throttle to the floor. It feels like a FWD car with AWD added after the fact.”

On the highways and byways, we found the A35 plenty capable. It cornered well on tight exit ramps with the AMG dynamic braking system intervening on the inside rear wheel to help aid turn-in when necessary. As is the case with other AMG 35 cars (the CLA35 and GLA35 are similar in overall execution), you can use the Dynamic Select drive modes to adjust several functions to your liking. We found ourselves defaulting to Sport mode to avoid engaging the auto stop/start system that’s always enabled in Comfort mode. Over buckled pavement we found the A35 to be a bit rough, but generally it straddles the line between taut and compliant that doesn’t punish you during daily driving.

When you’re rolling around town, don’t expect to get any looks unless you’re downshifting and getting those exhaust pops and crackles, as the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35’s restrained look belies its capability. The only real tells that this is a serious sport sedan are its decklid badges and the slick, black-accented AMG 19-inch rims shod with Pirelli P Zeros. We think that’s a good thing.

Sleepy Outside, Slick Inside

The wow factor is saved for the interior, at least for this particular car. Upholstered in Nova Grey and Black MB-Tex, the cabin looks dynamite, highlighted by piano black and aluminum accents and adjustable lighting elements. With 20.5 inches of screens spanning the dash, the A35 is next-generation in its digital instrumentation and infotainment execution, with Benz’s MBUX touchscreen system offering myriad controls, configurable clusters, and other vehicle features. The Mercedes trackpad system has redundant controls on the center console, and for a subcompact sedan there’s a decent amount of space between the front seats. It’s also not too cramped for rear passengers given its size, with more headroom than its CLA-Class sibling.

Checking in at $46,900 to start, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic isn’t exactly a steal, but it’s priced pretty competitively given it’s roughly the same as the M235i. This particular test car came with a couple of key options that we’d add, including the Multimedia package ($1,295 for navigation and additional MBUX features) and those sweet rims ($500). All in, it totalled $52,990. So if you want that AMG caché but can’t go big for one of its mega-powered brutes, the compact-in-size and (relatively speaking) small-in-price A35 might just be the AMG for you.

Looks good! More details?

SPECIFICATIONS 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic
BASE PRICE $46,900
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 2.0L/302-hp/295-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4
TRANSMISSION 7-speed twin-clutch auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,480 lb (61/39%)
WHEELBASE 107.4 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 179.4 x 70.7 x 56.9 in
0-60 MPH 4.4 sec
QUARTER MILE 13.1 sec @ 105.1 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 112 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 24.7 sec @ 0.77 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 153/116 kWh/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.79 lb/mile

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