With the A 35 AMG, Mercedes has launched the most affordable AMG product in India. But, with its 2.0-litre engine, is the A 35 a true AMG and a real entry into the sports saloon world? We drive one to find out.
Sporty and affordable are words that we journalists are rarely able to use together when it comes to performance cars in the Indian market. As the age-old adage goes, what’s cheap won’t be fast, and what’s fast won’t be cheap. And with our ridiculous duty and tax structures, it’s no surprise that Indian enthusiasts are forever in short supply of sporty cars that they can afford. And, as cars like the Skoda Octavia RS has shown, if priced well, there is sufficient niche demand for sporty cars in India.
Credit Where it’s Due
To be honest, Mercedes India deserves credit for starting the local assembly of AMG products in India. Why is the local assembly of AMG products significant? Well, you see, given our tax structures, when a manufacturer starts assembling a product in India – instead of importing it in fully built-up form as a CBU – the taxes on the vehicle reduce, resulting in a more affordable machine. And it’s no surprise, then, that the A 35 AMG is the most affordable AMG product in the country, with a price tag starting at `56.25 lakh (ex-showroom).
Now, a car costing just over 60 lakh on-road is not exactly the most affordable thing around, but if you look at it from the perspective of an entry-level luxury sedan buyer who anyway ends up spending over 50 lakh rupees for a BMW 3 Series or a Mercedes C-Class, suddenly the A 35 is not that much of a jump up. For a slightly larger EMI, the A 35 could offer the customer not just a genuine AMG but also some serious performance. The real question, though, is whether the A 35 deserves that premium, and can you really daily drive an AMG on our roads?
However, there is also another reason why the A 35 AMG is so affordable. You see, to increase the customer base for their AMG line-up, Mercedes now produces AMG products in various flavours. So, while the C 63, for instance, is the full-fat AMG product with over 500bhp from a roaring V8, the A 35 gets a milder version of the AMG treatment – making it more affordable. But the essence of an AMG product – sharper styling, aerodynamic aids, stiffer suspension and loads of power – remain in all AMG branded products.
This is evident from the minute you set your eyes on the A 35 – it features a smattering of AMG badges both front and rear, as well as a larger front air dam, twin exhaust pipes and a small spoiler on the boot lid. You also get 18-inch AMG wheels, while the 4MATIC badging on the front fender reminds you that helping you put all that power down is Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive system. Similarly, the interior of the A 35 features red and black detailing throughout the cabin, sports seats and even red seat belts. The AMG steering wheel of the A 35 remains a particular favourite of mine, as it feels just the right size for some sporty driving.
The business end
Coming to the most vital numbers of an AMG, the A 35 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 302bhp and 400Nm of torque. Pair this with the all-wheel-drive system and Mercedes claims that the A 35 can do the 0-100 run in just 4.8 seconds, which is certifiably fast for a small sporty sedan. While I wasn’t able to test that figure, I can confirm that, when prodded, the AMG’s engine features an explosive power delivery that not only makes the A 35 scamper off the line, but even the midrange response is simply terrific. From around 3,000rpm, the engine really gets into its groove and the car gathers pace at an unbelievable rate. In fact, I would go as far as saying that the A 35 offers more performance than you need on our roads.
Of course, there are also a few compromises on account of being an AMG product. First, the A 35 has bespoke suspension that feels fantastic at speed and on smooth roads – with both grip and high-speed stability providing you with immense confidence as a driver. But, as the suspension is stiffer and lower than the plain-Jane A-Class, the ride quality does suffer, and on broken roads, I would be worried both about my back and the narrow side-profile tyres. Secondly, even though the A 35 features a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, the gearbox is not the fastest or most responsive of its kind. Particularly on part throttle inputs, such as in slow-moving traffic, the shifts can be lazy, and the gearbox appears a bit confused about which cog is most suitable. But this improves considerably with heavier throttle inputs, and at higher speeds. On the other hand, the revised steering rack of the A 35 is very direct and also provides a lot of feedback from the road and makes enthusiastic driving easier and more engaging.
But is it daily drivable?
Well, that, of course, is a million-dollar question and I’ll answer it in two parts. Firstly, with its compact size and relatively affordable price, the A 35 is a very attractive package. Helping its daily drive appeal are the refined looks, terrific interior and that explosive engine, which, paired with the feedback from the steering, makes every drive a pleasure. But, if there is one fly in the ointment, it would have to be the stiff suspension, which will be a deal-breaker for some customers. And, secondly, with other sports sedan rivals like the BMW 340i available at a slightly higher price, I think this AMG product is one for diehard fans of AMG and Mercedes. Luckily for the three-pointed star, there are a sizable number of those in our country.
- Mercedes-AMG A 35
Engine: 1,991cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 7-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / All-Wheel Drive
Power: 302bhp @ 5,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 3,000 - 4,000rpm
Price: ₹56.25 Lakh (Ex-showroom)
X-Factor: With a manageable size and explosive performance, the A 35 can be your everyday AMG, as long as you can live with the stiff ride.
• Everyday usable