The Mercedes-AMG A35 Hatch Is a Golf R Rival You Can't Buy in the U.S.

Photo credit: Brendan McAleer
From Road & Track
If you are the European correspondent for Road & Track, you need to check the Yaris GR to see which vehicle is exciting, thrilling and alluring. If you are a Canadian contributor, you will be asked to report on the Hyundai Pony which it did not. Not even a little. But Hosers have guts: we have our own hot Canada-only hatchback up here, and it's pretty cute, buddy. Put your skates on, right?
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This is the Mercedes-AMG A35 hatchback, and if your currency is all the same green color, you can't have any. The 302 hp sedan variant of the A35 is available in the US, but the hatchback is only sold overseas and Canada. The situation is similar with the AMG C43, which can be bought in the form of a car north of the 49th parallel, but not south.
The reason, somewhat boring, is basically in the dealer supply. Because of the way Mercedes Canada manages its factory stores and franchises, dealerships often stock many AMG models. If the cars are right on the showrooms, they are bought (probably leased) by customers. This supply creates its own demand, with Canada having the highest AMG acceptance worldwide. Around every fourth Mercedes-Benz model sold in Canada has an AMG emblem on the back.
Photo credit: Brendan McAleer
This is the smallest AMG. It will no doubt increase the breed's popularity. It is 17 kg lighter than the sedan and 13 cm shorter. Converting the metric for you will be 37 lbs and 0.00008 miles if I got it right.
The differences between hatch and sedan are minimal on paper, but it's nice to have a choice. The addition of a practical hatchback makes the A35, at least in theory, a Golf R rival with nicer interiors. Behind the wheel, it turns out Volkswagen's idea of ​​a hot hatch is a far more buttoned-down affair. But we'll get to that in a moment.
First of all, it should be noted that the A-Class looks better as a hatchback than as a sedan. It just does it. The small, front-wheel drive sedans from Mercedes are far better than the BMW offering with a flared nostril that's supposed to cut off nose hair. But there's just something satisfying about a decent hatchback. You can get the A35 with a larger rear wing for a dash of more rally-car flair, but this one is relatively subtle and sits on thick-rimmed 18-inch wheels.
Subtlety is what you mostly expect from a German hot hatchback. Yes, there are exceptions such as any GTI that has been modified to have only one catastrophic suspension flaw, but the visual screaming about performance is best left to the Civic Type R.
Plus, the interior of the A35 promises a touch more luxury than you'd normally expect from a Japanese performance compact car, where all of the R&D money has been spent on the powertrain. The more luxurious models from Mercedes have a trickle down effect, and the A35's switchgear and even the vents are well done.
Photo credit: Brendan McAleer
The main pieces of the interior theater are the two 10.3-inch screens on the dashboard with infotainment on the right and instrumentation on the left. Add in the MBUX voice command system and the whole experience is refined and futuristic. At times like these, getting into a car should feel like stepping into a private escape pod, and the A35 conveys the vibe with sci-fi flair.
So press the eject button operated by your right foot. There is a noticeable pause. And then the A35 shoots forward with a wave of amplified 2.0-liter fury. As previously mentioned, it offers 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from 3000 to 5000 rpm, with reaching 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds. The engine is a run-up version of the M260 four-cylinder of the A220, which is equipped with a twin-scroll turbocharger and an air-to-water intercooler. The shifting tasks are taken over by a seven-speed dual clutch transmission in which all four tires are put on the road.
Taken together, these ingredients sound a bit like my STI hatchback for the everyday driver, albeit with a dual clutch transmission and without the ubiquitous Subaru dashboard rattle of the Maraca band. It's a recipe for a paved leather-seated rally car, and hopes are high as I drive the rain-soaked mountain roads.
For the most part, the A35 delivers. Redline at 6000 RPM on fully automatic and 6500 RPM on manual seems to be relatively low, but that's not really an obstacle to the fun as the performance peaks at 5800 RPM. The dual clutch shifts as fast as any AMG product, and the cool feel of metal paddle switches under your fingertips is particularly satisfying.
This car is stiffened from the regular A-Class, and it feels like a chip from the old AMG monoblock. The rack is different from the standard A-Class and while not particularly talkative, it is very accurate. This is a small, agile car, but there is no weakness.
The all-wheel drive system is forward biased, but sends 50 percent of the power to the rear in the more aggressive drive modes and uses torque vectoring to improve turn-in. The A35 shakes off the damp weather at speed and feels safe, precise and very, very fast.
Things are starting to come apart at the seams as traffic picks up on the way back into town. The A35 is a decent freeway cruiser, but it doesn't have the two-mode functionality of the Golf R. Even with the drive modes set to the softest settings, the dual-clutch transmission can be a bit grippy and the throttle lag and turbocharged engine conspire on occasion, to make you stumble in your seat. It's all a little unpolished, especially at lower speeds.
Photo credit: Brendan McAleer
To use a hockey metaphor, as mandated by Canadian law, the A35 is a Brett Hull, a striker with great physicality and a laser-accurate slapshot. But it doesn't have the soft hands you need to make a quick pass or catch. It doesn't have the playmaker versatility. That versatility is the difference that brings a hot hatchback to Wayne Gretzky's level. Everyone greets the great.
Speaking of big ones, there is another minor issue with the A35 hatch since the A45 exists overseas. Before I drove the A35 hatchback, I tried a CLA 45. I thought there were more fools than I remembered. The fact that you can get 382 hp insanity in a dull little A-series is (a.) Slightly disturbed, and (b.) Yes, please, may I try.
Should you crave the Yaris GR's forbidden hot hatch? You absolutely should. The car looks real and I'd rather have fifteen minutes than an hour in a McLaren.
But should America be jealous of Canada's A35 hatch? Might not. The more hot hatchbacks there are, of course, the better it is, but the A35 isn't as rounded as the old Golf R. And the new R is likely to be even better.
For Canadians, the A35 hatchback remains an interesting drive, an accessible way to bring a little AMG into your life. It is recommended to use an asterisk or two. But if you're an American looking for rally thrill with a Mercedes-AMG badge and hatch, you might want to jump straight to the GLA 45. You like your bigger portions anyway.
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