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Driven: Supply issues temper initial AMG A35 sales

A35 hatch, sedan may become Mercedes-AMG’s Australian sales leader in future

8 Nov 2019

MERCEDES-BENZ Australia/Pacific sees its performance buyers heading towards AMG-badged coupes, sedans and hatches and is building an armament in these body styles in a trend that counters Australia’s SUV-heavy market.


It is a strong message that this week has been supported by the introduction of the A35, now the cheapest model in the inventory of Mercedes-Benz’s AMG go-fast division.


“We think we have enough AMG SUVs,” MBAP head of media and public relations Jerry Stamoulis said of the five model SUV lines that will be joined next year by a sixth.


“Performance buyers are more focused on the passenger cars in the AMG range.”


Mr Stamoulis indicated that the A35, based on the A250 and sibling to the A45, has the potential to become the top-selling AMG in Australia because of its performance and badge appeal and its affordable $67,200 (plus on-road costs) starting price, with supply the only thing standing in its way at the moment.


“We won’t have a great deal of stock with this car, at least not initially,” he said, as demand for AMG’s A45 hot hatch and global orders for the A35 go through the roof.


“We have a lot of people waiting for this car.”


Demand for the A35 is also accentuated because the A45 is currently unavailable awaiting its next-generation version expected in Australia in the first quarter of next year.


Mr Stamoulis said the wait for the more potent A45 – that will come with even more power and grip – has moved some buyers into the queue for the A35.


“At the same time, we will get the (more powerful) A45 S engine because we see two customers in Australia: one that is going up from the A250 into either the A35 or new A45, and those coming down from larger cars such as the C63,” he said.


“We know that the current A45 customers may want to go to the next level of performance, so some could go to other brands or to the C63.


“It seems AMG buyers tend to stay with the brand because we are still selling a lot of C63s.”


The introduction of the A35 mirrors the Mercedes-Benz approach to leverage its luxury-car image by launching trickle-down models.


The first major move into the affordable price brackets occupied by Japanese car-makers was the A-Class small car of 1997-2012. The A-Class was upgraded in 2004 before being launched in its current, more conservatively designed and larger third generation in 2013.


Mercedes-AMG models centred on larger E-Class and S-Class versions before its C36 AMG of 1995 and C43 AMG in 1997, the latter costing $152,000, which was twice the price of the C240 sedan of which it shared its body and major components.


The latest A35 costs $67,200 plus on-road costs, a more modest 26 per cent increase over the A250 on which it is loosely based.


The A35 is also available as a sedan – priced at $69,800 – and will also share its drivetrain and chassis with the new CLA35 from early next year. The CLA, bigger than the current version, has the same platform as the A35 hatch and sedan and same 2729mm wheelbase.


The A-Class range now starts at $42,900 for the A180 and climbs through the $49,400 front-wheel-drive A250 and $55,500 all-wheel-drive A250 to the A35 and the yet-to-be-priced A45 that arrives in the middle of next year with an expected price of around $85,000.


Where the AWD A45 – which will be sold here only in the top-spec S form – has an M139 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine producing up to 310kW/500Nm and mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, the A35 uses a modified A250 set-up.


The A35’s engine is coded M260 and is also used in some C-Class variants. The 2.0-litre is rated at 225kW of power at 5800rpm and 400Nm of torque from 3000-4000rpm, up from the A250 at 165kW/350Nm.


Gaining the extra 60kW/50Nm was achieved by sending the engine to AMG for some tweaking. It should be noted that the A45 – and others with the AMG badge – has a hand-assembled engine from AMG’s Affalterbach factory.


The A35 gets its engine from the Mercedes-Benz factory and does not have the aura of being hand-built or wearing the assembler’s signature on its air intake box.


AMG’s involvement in the A35 was, in particular, the development of a new twin-scroll turbocharger that features parallel intake ducts and separate exhaust ducts. The design boosts turbocharger performance and increases the speed and volume of air in and out of the engine.


The exhaust then dumps into a special manifold and then to an AMG exhaust pipe with adjustable baffles for more bark.


All the heavy breathing at AMG means the A35 hatch will leap to 100km/h from rest in 4.7 seconds thanks to its standard launch control – called Race-Start – that maximises acceleration and raises the audio of the exhaust.


For those who are addicted to the bark and roar of sports exhausts, the A35 even comes with a button allowing the driver to start the car with the exhaust baffles open. Normally it defaults to a “quiet” exhaust throughput, but there are occasions when the theatre can make a statement.


Mercedes-AMG claims the A35 has a fuel economy of 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres and 7.4 L/100km for the more aerodynamic sedan.


Drive goes through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that is the same used in the previous A45, mated to an all-wheel-drive system that transfers quickly and seamlessly from its 100 per cent front drive default to a maximum of 50/50 front and rear.


The rear axle’s multi-disc clutch that allocates the torque is activated electro-mechanically – previous versions of the 4Matic system have been electro-hydraulic – which Mercedes-AMG says is quicker.


Chassis work is extensive and this is the part that really separates the A250 from the A35 and brings the A35 much closer to the outgoing A45.


Most of the suspension components – wishbones, struts and coils – are made specifically for the A35 and are not modified from the A250. There are additional braces front and rear and the rubber mountings for the subframes are removed, providing a more rigid connection with the body.


The rack and pinion steering rack is bolted directly to the front subframe – not via bushes – to reduce any flex and create a more accurate steering feel. Mercedes-AMG has also added an aluminium plate – called a shear plate – beneath the engine for extra rigidity.


Then there are AMG perforated and ventilated disc brakes, measuring 350mm at the front and 330mm at the back. The standard wheels are 19-inch alloys.


Standard for Australia is the AMG Ride Control adaptive damping system – which is optional in most other markets, including the UK – that offers three suspension settings from Comfort through to Sport.


Australian examples also get AMG Dynamic Select drive programs – Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual – which are also optional in other markets, and AMG Dynamics that automatically monitors and adjusts body pitch and yaw, and will assist with handling through brake intervention.


Inside, the A35 comes standard with all the AMG trimmings from seats to the huge pair of 10.25-inch displays that support Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system.


The AMG flat-bottom steering wheel has two LCD controllers on its lower section to change between the five drive modes and a customised switch for the driver’s preferences such as ride comfort on the left.


Cabin trim is Artico leatherette, while leather used for the front seats. These pews have electric adjustment and heating.


There is also mood lighting with 64 colour choices, and standard gear also includes dual-zone climate control.


All the features are shared between the hatch and sedan except the hands-free boot access of the sedan that opens the boot lid by swiping a foot beneath the rear bumper.


The limited-run A35 Edition 1 hatch – with a $6990 option price – has distinctive highlights, notably a bigger rear wing and deeper front apron as part of the AMG Aerodynamics pack, Tech Gold highlights over the exclusive Denim Blue metallic paint, AMG Performance seats and 19-inch AMG multi-spoke alloy wheels.


2019 Mercedes-AMG A35 pricing*

Hatch (a) $67,200
Sedan (a) $69,800
Edition 1 hatch (a) $74,190

*Excludes on-road costs

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