Boy-racer heaven: all-wheel drive, 225kW and a large rear wing. Picture: SUPPLIED
Boy-racer heaven: all-wheel drive, 225kW and a large rear wing. Picture: SUPPLIED

The A-Class is not even on sale yet in most countries and already AMG has thrown it into the hot-hatch battle with its new A35 4Matic.

Promising sub five-second sprint times to 100km/h and a 250km/h top speed, the all-wheel drive hatch will be a fast small car in its own right as well as setting the stage for an A45 replacement in 2020.

AMG has revised the A-Class’s entire suspension package and, in some places, its chassis, in an effort to deliver on its target to make it handle at least as well as the range-topping A45. Based around the front-drive architecture of the new A-Class, the A35 will run a five-seat layout to go with its superb dual-digital screen for the instrument cluster and infotainment system.

With 225kW of power between 5,800 and 6,100rpm, the new 2.0l four-cylinder, turbocharged engine will throw the hatch to 100km/h in 4.7 seconds in standard trim, which hints at low fours for the eventual A45 successor.

“With the introduction of the A45 in 2012, we presented a real benchmark in the compact segment and the demand for our compact models has developed very dynamically in recent years,” Mercedes-AMG CEO Tobias Moers said.

“This success has encouraged us to further expand our portfolio and place it on a broader footing. With the new A35, we are fulfilling our brand promise of driving performance in every detail and offering thrilling lateral dynamics at the level of today’s A45.”

The car goes from zero to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. Picture: SUPPLIED
The car goes from zero to 100km/h in just 4.7 seconds. Picture: SUPPLIED

Rather than using the expensive, sand-cast 2.0l engine in the A45, the A35 instead uses a development of the M260 powerplant from the A250 hatch. It uses a far smaller turbocharger than the enormous (and laggy) unit on the A45, yet still delivers 400Nm of torque at 3,000rpm. The A35 officially claims a fuel-economy figure of 7.3l/100km, for a CO2 emissions level of 167g/km.

With twin-scroll turbocharging, variable valve control, direct fuel injection and multispark ignition, the engine also uses Benz’s Conicshape cylinder honing system, which makes it slightly narrower at the top than at the bottom.

It all mates to AMG’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, with unique gear ratios and clutches, while it has a race-start function and steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles.

AMG thinks the car is fast enough to work its Track Pace and telemetry data into the touchscreen infotainment system as an option, and it also gains new buttons for the ESP system, the transmission mode and adaptive damping system.

The all-wheel drive system defaults to front-wheel drive, but can range up to a 50:50 split between the front and rear axles. The management of the electro-mechanically operated all-wheel drive keeps it in its Comfort torque-split mode as long as the driver keeps the ESP on. When the driver pushes ESP Sport or ESP Off, it switches the drive-split management to a sportier mode for added grip and response.

That combines with the five driving modes, which now include a Slippery road function in addition to the Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual modes, along with a three-step adaptive damping setup.

It takes on board the AMG Dynamics lessons from bigger AMGs, which gently brake the inside wheel in cornering to help the car stay on line with more precision, according to AMG.

AMG was dialled into the A-Class development from the first sketches, so it was able to order up its own tailor-strengthened front end for the car, with a “shear panel” of aluminium plate and two other diagonal braces bolted beneath the engine and the floor to give it additional torsional rigidity.

There’s a MacPherson strut front suspension system, with a new aluminium wishbone and a radially bolted brake caliper all designed to lower unsprung mass. The rear end is controlled by a four-link suspension setup.

Its brakes borrow even more from the A45, including its 350mm front and 330mm rear disc dimensions, and there is a pair of four-piston monobloc calipers for the front end and a single sliding caliper at the rear.

The A35 4Matic is headed for SA in the third quarter of 2019.