Mercedes-AMG A 35 Saloon
"The Mercedes-AMG A 35 Saloon is fast, luxurious and reasonably practical, but the price can easily soar"
- Punchy engine
- Four-wheel-drive grip
- Class-leading interior
- Price soars with options
- Sluggish automatic gearbox
- Small boot opening
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 Saloon is the four-door version of the A 35 hatchback, with distinctive looks and a slightly larger boot. It doesn't have a host of rivals - the days of the Subaru Impreza and Mitsubishi Evolution saloons are long gone - but buyers looking for a new fast four-door can also opt for the Audi S3 saloon or Mercedes CLA 35.
With a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 302bhp, four-wheel drive and a dual-clutch automatic gearbox, performance is on a par with serious hot hatchbacks. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes just 4.8 seconds and there's lots of traction and grip, along with powerful brakes. A sluggish gearbox is the only major weakness of the driving experience.
Compared with old go-faster saloons like the Impreza, the A 35 is impressively luxurious too. Its interior is lifted almost wholesale from the A-Class hatchback, and it's class-leading, even if its quality contributes to the car’s high price tag. Two displays span the driver's side of the dashboard, providing both the instruments and Mercedes' MBUX infotainment system, with clear graphics and a very contemporary feel. In typical Mercedes fashion, however, not everything comes as standard and stepping up to Premium and Premium Plus levels of kit sees the price easily head over £40,000.
MPG, running costs & CO2
While it may be a performance model, the A 35 Saloon is also intended as a car you can use everyday, so it can't be too expensive to run. Fortunately, its automatic seven-speed gearbox helps because, in its most economical modes, it's very keen to shift into a higher gear to save fuel, while a long seventh ratio means the engine uses less fuel at motorway speeds.
There are also all the fuel-saving features you'd expect, such as start/stop, that help the car to claim average economy of 34.9mpg with 164g/km of CO2 emissions. That's not bad for a car capable of such searing acceleration, and exactly matches the 34.9mpg of its closest rival, the Audi S3 saloon. The older Audi isn't quite as green, though, emitting 183g/km. While neither will be particularly suitable for company-car drivers paying Benefit-in-Kind tax, the Mercedes is slightly cheaper as a result.
Insurance premiums are likely to be expensive because the A 35 Saloon starts in group 37 out of 50, but this is a couple of groups lower than the Audi. Road tax costs £145 a year, however it's easily possible to nudge the price over £40,000 with optional extras, adding a further £320 in the first five renewal years.
Engines, drive & performance
The Mercedes-AMG A 35 Saloon sits below A 45 models, alongside the A 35 hatchback and CLA 35. The latter is perilously close to the saloon in concept, but some of the CLA 35's rakish styling has been swapped for extra practicality and affordability.
Every '35' model shares the same 302bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine and Mercedes' 4MATIC four-wheel drive, with performance very close to the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3. It has lots of torque, too, so the A 35 feels powerful from low revs and builds speed quickly. The 2.0-litre engine isn't the most exciting, and its soundtrack is augmented by the car's speakers to help accentuate the personality it does have. Zero to 62mph takes 4.8 seconds and the car’s top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.
While the engine is close to greatness in performance terms, the gearbox needs a more thorough upgrade. At lower speeds it can feel slow to change and jerky, while pulling a gear shifter paddle at higher speeds also results in noticeable hesitation.
We tested the A 35 Saloon with its standard suspension and the car felt secure, with sharp steering and predictable handling. However, the standard setup is also rather stiff, so the optional AMG Ride Control adaptive suspension is worth buying if you can afford it - we've sampled it on the CLA 35 and it makes the ride feel more compliant in Comfort mode.
Interior & comfort
The Mercedes A-Class range offers a class-leading interior with a modern design and lots of luxurious materials. In the front, the saloon is almost identical to the hatchback, coming with the same digital cockpit. Considering how expensive the A 35 Saloon is, it's disappointing that the instrument display is seven inches in diameter as standard. You'll still need to fork out to upgrade it to 10.25-inches for the seamless widescreen effect seen in most Mercedes' marketing material.
Standard A 35 kit includes 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, LED headlights, tinted glass, a rear-view camera, parking assist, sat nav, wireless smartphone charging and a sporting makeover inside and out. Upgrading to Premium adds 19-inch multi-spoke black alloy wheels, keyless entry, black exterior trim, ambient lighting (64 colours) and an upgraded sound system. The larger instrument screen is also fitted along with augmented reality navigation.
Go for the full-on Premium Plus spec and features such as adaptive suspension, multibeam LED headlights and larger front and rear wings are fitted, along with a panoramic glass sunroof and Burmester stereo. However, this does make the A 35 Saloon very expensive for what is essentially a small family car.
Practicality & boot space
If you often have passengers in the rear seats, you might want to consider that the A 35 Saloon offers more rear headroom than the CLA 35, giving it a small but notable practicality advantage. However, the tables are turned when looking at boot space, because the 420-litre boot of the A 35 Saloon is actually 40 litres smaller than the one in the CLA. The A 35 hatchback's boot is smaller still but the added flexibility of its tall and wide hatchback shouldn't be sniffed at, as this makes it easier to load awkward items.
Reliability & safety
The A 35 Saloon and the car it's based on are among the newest Mercedes offers, so it'll be some time before enough owners have put their cars through the wringer to establish their reliability. Mercedes has put in a mixed showing in recent years, however, coming 26th out of 30 manufacturers in our 2019 Driver Power survey. Interiors and infotainment were well regarded, but the brand lost points for its cars’ high running and maintenance costs, while 24% of owners reported one or more faults within the first year.
Safety is less of a worry, thanks to a five-star Euro NCAP safety rating for the hatch that should also apply to the A-Class saloon. A host of safety features are standard, but it's also possible to add a Driving Assistance package (for around £1,500) that adds features like blind-spot warnings and active steering assist to make motorway driving safer and more relaxing.