DRIVEN: Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport 7G-DCT - CAR magazine
On an ordinary day, Franschhoek Pass represents a fairly intimidating collection of curves. But when you add a fierce Cape storm to the mix, there’s a chance you’ll need a fresh pair of underpants should you be fortunate enough to make it to the other side. However, today I’m at the helm of the new Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport and as I navigate the tight twists and turns I can’t help but feel at ease. Why? Well, turns out the A250 is rather a capable, rounded hot hatch.
The previous-generation A250 Sport had something of a tough time competing against the Volkswagen Golf GTI. When we pitted them against each other in the September 2013 issue of CAR magazine, we concluded that although the A250 Sport was an impressive first attempt at a hot hatch, it lacked the overall balance that defined the GTI. Sure, it boasted a dynamic and engaging feel, but it was essentially underpowered and not particularly comfortable.
Fast forward to the present day and the A250 Sport has returned, spoiling for a fight. Similar to before, it boasts a turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, but now this unit generates a more appropriate 165 kW (plus an unchanged 350 N.m of torque). It retains its front McPherson and rear four-link suspension arrangement, but softer springs have been installed alongside an adaptive suspension system that ultimately helps render it more comfortable.
As far as the engine is concerned, the difference in performance is immediately noticeable. Thanks to a twin-scroll turbocharging system that works in conjunction with a snappier dual-clutch gearbox, the A250 Sport is able to leap off the line with more immediacy than before (thanks to very little in the way of turbo-lag). Since the roads are soaked with water, it’s not possible to tease out the full scope of the A250 Sport’s performance abilities, but its dynamic prowess nevertheless shines through.
The vehicle we’re driving is fitted with 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza rubber. The latter, together with the cleverly fettled suspension setup and smart electronic stability control and traction control systems, means that the A250 Sport has no problem sticking to the road, despite the nasty weather.
This new A-Class model is also noticeably more refined than before. Very little engine noise finds its way into the cabin, even in the sportiest of driving modes (which enthusiasts may not see as a positive). Furthermore, the revised suspension and fairly high-profile tyres serve up an impressively damped ride that is leaps ahead of that of the previous model. In comfort mode, the A250 Sport wafts about in a manner one might expect from a far larger car, while selecting sport stiffens things up appreciably, providing access to a more focused experience.
Something that detracts from this engaging experience, though, is the electric steering system. Like most modern arrangements, the steering is light, but it unfortunately offers very little feedback. In addition, it’s not the most precise nor “natural” feeling set-up, something compounded by a fairly aggressive speed-variable function (still, the latter is a characteristic the driver will likely quickly adapt to).
The A250 also features the Stuttgart-based brand’s new MBUX interface (complete with artificial intelligence), which was covered in detail by senior associate editor Ian McLaren in his driving impression of the A200 7G-DCT from Croatia back in April.
With a base price of R593 300, it’s some R44 700 more expensive than the Volkswagen Golf GTI (unlike the previous A250 Sport, which was priced closer to its German rival). Apart from the dynamic select system and its adaptive suspension arrangement, plus the digital dash, the A250 Sport doesn’t offer much more in the way of standard kit, either.
Ultimately, this new A250 Sport is unlike its forebear in that it does not feel particularly hard-edged. In fact, Mercedes-Benz appears to have nailed the brief this time, targeting those who seek a comfortable, everyday hot hatch rather than a hardcore performance machine (the upcoming A35 and A45 will, after all, provide those sorts of thrills). Based on these first impressions, it’s safe to say the A250 Sport offers a more rounded hot hatch experience than the model it replaces, even if it is a little softer in places.
Model:Mercedes-Benz A250 Sport 7G-DCT
Engine:2,0-litre, inline four, turbocharged petrol
0-100 km/h:6,2 seconds
Top Speed:250 km/h
Fuel Consumption:6,5 L/100 km
Maintenance Plan:Six-year/100 000 km maintenance plan
Cape Town - Driving Mercedes-Benz’s fourth generation A-Class on familiar roads at its South African launch this week allowed us to stretch the car’s performance envelope a little, without worrying about driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, or getting lost.
With blustery winds and heavy rain, it was also a tougher test of the car’s capability than the world launch in glorious Croatian spring weather in April, emphasising the capability of its driver aids, in particular the electronic stability programme and traction control.
And I finally got to drive the (for now) range-topping A250. The two-litre, turbopetrol four is rated for 165kW at 5500 revs and 350Nm at 1800rpm; the huge disparity between those two figures points to a torque curve shaped like Table Mountain and indeed, the A250 is endowed with effortless midrange acceleration, making overtaking manoeuvres easy and safe, even on wet roads.
The multilink rear suspension which it shares with the AMG versions is noticeably firmer in action than the more conventional torsion-beam setup of the A200 and A180d but never to the point of harshness, even in the sportiest of drive modes, the steering if anything even more precise.
The muted growl from behind the double-insulated firewall merely emphasises how quietly the new A-Class runs in all other respects, with no discernable wind noise or suspension rumble even on roads so coarsely tarred that tyre roar is the loudest sound in the cabin.
The A200, boasting 120kW and 250Nm, was even quieter, its engine noise almost inaudible except when accelerating with intent, the ride even plusher than that of the A250, underlining my impression that this car will appeal just as much to Darby and Joan couples looking to downsize their big sedans as the A250 will to young movers and shakers buying their first ‘premium’ car.
The AMG line trim pack, standard on the A250 Sport and available as an option for the A200 (as on the red one in our pictures) lends a distinct touch of attitude to the car’s exterior styling, as well as to the interior trim, but the standout feature of the flight deck - and one we got to like more the longer we used it, was the freestanding dual display behind a continuous glass screen for instrumentation and infotainment, sticking out from the top of the fascia - there's no conventional instrument binnacle at all.
According to Mercedes-Benz the standard layout is two 18cm displays, but either the infotainment segment, or both, can be ordered with 26cm displays - you'll need them if you want the optional full navigation package - and I haven't yet seen a new A-Class with anything but the full-width display, nor have I spoken to anybody who has. I suspect this is one box that the vast majority of buyers will tick on the options list, simply because it is so good.
The infotainment half of the display is also a touchscreen that responds accurately to finger-swipes and taps, like a tablet, so that with a little practice you can scroll up, down and sideways without having to take your eyes off the road - although it has to be said that the little roller on the left-side spoke of the steering wheel is still the safest way to modulate audio volume.
While some of the features (such as the rainbow palette of colour choices for the ambient lighting) are perhaps a little gimmicky, the new A-Class also brings an impressive range of driver aids from the E and S-Class sedans down into A-Class country for the first time, such as attention assist, the extended version of active brake assist, which will not only stop you from hitting the car ahead but will also brake the car to a dead stop of you don’t respond to its warnings, and active lane change assist, all of which are standard across the range.
Options include active steering assist and active blind spot assist, which will not only warn you if there’s something in your blind spot as you change lanes, but will also use one-sided braking to pull you back into your lane if you ignore it.
And if other manufacturers have to do same to remain competitive, well and good.
The Mercedes-Benz User Experience, with its ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice-activated virtual assistant, remains a mixed blessing. The issue we identified at the world launch, that it isn’t capable of adjusting the volume on navigation voice prompts, has not been resolved, and it sometimes battles to understand all but the most formulaic commands.
Nevertheless, here I must enter not one but two caveats. As far as cars are concerned, this is first-generation artificial intelligence. It is indeed a giant leap for carkind, but it is only the first step. Communication between cars and humans, on a human level, is one of the areas where we expect to see the most spectacular progress in the near to medium term.
Also, Mercedes-Benz points out that the most important aspect of artificial intelligence is its ability to learn by repetition how a particular human thinks, their habits, likes and dislikes. Driving a test car for a couple of hours at a media launch hardly gives that car the opportunity to know you. Mercedes-Benz’s catch phrase for the new A-Class is ‘Just like you’ - perhaps in this aspect the car is more like us than we are ready for.
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is available in South Africa now as the A200 1.3-litre turbopetrol four and the two-litre turbopetrol A250 Sport, each driving the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. They’ll be followed in 2019 by the 1.5-litre A180d turbodiesel and, in due course, by the A35 and A45 AMG versions.
FACTS A200 A250 Sport
Engine capacity: 1333cc 1991cc
Power: 120kW at 5500rpm 165kW at 5500rpm
Torque: 250Nm at 1620rpm 350Nm at 1800rpm
Acceleration 0-100 (claimed): 8.0 seconds 6.2 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 225km/h 250km/h
Price: R499 000 R593 300
Mercedes A-Class Sedan ‘Edition 1’ flaunts copper accents
Mercedes-Benz has taken the wraps off an “Edition 1” version of its new A-Class Sedan, with the special model gaining all manner of copper colour highlights.
The four-door sedan version of the new A-Class was revealed in July 2018. And now, with order books for the new model opening in Germany, the Stuttgart-based automaker has revealed the obligatory Edition 1 version.
Set to cost German buyers an additional €7 021 (that’s about R125 000) over the price of the A-Class Sedan (it will be offered in all engine variants and selected paint finishes), Mercedes-Benz says the Edition 1 will be available for “around one year” after market launch. Inside and out, this special model boasts numerous highlights in a copper colour, such as on the pins of the diamond-design radiator grille.
The upper instrument panel features contrasting seams in copper, while the central armrest gains contrasting (copper-coloured) stitching, which is repeated on the inside door panels. The floor mats, too, gain piping in the copper hue.
In addition, the Edition 1 runs on 19-inch AMG multi-spoke light-alloy wheels, complete with a high-sheen finish in (you guessed it) copper. Other standard features include the AMG Line exterior package, LED headlamps, sport seats with adjustable head restraints and ambient lighting.
300bhp Mercedes-AMG A35 previewed before Paris debut
New, detuned AMG variant will arrive before A45 in early 2019, with the first public showing in Paris next month
Mercedes-AMG will be heading to the Paris Motor Show with the hottest version of the new A-Class yet: the A35. New close-up images preview it ahead of the official debut.
Set to arrive before the full-fat A45 in early 2019, the detuned A35, set to develop around 300bhp, will bring a taste of AMG at a lower price point to allow it to compete with cars such as the Volkswagen Golf R and BMW M140i.
Previously seen testing at speed the Nürburgring in videos, the five-door model will undercut the next-generation A45 to become AMG's cheapest model, with an anticipated starting price of around £35,000.
The A35 will be powered by an extensively reworked version of the A45’s turbocharged four-cylinder M260 engine. This itself is an evolution of the freshly launched new A-Class's M270 unit, which features a new crankcase and cylinder head. Although the cylinder bore and stroke will remain unchanged in the A35's unit, it will have different pistons and bespoke software in order to give it performance slightly above that of the 296bhp Golf R.
The new A45's 0-62mph time is predicted to slip beneath the 4.0sec mark, suggesting the A35 will be set for a 4.5sec sprint time. That would rank the four-wheel-drive model directly alongside the Golf R, which is as quick off the line as some proper sports cars, such as the Porsche 718 Cayman S.
Spotted test cars suggest the visual differences between the A35 and A45 will be small, although a clear signal as to what performance is on offer will come from the tailpipes. The A45 will get a quad exit set-up, while the A35 will have a twin-pipe system. This mimics a system of tailpipe variety employed by AMG’s C43 and recently launched CLS 53 and E53 models.
It’s likely that the A35 will be offered with adjustable damping, like its more hardcore sibling, but AMG could choose to provide it with slightly less aggressive rebound rates to give the A45 an advantage in the corners as well as the straights.
Such a variation in character and ability would be necessary to ensure the A35 carves out its own space within the tightly congested performance hatch segment. The A35 will rival the Golf R, Audi S3 and, as scooped by Autocar, future BMW M130iX M Performance, leaving the A250 AMG, the most potent model in the regular A-Class range, to face the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The A45 will remain top of the pile and continue to do battle with the Audi RS3, and is set to arrive in the middle of 2019.
Mercedes-AMG A35 finally confirmed in new teaser images!
Mercedes-Benz has finally (officially) confirmed the existence of the new Mercedes-AMG A35, which is expected to make its public debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show in October.
The Stuttgart-based brand and its Affalterbach-based performance division both took to Twitter to tease the new A35, which is set to slot in below the upcoming A45 as the “entry-level” AMG and thus take on the likes of the Audi S3 Sportback, BMW M140i and Volkswagen Golf R.
A tweet (which we’ve embedded below) from the official Mercedes-AMG account includes three images, with the final shadowy picture showing the “A35” badge affixed to the tailgate of a yellow hatchback. Another post from the global Mercedes-Benz account shows the same A35 wearing an aggressive model-specific front bumper and a menacing rear spoiler.
The German brand has not revealed any more information about the newest member of the AMG family, but various reports suggest the A35 will be powered by the same turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder as the A45 (and employ a seven-speed dual-clutch, too), but detuned to somewhere in the region of 240 kW. The baby AMG will likely also employ the brand’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive arrangement.
Mercedes-AMG A35 shows more of itself in fresh teaser video
Mercedes-Benz has only just confirmed the existence of the Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic (with the release of a couple of teaser images), and now the Stuttgart-based brand has shown more of its upcoming hot hatch in a fresh teaser clip.
The video, which the German automaker posted to various social media channels, gives us a glimpse of the A35’s grille, the rear badging and the steering wheel (which comes with paddle-shifters) as it blasts along a winding road.
The footage also shows the black rear spoiler, aggressive front bumper treatment (complete with a multitude of gloss-black aero elements) and AMG-branded brake callipers, plus the vehicle’s digital instrument cluster.
The Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic is expected to make its public debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show in October, and will slot in below the upcoming A45 as the “entry-level” AMG. It will thus take on the likes of the Audi S3 Sportback, BMW M140i and Volkswagen Golf R.
The German brand has not revealed any more information about the newest member of the AMG family, but various reports suggest the A35 will be powered by the same turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder as the A45 (and employ a seven-speed dual-clutch, too), but detuned to somewhere in the region of 240 kW.
Emotional, agile and digital: with the A35 4MATIC Mercedes-AMG is presenting a completely new entry-level model in the world of driving performance. It is based on the new Mercedes front-wheel drive platform and is powered by a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo engine with output of 225 kW (306 hp). Body shell, suspension, all-wheel drive, transmission, driving programs, fine tuning - every detail has been designed for maximum driving dynamics without compromising on everyday comfort. The performance at sports car level (acceleration 0-100 km/h in 4.7 seconds) and the specific design also strengthen the identity as a member of the performance family. A true AMG for the Hot Hatch stage!
"With the introduction of the A45 in 2012, we presented a real benchmark in the compact segment. The demand for our compact models has developed very dynamically in recent years. 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," says Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG GmbH.
The new A35 4MATIC expands the AMG model portfolio as an attractive entry-level model in every respect. Because the development of the A35 4MATIC was integrated into the development process of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class right from the start, it was developed at the same time as the future A45 4MATIC, making it was possible to inject the AMG DNA into every relevant detail. The result can certainly be experienced by the driver in the form of authentic driving performance.
New Mercedes-AMG A35 revealed! The baby AMG is here
The new Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic has been fully revealed ahead of its public debut at the upcoming Paris Motor Show. Mercedes-Benz describes the all-wheel-drive A35 as an “attractive entry-level model”.
The hot hatch – which slots in below the upcoming A45, and will thus take on the likes of the Audi S3 Sportback, BMW M140i and Volkswagen Golf R – is powered by a turbocharged 2,0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (based on the M260) churning out 225 kW (from 5 800 to 6 100 r/min) and 400 N.m (between 3 000 and 4 000 r/min). The result is a sprint from zero to 100 km/h in a claimed 4,7 seconds and a top speed of 250 km/h.
The A35 employs Affalterbach’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission with gear ratios configured for “very spontaneous acceleration in all speed ranges”. The gearbox includes a launch control function as well as shift paddles. The A35’s exhaust system, meanwhile, features an automatically controlled exhaust flap as standard, with different levels of sound offered depending on the chosen drive mode.
An adaptive damping system will be optionally available, giving the driver the choice of three suspension control modes, while the high-performance braking system includes four-piston fixed callipers and 350 mm discs on the front axle and one-piston sliding callipers and 330 mm discs at the rear.
Inside, you’ll find the latest MBUX infotainment system, a digital dashboard and a new AMG steering wheel (with a flattened lower section, perforated leather in the grip area, red contrasting top-stitching and touch control).
Market launch starts with Western Europe in January 2019 (Mercedes-Benz South Africa has yet to announce timing for this new model’s local introduction).
New hot hatchback is the first in an extended range of more affordable entry-level AMG models bound for the UK
The highly-anticipated Mercedes-AMG A35 4Matic will feature a uniquely-tuned turbocharged 2.0-litre engine delivering 302bhp as well as a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox, on-demand four-wheel drive and a specially stiffened body when it goes on sale in the UK later this year.
The new AMG model, planned to make its public debut at the Paris motor show in early October, is positioned between the latest A250 and upcoming second-generation A45 4Matic in the German car maker’s performance car line-up as a rival to the BMW M140i and Audi S3 as well as a raft of other hot hatchbacks, including the Volkswagen Golf R.
Conceived to offer greater performance potential than the front-wheel drive A250 but at a price that is expected to see it pitched some £6,000 below that of the £41,230 A45 4Matic in the UK at around £35,000, the launch of the A35 4Matic comes after strong sales of the A45 4Matic and other four-cylinder AMG models, including the CLA45 4Matic, CLA45 Shooting Brake 4Matic and GLA45 4Matic.
"The demand for our compact models has developed in recent years. This success has encouraged us to further expand our portfolio and place it on a broader footing," says Tobias Moers, CEO of Mercedes-AMG.
At the heart of the A35 4Matic is a revised version of Mercedes-Benz’s M260 engine, as used by the A250. It is described by AMG as a new development, although the new four-cylinder unit shares its 83.0mm bore and 92.0mm stroke measurements and design of its die-cast aluminium crankcase with the M133 engine of the A45 4Matic.
Key engineering attributes of the AMG tweaked powerplant include uniquely-tuned twin-scroll turbochargers with reduced back pressure, reprogrammed Camtronic variable valve control, special liners that contribute to conically shaped cylinders and a bespoke exhaust system with an automatically controlled flap that modulates the exhaust note depending on the driving mode.
With 302bhp at 5800rpm and 295lb ft of torque between 3000 and 4000rpm, the transversely-mounted engine delivers 81bhp and 77lb ft more than the less heavily tuned version of the M260 unit used by the A250 but 74bhp and 55lb ft less than the more highly strung M133 engine used by the A45 4Matic.
Of the more keener premium brand competition, the rear-wheel drive M140i’s turbocharged 3.0-litre in-line six-cylinder engine delivers 335bhp and 369lb ft while the four-wheel drive Audi S3’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder offers up 306bhp and 280lb ft.
Drive is channelled to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox featuring AMG’s own Speedshift software that is claimed to provide more rapid shift times and more intuitive upshift and downshift characteristics than the standard software package, as used by the A250.
As well as offering both manual and automatic modes, the in-house produced gearbox also includes a Race Start function for improved off-the-line accelerative performance as well as steering wheel mounted paddles as standard.
Allied to the A35’s gearbox is a heavily revised version of the 4Matic four-wheel drive system used by the first-generation A45. It boasts variable distribution of drive, from front-wheel drive only to a 50:50 apportioning to the front and rear axles, via an electro-mechanically operated multi-plate clutch integrated into the rear axle assembly.
The driver is able to choose between five different driving modes via an AMG Dynamic Select controller, including Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Individual. The Slippery mode, a new development that is also planned to appear on the new A45 when it is launched in 2019, is programmed for wet road conditions, with reduced power and torque and earlier upshifts in automatic mode.
Also new is a so-called “gliding” function. It allows the driver to choose between “reduced and “moderate” settings for differing engine braking characteristics while coasting on a trailing throttle within the Individual driving mode.
With the Sport+ mode and Race Start function engaged, the A35 4Matic is claimed to accelerate from 0-to-62mph in 4.7sec and reach a top speed limited to 155mph. Combined cycle consumption is put at 38.7mpg, equating to average CO2 emissions of 167g/km on the recently superseded NEDC (New European Driving Cycle).
This gives the A35 4Matic a slight edge over the M140i and S3, which are claimed to accelerate to 62mph in 4.8sec and 5.3sec respectively, in outright straight-line performance.
To cope with the added performance potential brought on the A35 4Matic’s new drivetrain, Mercedes-AMG has stiffened the bodyshell of the A-class hatchback upon which it is based with the addition of a so-called “shear panel” underneath the engine. The aluminium structure is bolted to the existing steel body shell and, in combination with two additional diagonal braces, is claimed to provide added torsional stiffness to the front end.
The stiffened body structure supports a MacPherson strut front suspension. It uses a newly developed aluminium carrier and radially bolted steering knuckle that AMG claims reduces the unsprung masses and provides more sensitive response to the system used by the A45 4Matic. The rear suspension is based around the four-link system used by upper range A-class models, with three transverse arms and the trailing arm, the wheel carrier and bearings shared with those of the A45 4Matic.
Passive dampers are standard, though buyers can option the new entry-level AMG model with an adaptive damping system that provides three different levels of stiffness. The electro-mechanical steering uses variable assistance and a more rigid mounting than the system used by other new A-class models. The brakes, meanwhile, use four-piston monoblock callipers and 350mm vented and perforated discs up front and single piston callipers and 330mm discs at the rear.
The A35 4Matic builds on the sharpened appearance of the fourth-generation A-class with a unique grille, more heavily structured front bumper, standard 18-inch alloy wheels, wider sills, bold tailgate-mounted spoiler and a new rear bumper featuring a prominent diffuser element bookmarked each side by blackened round tailpipes.
Inside, the standard A-class interior has been reworked with unique upholstery for the seats an AMG steering wheel with touch-pad controls and AMG specific graphics for the digital instruments, including a so-called Supersport mode with a large central round rev counter.
Other new features include AMG Track Pace as part of the MBUX infotainment system. It permanently records data during track driving, enabling the driver to analyse a range of information including acceleration, braking and lap times.
Following its appearance on the new fourth-generation A-class hatchback, the new 35 badge is also planned to grace successor models to the CLA, CLA Shooting Brake, GLA as well as the newly-unveiled A-class saloon and upcoming GLB compact SUV, in a move that will provide a new six-model strong entry-level range for Mercedes-Benz’s performance sub-brand.
Mercedes-AMG has revealed its new A35 hatchback, which will sit below the range-topping A45 in the A-Class line-up.
Mercedes-Benz will diversify its recently launched A-Class premium hatchback range with the addition of the AMG A35, which can be considered to be more hot-blooded than the A250 4Matic, but not as ballistic as the A45. The new Mercedes-AMG A35 is expected to make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show next month.
A turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine will do service under the bonnet with a power output of 225 kW and 400 Nm of torque. All four wheels will be driven through a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The A35's 0-to-100 kph time is claimed at 4.7 seconds.
The A35 wears a twin-blade radiator grille with large front air intakes, while the rear is highlighted by a large rear wing, dual exhaust system and a model-specific diffuser.
The interior will follow the design of the latest A-Class and will, therefore, feature the latest MBUX infotainment system with 2 digital screens, while sportier features such as sports seats and an AMG steering wheel will be optional, if not standard (depending on market). Three specific AMG screens have been added that display information like G-Force- and engine data. The A35 also has a Track Pace system that's the equivalent of a data logger for the track. It collates and processes 80 separate kinds of data that can be analysed to improve track performance. It also has a built-in lap-timer with sector times and a "relative to best" timing mode.
In terms of driving dynamics, the A35 is equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive, capable of making it up to 100% front-wheel-drive or a 50/50 split. Aside from the raucous power upgrade, the major focus on the A35 appears to be the beefed-up brakes. The front axle is fitted with new 4-piston Monoblock fixed callipers and 350-millimetre brake discs, the rear axle with 1-piston sliding callipers and 330-millimetre brake discs. The discs are internally ventilated and perforated to better dissipate heat and prevent brake fading, even with extreme use. The silver-painted brake callipers have black AMG lettering
The AMG A35 will be shown in Paris next week (late September 2018) before going on sale in Europe in early 2019. We've learnt that South Africa will get its allocation of A35 units during the first quarter of next year. Interestingly, the A35 may entirely replace the A250 in our market when it arrives. Pricing is likely to start at around R850k, but it may fluctuate depending on exchange rates over the next few months.
The snob effect is where price and perception strap on their Wonderbra to convince you that the product is far more stacked than it actually is.
In 25 years of testing cars and reporting about them and the industry that makes them, I think I’ve divorced myself from the snob effect.
But I remember how profound it once was. First time I drove a Porsche; a Ferrari, AMG-this, M-performance that. I was gagging for it. But here’s the thing - it was ‘sex with a supermodel’ syndrome, every time.
The RAA of that is: the idea of sex with a supermodel is better than the actual sex with the supermodel. It’s not that sex with a supermodel is bad. (I’m inferring - supermodels who’d like to assist with this experiment, form an orderly queue.)
The problem is that you expect it to be twice as good as the reality.
This is exactly what it’s like to drive one of these cars that mortals will never be able to afford.
Reviewers gush - but that’s the reality. The expectation is better than the delivery. It’s good; it’s just not as good as you wanted it to be.
Premium carmakers latch onto that fantasy. They embody the fantasy into the badge and then they build cheap, comparatively nasty cars that mortals can afford, and they use snob factor to obscure the fact that the objective truth of these vehicles is far less than the underlying fantasy of the brand.
And by ‘fantasy’ I mean all the intangible factors wrapped up in the car.
The idea that it is manifestly superior to a mainstream car. The status upgrade you perceive as a consequence of owning it.
What you presume other people will think of you when they see you emerge from that car.
Stuff like that: all the epistemic baggage.
So here’s an example. Mercedes-Benz - and I’m using them because they’re the most accessible most aspirational brand - I mean, there’s no ‘budget’ Ferrari, but you can buy a budget Benz for about the same price as a Mazda3, and people think it’s gonna be better.
Mercedes-Benz recently released the new A-Class - gay pride flagship. The little ‘out of the closet’ engine that could. The ‘Gay200’ 1.3 turbo: I can’t think of a car less aligned with truly aspirational Benzes like the SLS or anything else ‘AMG’. I really can’t.
So let’s leave the badges and the snob effect at the door and compare the Gay-Class to a Hyundai i30 SR Premium.
And I know what you’re thinking: Nobody shops a Benz against a Hyundai. That’s true - and also why this is so interesting.
These vehicles are the same size. Actually the Gay200 is about this much bigger than the i30 SR premium.
Operationally, they’re so close the difference is inconsequential.
If we, as if by magic, disengage quantum entanglement drive and pop out of a wormhole from the future and hover in the stratosphere above Shitsville today, and we teleport up a few chicks to probe, while aiming our sensors at those two cars, here’s what we’d see:
Overwhelming similarity. Same basic size, front drive, front engine, both turbo petrol fours, seven-speed DCTs.
Same rubber on the road (slightly lower aspect ratio with the Hyundai).
A deep analysis demonstrates slightly more polish on the Gay200, but 17 per cent better performance from the i30, which runs on cheaper fuel, two more years warranty with the i30, and there’s a price difference. A massive one.
To make the Gay200 equivalent to an i30 on spec, you really need to add the AMG Exclusive package, which is $3,200 (that gives you the dual-zone climate air, the leather and the heated/ventilated front seats, which the i30 has standard).
Plus you need the Vision Package for $2,500, for the panoramic sunroof, which the i30 has standard, and the Keyless Go option for $1,000 for the keyless engine stop/start that the i30 has standard.
And, to be fair, those packages come with some gear you can’t get on an i30 SR Premium - like front and side cameras.
But here’s how this plays out in the objective domain: It’s going to cost you $53,900 for a Gay200 that gives you the main premium features of an i30 SR Premium, and no matter how much you spend at the dealership, you’re going to get profoundly hosed by the Hyundai against all performance criteria, and the factory warranty is going to evaporate two years earlier.
And the i30 is going to cost you about $20,000 less.
Up in the spaceship, from the future, I know which vehicle we would be forced by sheer weight of facts to conclude is the superior one.
But we’d probably still be scratching our heads over why anyone buys the Gay Class.
The A220 4Matic model driven here is lively and agile, if not quite as comfortable as you might expect of a car wearing the three-pointed star. However, with smaller wheels and tyres, we’d expect it to be smoother riding and generally more pleasing, both around town and at higher speeds over longer distances.
It will be a while before we get to drive the front-wheel-drive models planned for sale in the UK, but for now it seems the Audi A3 saloon finally has some premium brand competition.
Mercedes-Benz A-Class saloon specification
Where US Price from £27,875 On sale 2019 Engine 4 cyls, 1991cc, turbo, petrol Power 187bhp at 5800rpm Torque 221lb ft at 1600rpm Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic Kerb weight 1520kg Top speed 7.0sec 0-62mph 147mph Fuel economy 43.5mpg (combined) CO2, tax band 149g/km, 30% RivalsAudi A3 saloon, BMW 1 Series saloon (China)