Boiling Under

An even hotter A-Class is coming, but don’t shun AMG’s plenty-hot-enough A35.

MIDDLE GROUND is a dirty phrase to some. Finding it means compromise and making concessions – something looked down upon particularly in the performance car world. But AMG – increasingly keen to move beyond its hardcore heartland to bring more mainstream buyers into the fold – has risen to the challenge in an interesting and largely successful way. The full-fat A45 will arrive in the middle of 2019, but the new A35 will actually suit some people much better.

It’s a familiar German hot hatch recipe: smooth 2.0-litre turbo with 300bhp-plus on tap, grippy all-wheel drive

, a dual-clutch auto your only gearbox option. The A35 builds on the A-Class’s already sweet chassis set-up with a 4Matic system that can vary the front-rear torque split and brake the inside rear wheel if you’re treading the line between brave and foolish with your cornering speeds, hurling you out the other end like it’s nothing.

The AMG-spec auto snaps into shifts faster than you can blink but is frustratingly over-keen on changing up before you get to the red line, even in manual mode.

Sport+ mode, accessed via a Porsche-like twiddly dial on the steering wheel, will make the hooligan in you happy. It controls, among other things, a simple flap in the exhaust that allows for so many pops and bangs on the overrun you’d think it was cooking popcorn.

They should be standard, but the £695 adaptive dampers are a must, if only for the Comfort mode. The A35 is quite a refined cruiser with them included, save for some tyre roar from the optional 19-inch wheels.

You can tart it up, too: the wilder aero pack complete with dive planes and wing is a £2595 option (not pictured, but it will do a good job of setting the A35 much further apart from a regular AMG Line A-Class). If you want the larger screens to make use of the cool AMG-specific instrument graphics and new AMG Track Pace app they’re going to cost you at least £2395.

If you can put the A45 out of your mind, the A35 is fast, grippy, practical and easy to enjoy, with a touch of theatre that is surely a must if you’re in the market for a hot hatch. But just watch that price go spiralling up as you add the extras that really make the A35 stand out from the crowd.

> Price £36,580 > Engine 1991cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 302bhp @ 5800rpm, 295lb ft @ 3000rpm > Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive > Performance 4.7sec 0-62mph, 155mph (limited), 38.7mpg, 167g/km CO2 > Weight 1480kg > On sale Now > Rating ****

Not a semi-skimmed AMG in any way, including the price tag

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