There is not a lot more satisfying than the sound of a finely tuned engine respectfully acknowledging throttle input with a deep, throaty growl that follows the right foot insistence to culminate in an all-out mechanical version of the US Marine’s ‘Oorah’ shout.

At the original launch of the Mercedes-Benz A 35 AMG last year, I had the chance to drive one reasonably quickly around the Kyalami circuit and then to give it some serious ‘wellie’ when the company staged a bit of a street race in the middle of Sandton.

All well and good having fun with a car – but what is it like to live with? So, when the opportunity arose there was no hesitation in taking the sedan version for a few days to do the more mundane things such as grocery shopping and creeping through early morning traffic or participating in the national sport of pothole dodging.

Exterior view of the Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG 4MATIC Sedan

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The A 35 AMG 4MATIC sedan is like two cars in one. One part of it is a rip-snorting beast that will race from rest to 100 km/h in just 4,8 seconds and top out at 250 km/h, while the other is a much gentler family-friendly urban trawler.

True thoroughbred sports cars in the urban environment do occasionally spring unwelcome surprises on drivers – in wet conditions for example – and are also sometimes temperamental to drive at low traffic speeds whereas the A 35 blends the two worlds and becomes a hooligan only when intentionally requested to do so.

The revamped A35 AMG 4MATIC took its upgrades straight from Affalterbach, with updated aesthetics that integrate it into the AMG family's distinctive design ethos.

Visually, the vehicle impresses with its performance-inspired features: revised front headlamps, an AMG-specific radiator grille and a new badge that replaces the traditional Mercedes star with an AMG emblem. The A35 also boasts a refreshed front apron, power bulges reminiscent of the A45, and newly designed wheels that underscore the AMG lineage.

Inside, luxury meets sportiness. Standard features include the AMG Performance steering wheel with integrated controls for AMG-specific functions and the newly available AMG performance seats. The latest MBUX infotainment system enhances connectivity and interaction, enriching the driving experience with improved performance and more USB ports.

Interior view of the Mercedes-Benz A35 AMG 4MATIC Sedan

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Being slightly smaller than the C-Class, this sedan with its swooping roofline does limit rear seat space and tall adults will not be all that happy, although it is perfectly suitable for children and teenagers.

Stepping into the cabin of the A35 for the first time reveals a futuristic and sporty interior. For the 2024 model, many controls have moved to the large infotainment display, replacing the former touchpad and wrist rest with a simple storage area.

The images display the vehicle in its most dynamic setting, complete with ‘widescreen’ digital themes. Those preferring a less intense interface can switch to a traditional, more subdued dashboard layout.

Despite its advanced technology, the interface is user-friendly, quickly mastered through gestures and touches and the MBUX voice control system remains a standout feature, responding effectively to voice commands that manage various functions without the gimmicks—say, adjusting the climate settings with a simple spoken request.

On the downside, the interior, while sleek and modern, includes some lower-quality plastic components that seem out of place for a car in this price range.

Rear view of the Mercedes-Benz A35 4MATIC Sedan

Mercedes-Benz SA has equipped the pricey A35 (R 1 177 577) with a comprehensive suite of standard features and these include smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, a rear-view camera with parking sensors, a tyre pressure monitoring system, automatic windshield wipers, hands-free access and attractive ambient lighting.

As is the norm with Mercedes-Benz there are several optional add-ons available and the test car came with a range of options including Active Lane Keeping Assist (R8 000), Traffic Sign Assist (R5 200), AMG Aerodynamics Package (R27 000), Premium Plus Package (R90 000) and 19-inch 5-spoke wheels (R15 100) among them.

Under the hood, the A35 features a 48-volt auxiliary power system and a belt-driven starter-generator, delivering 225 kW and 400 Nm of torque. The mild hybrid system provides an additional 10 kW at start-up, complemented by an AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8-speed transmission and an advanced radiator for optimal temperature control.

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The A35 sedan features a stiff, sporty suspension that struggles with absorbing bumps on poorly maintained roads. At higher speeds on coarse tarmac, the noise from the 19-inch wheels fitted with Continental tyres becomes noticeable, though the superb sound system offers a welcome distraction. These issues diminish on smoother surfaces, suggesting they are not significant deterrents to enjoying the car.

In more open settings, away from congested urban streets, the A35 shines with its dynamic handling. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system efficiently allocates power between the axles, providing ample traction that makes it challenging to unsettle the vehicle, unless driven recklessly. However, the steering, while quick and reassuring, lacks a certain tactile engagement that some drivers might prefer.

In the urban runaround fuel consumption could be contained at 8,7 l/100 km but, obviously, getting into the fun modes will impact heavily and push this to 10,0 l/100 km or even higher.

Pushed to choose between the brilliantly rapid pocket-rocket A45 AMG and the A 35 as my only car, I would make the compromise and go for the sedan because it fulfils the dual role quite neatly.

Colin Windell