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Review: 2021 Mercedes A35 justifies higher price for luxury brand

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

If they make a German version of “The Hunger Games,” it just might be a documentary shot at Mercedes-Benz product planning meetings.

Resources are scarce. There are a lot of mouths to feed as a brand that already had a bewildering array of models develops a brace of electric vehicles. It’s everyone for themselves. It takes more than a toga and a fancy bow to survive.

Mercedes executives announced that many of its current models will not survive the transition from gasoline power to electricity. Slow-selling, low-profit powertrains and body styles are likely to be pitted against one another for resources.

Now entering the arena, the AMG A35 4Matic compact sedan, Champion of the Compact Car District.

The A35 is the most powerful and expensive version of Mercedes’s smallest car. The automaker’s legendary AMG tuning group reworked its drivetrain and chassis to make it fast and fun. Its interior has Mercedes’ latest digital assistant, upgraded materials and a big AMG label to make sure you don’t forget why you paid more than $54K for a sedan the size of a Honda Civic.

Mercedes is the oldest carmaker in the world, but it’s a relative newcomer to selling cars that size. Endowing them with the level of luxury, exclusivity and performance that justifies the price of Merc’s bigger models isn’t easy, particularly in America, where many people think luxury and size are synonymous.

 

That’s why the small A-class sedans have to fight for attention as capital-intensive electric vehicles get more corporate resources. Small SUVs, like the appealing GLB that shares the A35 architecture, are probably safe, at least until there’s an EV doppelganger to replace them. Small cars, which make less money, particularly in the U.S., are on thin ice as Mercedes looks to trim a model line bloated with body styles and drivetrain combinations to free investment for an upcoming range of EVs.

Behind the wheel

2020 Mercedes AMG A35

All-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact SUV

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