Tested: 2021 Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan

Confusion. I never knew that cars could suffer from it…

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class started life as a compact slash upright hatchback minivan combo which – in my humble opinion – only found its groove in generation two. However, by gen three the maker capitulated to our sporty hatchback trends and each 2013-and-upwards A-Class became a hard-sprung pocket rocket.

These low-slung machines went into generation four with more style, upgraded gadgets and a four-door saloon cousin called “CLA”. This banana-shaped super-compact sedan was essentially an A-Class sedan but most recently… they… umm, I don’t know how to tell you this… they added an A-Class sedan.

Are you confused yet?

You should be. The CLA was not replaced by this car, it lives alongside it. So now there are two near-identical cars but (just to keep everyone on their toes) they don’t share all engines or specs. So the 35-AMG derivatives, to finally arrive at the car on this page, can be had as an A (hatchback), CLA or this sedan.

However. The bigger, (now-) more powerful 45 derivate can only be had as an A (hatchback) or CLA. There is no 45 AMG sedan on the market. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Also, if you were to get identical models of each saloon – the CLA and A-Class sedan – their main distinguishing feature is the position of the rear number plate.

We in southern Africa are spared the next elevation of confusion because the German luxury brand doesn’t bring their CLA Shooting Brake (station wagon) to our shores. Because most motorists down here think of estate cars as hearses. And, for clarity’s sake, the CLA station wagon is available as a 35 or 45 AMG variant.

“This car is confused” alleges my colleague as we pull onto a highway with a fair degree of intent. Not only does the drive train fluff a kickdown or two, it eventually finds the right cog by slamming it in with the delicacy of an Edwardian-era naval cannon. Bang! And again. We look at each other in utter horror…

…with the delicacy of an Edwardian-era naval cannon.

…and immediately decide to play it safe by carefully cruising home with as little throttle input as possible. This, of course, goes against the grain of an AMG’s character so the very next day we pop by our local Mercedes dealer to see if they can diagnose our problem. I suspect a toasted gearbox. You know, broken cogs and missing teeth.

However, part two. The friendly peeps usher us into the coffee bar, whisk our car away and mention something about a software upgrade for the transmission. Really? A software issue? Like an Office 365 security patch or a planned redundancy iOS update?

It’s here where the inspiration for this text came from: because now I’m utterly confused.

Up to this point in my car-infested life I was under the firm impression that a car’s gearbox was just that: a container full of whizzing gears and whirring metal parts. The only software – in my backwards mind – was the most rudimentary shift algorithm somewhere between said container and your right foot.

Ha-ah. It turns out that a modern transmission has more processing power than the proverbial space rocket. And, despite this one suffering from suspiciously mechanical issues, the smiley technicians insisted that a Bios flush or whatever would cure any maladies. Yeah, right, but go ahead and try… I thought.

An hour later we had the car back and I’m not going to beat around the bush here – it was mended. The gears weren’t stripped, the twin clutches hadn’t cracked, it just needed to be reprogrammed. Oh, and we were advised that the media system needs a huge update but it could take half a day to upload.

We kindly declined and left in a state of utter disbelief.

At this point I should probably tell you what the car drives like but fear that it’s completely irrelevant. You already know what to expect. And if you don’t, allow me to sum up every sporty new car I’ve piloted in the last few years: cramped and complicated, borderline solid ride with too much power and too many gears.

The Mercedes-AMG (Benz?) A35 4Matic not-a-CLA sedan is no exception. It’s dripping with technology, aggro styling and hardly containable potential. And to put the cherry on top, its pricing perfectly reflects what most car makers think is acceptable for an itsy-bitsy little sedan car: 1 million bucks.

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