Shooting and living with the Mercedes-AMG A35

Sometime in January, Soham told us that we’ll be getting the A35 from Mercedes-AMG and the first thing he said was “I want to drive the car and shoot it on the beach.”

Now, for us Punekars the closest beach that I personally could think of was in Alibaug. And that is what made me a little hesitant too. I had a couple of reasons to be hesitant- 

1- it’s an unknown area, as compared to Pune of course

2- I’ve been to Alibaug a few times, and I knew for a fact that they did not have a driving beach. 

So when Soham mentioned this, I asked him why did this idea come to his head. He told me that it’ll be a great way to test the 4MATIC system on the Mercedes and it’ll be a fun video too, as we were switching it up in terms of location when compared to the usual areas we shoot in. But even I knew that his main reason to do this was to just have fun with the car. Bhavneet and I also thought it’ll be a good video so we decided to commence on this journey of ours in the first week of February when the car came. 

At the same time, we also had the 630d from BMWso we decided to make a video on it showing our journey to Alibag and how it really performs as a Grand-Tourer. 

So we set out for Alibag at around 8 AM. Bhavneet and I were in the BMW, And Soham was driving the Mercedes. To get to Alibaug, we had to get on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, get off from the second toll and join the Pen highway and head straight to Alibaug. As soon as we started our journey, Bhavneet and I instantly established that the 630d was an incredibly comfortable car, with massive seats, Air suspension and whatnot. That’s when we glanced over to Soham, to see the A35 bouncing a lot, which indicated a very, very stiff suspension as compared to the 6. I’m pretty sure it just looked more dramatic than it must have looked because the Expressway isn’t one of the smoothest roads available, but it gave us an idea that he was definitely as comfortable as we were. Just before the second toll, we decided to stop for breakfast and finish some PTC shots of the 630d. When I spoke to Soham about the A35, he said that the car is towards the stiffer side, not a very comfortable journey on the expressway at least, the brakes were absolutely fantastic but the car lacked a little in terms of mechanical grip and dynamics. Initially, my blame was going towards the tires but was then informed that the car was equipped with fresh Michelin PS4s. As I hadn’t really been in the A35 or driven it, I decided to keep my opinions aside till the time I actually drove it. 

We finished our shots and we headed out to complete the remaining leg of the journey. As soon as we exited the highway, the road condition was unknown to us. When we kept progressing forward, the road condition was decent but had a lot of road work and hence, there were quite a few areas where we had to slow them down. No biggie for the 6, the Air suspension ironed everything out and we were very, very comfortable. I wish the same could be said about the Soham. The stiff suspension and the whole AMG ready dynamics really made it uncomfortable for him. Oh and not to forget the ground clearance, which was insanely low. The car had to be driven with the utmost care to make sure it doesn’t scrape anywhere. After a very perilous journey, we reached our hotel in Alibaug. 

We quickly freshened up and decided to find out which beach we could hit for our shooting. After speaking to a few locals during lunch, we decided to go to Sasawane beach. The locals told us that on paper, no cars are allowed on the beach but this one was quite empty, so we could try our luck there. We quickly headed towards the beach as we were nearing golden hour and also were super excited to get the car onto the beach. It was a first time thing for us too, so we wanted to get there quickly and have some fun. 

The moment we reached the beach, we encountered a problem. The sand was a little wet and mushy, so we were worried about the car getting stuck and getting “beached”, quite literally. After a small assessment, we were good to go and got the car to the beach. We quickly came onto the beach, got some great photos and did our PTCs quickly just so we could start hooning the car around the beach. And that is EXACTLY what we did. Big 11s, doughnuts, the whole shebang. We decided to get some dynamic shots of the car and leave as soon as possible before we actually fall into trouble. It was a great experience for the 3 of us, and pretty sure a memorable one too.  

The next day we decided to finish off fly-bys and rollers of the A35. And then we ran into another problem. Alibaug has small, narrow roads to accommodate both sides of traffic. Taking fly-bys would be super risky but we somehow managed to get it done. I was always worried about the locals and their reactions, as we were quite literally going ham on a 300 bhp small sporty sedan. There were moments when people started getting curious and that would be our cue to leave that area. Fly-bys being done, the rollers were left but because of the layout and structure of the road, we really couldn’t take it the way we wanted to. So we decided to start up the GoPro and stick it on the rear of the 630d, and the A35 would be behind it. I volunteered to drive the Mercedes for the rollers, and I understood what Soham was talking about it. Super stiff ride and ground clearance were proving to be a problem. The roads in Alibaug were of great quality Tarmac but had a lot of speed breakers. The A35 had to be taken sideways on almost all speed breakers because of the low ride height, low overhangs and the side skirts. It was notorious when it came to speed breakers, and it would get me really anxious at times because nobody wants to scrape the underbody on the speed breaker. 

We finished all our shooting, had lunch and headed towards Nerul as the BMW had to be dropped off. I decided to stay behind the wheel of the A35 and let Soham go into the 630d for a much more comfortable journey. This switch was actually made because the car was low on petrol, and we had to go towards Nerul, which is in Navi Mumbai and then head back home. For this very reason, Soham gave me the car and asked me to drive as I’m the most economical driver in the team. We headed towards Nerul, and I start driving the car with ease. It was a very good mile muncher and because the highway was Tarmac, the drive was beautiful. As soon as we started to enter Navi Mumbai, my nightmare started. The number of speed breakers I encountered was unimaginable. And they weren’t the tiny ones, they were the big, mountain-like ones. Even the 630d, which had a decent ground clearance, was struggling and scraping on these breakers. I cleared a few of them, but the car started scraping over the ones that eventually got bigger in size. But the worst part was when I encountered these mountainous breakers that were one after the other. I scraped the car so much, broke my heart and I was about to give up because I thought the car would end up becoming a see-saw on these breakers. 

Somehow, we powered through and reached the drop location of the BMW. we quickly gave the car and headed towards home. We touched the highway after 15 minutes of dropping the BMW, as Nerul isn’t very far from the expressway. The moment we touched the expressway, I realised how stiff the suspension was. Bhavneet was sitting on the rear seats and I could see his head wobble as we were covering more distance. The fuel economy was definitely not as bad as I thought it would be. I had used about 1/8th of the tank to get to Nerul from Alibaug and touch the expressway. So I was left with a good amount of fuel, and that’s when I decided to give it Lil beans. The 2.0-litre engine is actually from the A45s, which has the world’s most powerful 2.0-litre engine but had been detuned. Considering this, it was fast, but it wasn’t exciting in any form or factor. After getting onto the ghat section, I thought it would really come into its own, but I could feel that the tail was slipping a little even after having the 4MATIC and that’s when I could relate to what Soham had said earlier to me about the handling. It’s not bad at all, but I may have expected more from it. At the outskirts of Pune, we all took a break to stretch and I realised how stiff the car ACTUALLY was. It’s stiff at a point where it makes you really fatigued, which isn’t really fun when you’re on a long road trip. After this, I gave the car to Soham, and he took the reign from there. As a passenger the car is pretty fun, you get to mess about with the MBUX system and it’s just got so much information and options that you can fiddle around with. Soon we were all home and it was time to bid farewell to the A35. 

The Mercedes-AMG A35 isn’t the best car out there, I personally feel it’s a rich man’s Octavia VRS, but I feel it’s got the potential to be a bit more. It’s definitely a good way to get into the AMG family, but at around 70 lakhs on road, the M340i is definitely the choice I would go for. This was my first experience in an AMG, And I can tell you for a fact that they have their own character and are so different to the M cars, and you will have a great time when you’re in one. If the A35 was not a CBU, I definitely feel it would be a car that we would see very often on our streets.

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Tanay Nellari

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