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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - A-class

Mercedes-Benz A-Class goes big on S-Class tech

A plus: The new A-Class will start to roll into Australian showrooms from July this year.

New infotainment and safety top fourth-gen Mercedes-Benz A-Class

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Mercedes-Benz logo3 Feb 2018

By DANIEL DEGASPERI in Amsterdam

MERCEDES-BENZ has targeted increased comfort and refinement for its fourth-generation A-Class, with evolutionary exterior styling hiding major interior and infotainment change plus active safety technology that now mirrors the S-Class.

Revealed over the weekend at an event in Amsterdam, Daimler AG chairman of the board of management and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Dieter Zetsche claimed that the philosophy of the A-Class was to “grow first and grow up”, with new technology and driving maturity clear cited as development goals.

“Some years ago the A-Class made the biggest shift in its exterior design in the history of Mercedes-Benz,” he said at the event.

“However (now) even greater revolution happens on the inside. You’re going to find there’s not much of an entry-level feel to our new entry-level car. This car will provide all the latest high-tech at the very same level as our top of the line cars. You can now order driver assistance and safety systems at S-Class level.

“Growing up for us now means that the A-Class enters the next level of style and dignity, and certainly not in a boring kind of way. This compact Mercedes has grown up, and it doesn’t only look like a grown up Mercedes-Benz. In fact, this A-Class rather drives like a mature C-Class. Our new A-Class offers the driving looks and feel you would rather expect from a higher segment vehicle.”

Equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission dubbed 7-DCT, only the A200 with a new 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine will arrive first in Australia in the third quarter of 2018, with an A250 boasting a revised 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder not far behind.

The third engine variant revealed so far, the A180d 1.5-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder, will not make it to our shores – however a larger-capacity diesel will.

Speaking with GoAuto at the A-Class reveal, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific public relations, product and corporate communications manager David McCarthy said he expected the new-generation model to be more popular than the outgoing version despite limited initial model availability.

“Sometime from July on it will be a staggered roll out of models,” he said.

“To start with A200 is a ‘yes’, the others at the same time, I don’t know yet.

(But) I expect the range will mirror the current range. So you start from A180 and then A45 at the top, with a few stops in between.

“(And) I don’t see sales going backward, I see them only increasing. A250 has been consistently a very strong seller, it’s in a sweet spot. And you know for us (we want) to bring new people into the brand, but also have existing A-Class customers that I expect will migrate to the new car.”

Mr McCarthy added that despite increased infotainment and safety technology, he did not expect a big increase in pricing, although the entry-level model – currently priced at $38,700 plus on-road costs – will likely move beyond $40K.

“Bear in mind we’ve managed to keep A180 under forty (thousand dollars), in fact, when we launched the car around Australia you could buy the car and just put in on the road just under forty grand,” he continued.

“(But) I think that’s going to be a struggle, it’s not going to be a large (pricing) increase but I think it’ll be a struggle because of the extra kit.”

For standard equipment, he said: “I think with the entry car, you’ll be surprised. If you look at our vehicles, we run the highest specification standard in the world and that’s not going to change.”

The new A-Class builds on the Sensual Purity design language of the recently unveiled CLS-Class with the aim of “clear contours and sensual surfaces,” according to Daimler AG chief design officer Gorden Wagener.

A bonnet that slopes more heavily than before, a high-waisted greenhouse and horizontal tail-lights help emphasise width. Mr Wagoner tagged the design philosophy “reductionist” and added that “form and body are what remain when creases and lines are reduced to the extreme”.

The five-door hatchback measures 4419mm long, 1796mm wide and 1440mm tall, riding on a 2729mm wheelbase, increases of 120mm/16mm/7mm/30mm respectively.

Between 16- to 19-inch wheels are available, with 0.25Cd aerodynamics making the A-Class the aerodynamic leader in its class, according to Mercedes-Benz, aided by an optional Airpanel that opens and closes louvres behind the grille.

The car-maker said customer feedback has helped guide space improvements that see front and rear elbow room increased by 35mm and 36mm, front and rear shoulder room boosted by 9mm and 22mm and front and rear headroom up 7mm and 8mm. All-round visibility is boosted by 10 per cent and boot volume is boosted by 29 litres to 370L, along with a wider aperture from improved loading.

The headline of the new interior, which boasts horizontal styling cues and five turbine-style circular air vents borrowed from the E-Class coupe, is the infotainment system MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User eXperience) available with three options – two 7.0-inch screens, a duo of 10.25-inch displays, or one of each.

Functionality comes from “triad” of user controls including touchscreen, touchpad on console and touch control buttons on steering wheel, with the interface overhauled and described as a radical change to improve usability.

In addition to wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and smartphone charging, predictive navigation entry, themed displays and Wi-Fi hot-spot, optional extras include “cloud-based” Car-to-X communication with vehicle tracking, and a head-up display that makes its A-Class debut.

Augmented reality displays navigation guidance as a real-time forward camera view of the vehicle driving with directions overlaid, private sharing via a Mercedes Me app can be installed to leave keys in the vehicle for family and friends to use on a timed basis by opening the vehicle by app only, while natural voice recognition dubbed Hey Mercedes was cited as the biggest MBUX advance.

Hey Mercedes can voice-activate any function –mechanical/driving-related excepted – via natural one-shot sentences such as ‘please switch the demister on a high fan speed at temperature of 24 degrees’ or by simply saying ‘I’m cold’ and using artificial intelligence to respond. Over-the-air updates will also be available.

While these functions debut in the A-Class before any other Mercedes-Benz, active safety technology has filtered down from – and added to – the S-Class.

A forward camera and radar system can now work with navigation data to allow the active cruise control to automatically slow for round-a-bouts and T-junctions between standstill and 200km/h. Stops for 30 seconds are now possible, and a revised Traffic Sign Assist function can read both speed limits and adjust cruise speed, and ensure idle-stop technology is disabled for brief pauses at stop signs.

Lane-keep assistance claims that “semi-automated driving is also a reality on country roads” thanks to lesser reliance on perfect lane markings and increased abilities on bends, while the A-Class can apply one side of its brakes to avoid head-on collisions and pull the vehicle back into its lane.

Lane-change assistance can automatically move into a vacant freeway lane by making a ‘nudge’ to the indicator stalk, while emergency assistance can stop a vehicle within its lane, and an ‘evasive’ steering function can add lock to a driver’s intention to swerve around an obstacle.

Auto-park assistance can perform acceleration, braking and gearchange functions for autonomous entry and exit, and blind-spot assistance can now detect cyclists riding past a front door and alert occupants to not open doors.

A driver’s knee airbag also adds to the front, side and curtain protection, while a pop-up bonnet aids pedestrian protection.

Halogen headlights with LED daytime running lights are standard on overseas markets, but LED headlights with adaptive automatic high-beam are optional.

Mercedes-Benz said kerb weight was slightly lower than before and torsional body rigidity improved. Noise insulation from a C-Class has trickled to A-Class, including double-layer firewall insulation on higher variants, while thicker door seals helped the new vehicle claim a 30 per cent wind noise reduction.

Adaptive suspension is again available as an option for all-wheel-drive variants – claimed as a faster-acting 4Matic system that can split drive 50:50 more pro-actively – with a multi-link independent rear suspension. Only the front-wheel-drive A180d and A200 retreat to using a simpler torsion bar rear suspension for the first time, while all include a revised MacPherson strut front setup.

While the as-yet unreleased A180 is expected to still lead the new A-Class range locally, the middle-tier A200’s M282 four-cylinder is all-new but with 70 to 80 per cent of mechanical components shared with Renault’s 1.2-litre turbo.

Incorporating cylinder deactivation, it produces 120kW of power at 5500rpm and 240Nm of torque at 1620rpm to deliver combined-cycle fuel consumption of 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres and 8.0-second 0-100km/h performance.

This rises 5kW but falls 10Nm compared with the outgoing A200’s 1.6-litre turbo and is two-tenths slower, however consumption drops by 0.5L/100km.

The A250’s carry-over M260 turbo now makes 165kW at 5500rpm, up 5kW, and an unchanged 350Nm at 1800rpm, with a tenth-faster 6.2s 0-100km/h and 6.0L/100km consumption falling by 0.7L/100km.

The A180d’s Renault-derived OM608 diesel, with 85kW at 4000rpm and 260Nm at 1750-2500rpm plus 4.1L/100km consumption, will not be for the local market.

Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific said it an A180 petrol and A200d diesel will follow, however, while indications are that an A35 AMG will for the first time join the A45 AMG in the range within 18 months.

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