New models - Mercedes-Benz - A-class - A190 5-dr hatch
First Oz drive: Mercedes-Benz stretches A-class
Mercedes-Benz expands and extends its A-class range with long wheelbase models
27 Sep 2001
By JUSTIN LACY
MERCEDES-BENZ has given its entry level A-class range a new lease of life with the introduction of a long wheelbase version.
On the eve of its third anniversary in Australia, the A-class range has been expanded to 10 variants covering two body sizes, two engines, two transmissions and two trim levels.
The new vehicle will go on sale at the start of October, at which time Mercedes-Benz is expecting demand to be split 70/30 in favour of the long wheelbase models.
Pricing for the larger A-class starts at $39,900 for the A160 while the A190 comes in at $42,900 - a $2000 premium over the regular versions. The optional five-speed automatic transmission adds $1409 to each variant.
All other option and accessory pricing is as per the rest of the A-class range.
The new versions are only available in Elegance trim level, as the entry level Classic specification is offered solely on the regular A-class.
The most significant change to the existing model has seen 170mm added to the wheelbase and subsequently the overall length of the vehicle.
Everything forward of the B-pillar remains unchanged, so it is rear seat legroom and luggage capacity that benefit from the added length.
The 60-40 split/fold rear seat can be adjusted steplessly fore and aft by up to 111mm, offering flexibility for more passenger legroom or luggage space, depending on your needs.
Even with the rear seat in its most forward position, there is an extra 60mm of legroom over the standard model.
Despite the interior of the A-class being more than one metre shorter than that of the E-class sedan, the hip-to-hip distance between front and rear passengers is over 100mm longer - 954mm to 840mm.
With the rear seat up and in its most rearward position, luggage capacity has increased from 390 to 470 litres, while with the seat removed storage space is up from 1740 to 1930 litres.
Body modifications to cope with the extra length include changes to the side structural members, the main floor unit, the underside panelling and the roof.
Naturally, the rear doors have been extended while additional reinforcements have been made to the bodyshell.
In order to carry over the A-class's distinctive arched roof, the A, B and C-pillars of the long wheelbase version have been modified slightly, increasing overall height and interior headroom by 14mm as a result.
Chassis modifications include stiffer rear springs and standard rear disc brakes for the A160.
Kerb weight has risen by 30kg, turning circle is out from 10.4m to 11.0m and acceleration from 0-100km/h has increased by 0.3 seconds in both engine variations.
On the safety front, the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) has been redeveloped to operate in conjunction with a new Brake Assist system.
The window/curtain airbags, introduced on the current S-class, are now available as an option on the A-class The long wheelbase model also benefits from the upgrade the regular version received in July this year. A revised grille, bumpers with replaceable bump strips, clear-lens headlights and new alloy wheel designs freshen the overall look.
The interior picks up the new instrument panel, centre console, door trims and steering wheel with height adjustment.
To date this year Mercedes-Benz Australia has sold 750 A-class models, a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year. The range accounts for one in every 10 Mercedes-Benz passenger cars sold.
PRICING:A160 Classic $34,900
A160 Elegance $37,900
A160 LWB Elegance $39,900
A190 Elegance $40,900
A190 LWB Elegance $42,900
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:It may not sound like much, 17cm, but that amount of extra length has made a substantial difference to the accommodation offered by the new long wheelbase A-class.
Rear seat passengers are now better catered for than in many larger conventional sedans, while at the same time you can also squeeze more luggage in.
In isolation the new long wheelbase car looks like any other A-class and it is only when you see the two body sizes together that the changes become apparent.
Despite claims that the modifications have only added 30kg to the kerb weight, there is a slight, but noticeable drop in performance. However, the vehicle still has enough verve to keep up with cut and thrust city traffic, which is really what it was designed for.
The innovative automatic-clutch manual transmission remains simple and easy to use and makes you wonder why someone would choose the regular automatic. The take-up action of the clutch is a bit off-putting at first, especially in low throttle, slow speed situations, but overall it is a well-designed system.
The A-class package now offers more to those who need it, without compromising the design principles on which the original car was based.
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