Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport 4matic
Mercedes-Benz had an extremely busy 2015 what with a host of new model introductions, many of them SUVs. That it stood atop the luxury car sales podium after all the dust had cleared was no surprise to us, though Audi and BMW must have been miffed. That’s the first time the brand has ruled the roost this side of the Tasman, though Mercedes has long reigned supreme in Australia.
Coming just a bit too late to bolster the numbers was the facelifted A-Class, featuring greater comfort levels, better handling and performance, and improved connectivity, among other things. In the case of the A 250, which we’ve just driven, it is now available only as a four-wheel drive model, and therefore the sticker price has risen by $2500 to $67,900. However, the added specification, such as adaptive damping, LED headlights, blind spot monitoring and a better navigation system easily justifies the price hike. Think of the AWD and the extra 5kW of power under the hood as no-cost frills.
The former benefits traction in both wet and dry situations. Previously the front-drive A 250 could easily light up the front wheels on slick roads, but you can be sure this new model won’t. And in the dry it’s also more locked to the tarmac, especially when you’ve dialled up the Sport mode which tightens the damping appreciably.
From a performance standpoint, the 62kg weight gain over the former A 250 is easily cancelled out by the added haste off the line (especially with new Launch Assist activated), the extra few kilowatts no doubt contributing too. We weren’t especially surprised by the half second gain in the 0-100 time, down from 6.85 to 6.29sec, thanks to all that grip off the mark and the quick-fire upshifts from the improved twin-clutch transmission. But a similar gain in overtaking time, down from 4.5 to 4.1sec was unexpected, given the added weight. But as they say, it’s the first sixty feet that counts.
This is a surprisingly fast little jigger, even if you had no performance gear to confirm that. It’s well and truly energised from below 2000rpm, and is pumping from 2500rpm onwards. We like the little pops from the exhaust on fullbore upshifts but more drama in the cabin would be nice, given there’s not that much tyre-generated clamour.
There are two notable dynamic changes over the outgoing A 250, the first obviously the extra mid-corner speed attributable to the 4WD system, and the other coming from the addition of adaptive damping. Set-up is a snip; just hit the Dynamic Select button once, which changes settings from Comfort to Sport. Affected are engine response, damping, steering, and AC setting. Over testing roads, sport is obviously the better choice, body roll all but eliminated but you’d be surprised how well the A 250 goes in Comfort mode, and it’s preferable over broken or lumpy surfaces. With screeds of Conti’s best, this is much closer to A 45 AMG dynamically than before, and even getting the ESP to intervene can be a test of your mettle.
Eventually the A 250 gives up front end grip, as expected with its 61 per cent frontal weight bias. However, a brief interruption of power sees the front laser-locked back on track. Great grip means earlier corner exits too. A pity the D-shaped helm hasn’t much to say.
While this might remind of A 45, the facelifted AMG model gains extra power and supposedly hits the open road speed limit in 4.2sec, matching the RS 3. Still, the A 250 costs almost $30k less and is still plenty quick enough. We’d imagine it’s a little easier on fuel too; motorway cruising saw a return of low eights, while Mercedes claims a combined lab test figure of 6.7L/100km. Expect double that when you hoof it.
Unless you knew what to look for you’d be hard pressed picking the facelift visually. New bumpers and 18-inch AMG wheel designs are subtly different, but it’s the shape of the tail lights that gives the game away. Up front new LED headlights are sure to improve night driving. It’s a similarly subtle story in the cabin, the addition of blind spot monitoring a new feature, as is satellite navigation by Garmin Map Pilot. Standard fit in the A 250 Sport 4Matic includes a smart key, nine airbags, powered sunroof, AMG bodystyling, dual zone air, a reversing camera and sonic aids, Comand controller and the four-mode Dynamic Select button. The new A 250 also picks up Apple CarPlay for improved smartphone integration, providing you’re an iphone user. As David mentions in his Point of View (p26), Siri voice control permits replies to txt messages and emails on the go.
The new A 250 is now quicker, safer and more comfortable than the original, albeit at a price. BMW’s nicely balanced and lighter rear drive 125i is just as quick and competent, in the dry at least, but costs almost $10k less.
With screeds of Conti’s best, this is much closer to A 45 AMG dynamically than before
ABOVE - New 18-inch AMG wheels for the
facelifted A 250. ABOVE RIGHT - Not much body lean thanks to the adoption of adaptive dampers.
ABOVE - Nothing wrong with the appearance of the A 250, squat and purposeful. It’s quite roomy inside too. BELOW - Individual set-up for Dynamic Select.