Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport 4matic

NZ Autocar - - Contents - -Peter Louis­son

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.

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