Baby Benz fast-forwards into future
The third-generation A-Class helped make Mercedes-Benz more youthful, and its replacement, launched in SA last week, aims to follow in those footsteps.
In its fourth incarnation Merc’s premium compact hatchback has grown into a larger and more family-friendly car than its predecessor, but it’s the new technology that is likely to be the big customer drawcard into Benz showrooms.
At the heart of this hi-tech is the new MBUX multimedia system, which Mercedes calls “a revolution of the user experience in the car”. It uses artificial intelligence to learn and adapt to suit the user, and the more a user interacts with it, the more the new A-Class adapts to his or her habits.
“The new A-Class grows to understand your personal preferences then predicts your needs, making it the ultimate intelligent companion,” says Selvin Govender, marketing director of Mercedes-Benz Cars SA. “It offers modern luxury at a level previously unthought of in the compact segment. It uses technology to create an emotional connection between the vehicle and driver.”
MBUX offers intelligent voice control that recognises natural spoken language. By using the phrase “Hey Mercedes”, users can, for instance, adjust the airconditioning, send a text message or ask the navigation to find the quickest route out of town.
The all-digital instrument panel does away with the traditional analogue cowl while the infotainment is housed in a sexy new touchscreen interface that comes with a 17.8cm screen as standard or a dashboard-dominating 26.7cm display as an extra-cost option, a box that we think is likely to be ticked by the bulk of A-Class customers.
This starship-like interface forms part of a restyle for the interior, which adopts a more modern and avant-garde look.
Externally Merc’s compact hatch looks more sporty and hunkered-down than its forerunner with a character line along the side and slightly more pumped-out wheel arches, but it’s also grown. At 4,299mm the car is 120mm longer than before, and also 16mm higher and 6mm wider, with a longer wheelbase, but is 20kg lighter.
An AMG trim pack comes standard on the A250 Sport and as an extra-cost option on the A200 to lend more styling attitude. Customers can also choose between Style and Urban equipment lines, and also Exclusive and Night packages as part of a vast range of personalisation options.
The passenger quarters have increased shoulder, elbow and headroom, while the boot has grown by 29l to 370l. It’s not just about space but practicality too, and the loading aperture has grown 20cm in width.
Some of the driver aids from the E- and S-Class sedans have filtered down into Merc’s smallest model, including active brake assist which automatically applies the brakes when it senses an impending frontal collision with a car, cyclist or pedestrian. This is a standard feature across the range, as is active lane keeping assist which recognises inadvertent lane departures and warns the driver with steering wheel vibrations.
Optionally available are active blind spot assist and active steering, which will first warn drivers of unseen vehicles lurking in your periphery, and then pull the car back into its lane if they ignore the warning.
Also optional is the Distronic system which automatically maintains a safe distance from
THIS STARSHIP-LIKE INTERFACE FORMS PART OF A RESTYLE FOR THE INTERIOR, WHICH ADOPTS A MORE MODERN AND AVANT-GARDE LOOK
It’s inside where the real party is, with that super-sized digital dashboard and turbinestyle air vents.