Baby Benz fast-for­wards into fu­ture

Business Day - Motor News - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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