A-class above

All- new lux­ury com­pact will take Mercedes’ tech fight to its ri­vals

Evo - - NEW METAL -

MERCEDES-BENZ WILL BRING new lev­els of tech­nol­ogy to the fam­ily hatch­back class when its new A-class goes on sale in the spring. While the com­pany has long dripfed tech­nol­ogy from its most ad­vanced mod­els down the range a gen­er­a­tion or two be­hind, the lat­est ver­sion of Mercedes’ com­pact lux­ury car is like an S-class in minia­ture, from its class-lead­ing aero­dy­nam­ics to semi-au­ton­o­mous func­tions and a stun­ning new in­te­rior.

The ex­te­rior styling is an evo­lu­tion of the old A-class’s, al­beit less clut­tered and punc­tu­ated by sharper de­tails. Its drag co­ef­fi­cient of 0.25 is im­pres­sive for a hatch­back, and the slightly larger struc­ture brings a longer wheel­base and more in­te­rior and lug­gage vol­ume.

The cabin hosts the big­gest changes, though, with a wide, flat in­stru­ment panel home to a pair of TFT dis­plays and float­ing ahead of a smooth, wrap­around dash­board, with no tra­di­tional in­stru­ment cowl. The cock­pit is brighter than be­fore thanks to thin­ner pad­ding around the pil­lars, while var­i­ous seat op­tions al­low cus­tomers to tai­lor the en­vi­ron­ment to their re­quire­ments – as does an op­tional 64-colour am­bi­ent light­ing pack­age.

Sig­nif­i­cant changes abound un­der the bon­net too, the most in­ter­est­ing be­ing a new 1.4-litre four-pot en­gine co-de­vel­oped with Re­nault. Tur­bocharged and util­is­ing cylin­der de­ac­ti­va­tion tech and a petrol par­tic­u­late fil­ter, it makes a sturdy 161bhp with 184lb ft of torque, de­liv­ered through ei­ther a six-speed man­ual or seven-speed DCT. A 221bhp 2-litre petrol and a 114bhp 1.5-litre diesel will also be avail­able, and top­ping the range will be two AMG mod­els – a re­place­ment for the cur­rent A45 and a new, Audi S3-ri­valling A35.

A tech-heavy spec list in­cludes adap­tive brakes that ad­just for weight and axle load, at­ten­tion as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol and a new-gen­er­a­tion in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem, with touch and voice con­trols and in­tel­li­gent learn­ing.

All of that makes Jaguar’s de­ci­sion to build 25 new con­tin­u­a­tion D-types look a bit old-hat, but no less ap­peal­ing. The 25 hand-built cars will carry on from the 75 ex­am­ples pro­duced orig­i­nally back in the 1950s, and also fol­low on from the nine con­tin­u­a­tion XKSS and six light­weight E-types built by Jaguar Classic over the past few years.

Mclaren will make even fewer of its MSO X a 570S-based spe­cial built by Mclaren Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions for Mclaren New­port Beach in Cal­i­for­nia. Each of the ten cars will wear an F1 Gtr-in­spired liv­ery and fea­ture aero com­po­nents repli­cat­ing those of the 570S GT4.

Croa­t­ian man­u­fac­turer Ri­mac has also re­vealed its lat­est su­per­car the as-yet un­named fol­low-up to the Con­cept One. Teaser shots make the shape dif­fi­cult to dis­cern, but evo will have taken a proper look by the time of the car’s de­but at the Geneva mo­tor show in March. Its over­all shape looks a lit­tle more con­ven­tional than the Con­cept One’s, but its elec­tric driv­e­train is likely to be any­thing but.

Fi­nally, a new brand will ap­pear from SEAT this year. The Span­ish firm is launch­ing Cupra as a stand­alone mar­que, and will ex­pand the num­ber of mod­els wear­ing the badge. A Cupra Ateca SUV will be the first of­fer­ing, with a Leon and Ibiza to fol­low. The move comes on the back of strong sales for SEAT and a de­sire to make bet­ter use of the SEAT Sport en­gi­neer­ing team.

Above: A-class’s twin TFT dis­plays oust tra­di­tional bin­na­cle. Right: 25 new Jaguar D-types planned

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