Baby Merc ‘more grown-up’

Next-gen A-Class will make its public debut at Geneva in March

New A-Class is more mature, comfy and refined, says testing boss

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class, which will be revealed ahead of its public debut at the Geneva motor show in March, will depart from today’s model by receiving two different suspension sets, according to compact vehicle testing boss Jochen Eck.

Both use the same MacPherson strut set-up at the front but they differ radically at the rear. Lower-end models are set to run a newly developed torsion beam arrangement at the rear and high-end models will sport a revised version of the multi-link suspension first seen on the outgoing A-Class.

Eck said: “We knew we had to improve the ride. The whole class has moved on since we launched the old model. We’ve spent a lot of time tuning the bushings and kinematic properties of both systems to get the result we were looking for. The added torsional rigidity of the body structure helps.”

That rigidity also helps improve noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels in the A-Class, as does more sound-deadening foam in the body structure, claimed Eck. He said that although the predecessor’s NVH “wasn’t too bad at launch”, the competition has upped its game.

The new A-Class’s electro-mechanical steering continues to offer a fixed ratio or variable ratio depending on the chosen model but Mercedes has made some changes, including repositioning the rack so it sits further back in the chassis.

Eck said: “It is still quite light in overall weighting and fairly direct in comparison to the competition, but there’s more feedback and communication than before. I think enthusiast drivers will like it. There’s more on-centre precision, but it doesn’t come at the expense of off-centre sharpness.”

Mercedes has also worked on improving visibility, with Eck recognising it was “a problem” with the predecessor: “The pillars are now thinner and the rear side windows are also larger. There is much better vision to the rear.”

The redesigned A-Class has grown in length, including a 30mm increase in wheelbase, and the interior gets a similar widescreen cockpit as in the S-Class, with the most expensive option using two 10.3in displays. It will also feature touch operation for infotainment and navigation on a Mercedes for the first time.

The new A-Class will adopt a number of driving aids seen on higher-end Mercedes, including an active blindspot assistant called Exit Assist and an improved version of Park Assist with a 360deg camera.

There will be five petrol variants plus two performance AMGs, the A35 and the A45, and four diesel options.

GREG KABLE

 


WE RIDE SHOTGUN IN THE NEW A-CLASS

Kable (on right) found the new A-Class quieter and more comfortable

For our first stint in the new A-Class, we’re in the entry-level diesel variant – the 1.5-litre A160d – on public roads near Arvidsjaur in the north of Sweden, where Mercedes has been busy
cold-weather testing it.

Although we’ve only experienced the new Mercedes from the passenger seat, it certainly feels smoother and more controlled than its predecessor over rough roads, even with the new torsion beam set-up and standard single-rate dampers – the cheaper of the two suspension set-ups – as fitted to the A160d prototype.

There’s greater absorption of road shock and less vertical movement over bumps, particularly at the rear.

Noise, vibration and harshness are also better, and visibility appears superior, although we won’t know for sure until we are behind the wheel this spring.

Compact vehicle testing boss Jochen Eck, as nominated driver, said: “The predecessor model was good, but I think we’ve managed to move the game along. It is more grown- up. You could say it now meets the expectations of a Mercedes better than ever before.”

By April, we should be able to verify this for ourselves but, for now, it appears the new A-Class is ready to replicate the sales success of its predecessor.

For our first stint in the new A-Class, we’re in the entry-level diesel variant – the 1.5-litre A160d – on public roads near Arvidsjaur in the north of Sweden, where Mercedes has been busy
cold-weather testing it.

Although we’ve only experienced the new Mercedes from the passenger seat, it certainly feels smoother and more controlled than its predecessor over rough roads, even with the new torsion beam set-up and standard single-rate dampers – the cheaper of the two suspension set-ups – as fitted to the A160d prototype.

There’s greater absorption of road shock and less vertical movement over bumps, particularly at the rear.

Noise, vibration and harshness are also better, and visibility appears superior, although we won’t know for sure until we are behind the wheel this spring.

Compact vehicle testing boss Jochen Eck, as nominated driver, said: “The predecessor model was good, but I think we’ve managed to move the game along. It is more grown- up. You could say it now meets the expectations of a Mercedes better than ever before.”

By April, we should be able to verify this for ourselves but, for now, it appears the new A-Class is ready to replicate the sales success of its predecessor.