Autocar reader Keiron Broadhead was quick to photograph this development car in Berlin
Credit: Keiron Broadhead
Credit: Keiron Broadhead
Credit: Keiron Broadhead
Mercedes has also been testing its next A-Class at the Nürburgring
The spearhead of an expanded eight-model-strong compact car line-up set to be revealed over the next three years, the new hatchback has been thoroughly re-engineered in a development programme Mercedes-Benz says is aimed at positioning the A-Class as the undisputed leader in Europe’s largest market segment, in terms of technology and connectivity features. The brand is also providing it with improved comfort and refinement levels in an attempt to raise its competitiveness against the likes of the Audi A3 Sportback, BMW 1-Series and Volkswagen Golf.
“It’s a much more mature car with greater space and improved comfort together with ground-breaking connectivity and user interface functions,” a senior official who asked to remain anonymous revealed. “We’ve made a big step in every area and consider it to be a class-leader in terms of technology and safety, much of which is equal to or, in some cases, even more advanced than that already used by the C-, E- and S-Class.”
Underpinning the new A-Class is a heavily reworked version of the existing model’s MFA platform. The new structure, known as the MFA-2, has been significantly re-engineered with greater use of aluminium and high-strength steel, which is said to bring both a reduction in weight over its predecessor and a significant increase in torsional rigidity.
Autocar’s latest scoop photographs reveal the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz, referred to internally as the W177, has progressed quite dramatically in appearance. The bold new look is dominated by what the German car maker’s head of design, Gorden Wagener, describes as the “predator face”. Also set to feature on the upcoming third-generation CLS, it features a wide and relatively low-set grille, similar in shape to the Panamericana treatment brought to recent AMG models, albeit with horizontal rather than vertical louvres, together with relatively thin headlamps that extend back into the front wings to provide the front end with a heavily tapered appearance.
Buyers will be able to choose from three different styling packages in standard models: Style, Progressive and AMG-Line.
The new A-Class retains the practical five-door layout of its predecessor, although it has grown dimensionally. Length is up by 120mm at 4419mm, while width increases by 16mm to around 1796mm. In a move that provides it with a larger footprint, it also adopts a 30mm longer wheelbase at 2729mm together with as-yet-unspecified increases in track widths. Larger wheelhouses will also allow Mercedes-Benz to offer 19in wheels as an option on non-AMG models for the first time.
Despite the larger dimensions, Autocar has learned aerodynamic efficiency has been improved through detailed changes to the airflow paths to the engine bay and along the under tray – the latter featuring predominately flat panelling along its entirety. The resulting reduction in drag is claimed to have brought a significant reduction in wind noise at motorway speeds as part of a concerted effort to provide the new A-Class with class-leading refinement.
Further innovations cited by company officials include the adoption of the latest incarnation of Mercedes-Benz’s Multibeam LED headlights with adaptive high-beam assistant, plus individual city and motorway light functions, as well as a so-called cornering light.
Inside, the larger external dimensions combine with improvements in interior packaging to boost accommodation; headroom is up by 7mm up front and 8mm in the rear; shoulder room increases by 9mm at the front and 22mm in the rear; elbow room has gained 35mm up front and 36mm at the rear. Boot capacity, a particular weak point of the outgoing third-generation A-Class, is also said to have increased by nearly 30 litres to 371 litres, some nine litres less than the facelifted seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf offers behind its rear seats.
As well as offering more interior space, the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz is also said to boast improved visibility thanks to the adoption of slimmer A-, B- and C-pillars. Larger door apertures are also behind claims the new A-Class offers improved entry, particularly to the rear.
As with the exterior, the interior has been completely redesigned with a new dashboard featuring higher-grade materials, a quintet of round air vents and centre console controls similar in layout and style to those used by other new Mercedes-Benz models.
The highlight is what Mercedes-Benz describes as its widescreen cockpit. It groups the instruments and infotainment displays on a single panel across the top of the new dashboard. But while the widescreen cockpit of more upmarket models offers twin 12.3in displays, the A-Class receives two 10.3in displays.
In a break from tradition and decade-long insistence from its engineers that a rotary controller provides a safer means of digital menu hopping, the fourth-generation A-Class will also be the first modern-day Mercedes-Benz model to feature touch operation for the infotainment and navigation functions within the centrally mounted monitor via a sixth-generation Comand system, or what official documentation sighted by Autocar is described as NTG (New Telematics Generation) 6.0.
The new infotainment system, more advanced than that currently offered on the range-topping S-Class, supports a limited number of augmented-reality functions and learning map features.
Reflecting a more upmarket positioning for the new model, the 2018-model-year A-Class will be sold with a long list of options, including a head-up display unit in full colour and 480x240 resolution, voice control system featuring a conversational dialogue function, newly developed front seats with a massage function, heating for the steering wheel, digital instruments, an ambient light function offering 64 different colours and illuminated ventilation ducts – the latter set to make their première on the new third-generation CLS at the upcoming Los Angeles motor show.
Equipped with a stereo camera for the first time, the new A-Class will also adopt many of the driving aids seen on more luxurious Mercedes-Benz models, including a new active blind spot assistant called Exit Assist as well as the recently unveiled Drive Away Assist. There will also be an improved version of the existing model’s Park Assist, featuring a 360-degree camera view. As with all of the German car maker’s next-generation compact models, it supports Car-to-X communication, allowing the new hatchback to communicate and share information on traffic conditions with other road users.
The engine line-up for the new A-Class is planned to encompass a wide range of transversely mounted turbocharged four-cylinder engines. They will be offered in combination with a standard six-speed manual or either a revised version of Mercedes-Benz’s in-house produced seven-speed dual clutch unit or an all-new nine-speed dual clutch gearbox, depending on their torque rating. Increasing take rates for four-wheel-drive models in many markets is also behind a decision to offer 4Matic four-wheel drive on a wider number of new A-Class models in the future.
Kicking off the engine line-up is a base 1.4 litre known internally as the M282. Developed in a joint venture with Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler’s alliance partner Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi, it supports a newly developed cylinder deactivation function and is planned to come in three states of tune, with 108bhp in the A140, 134bhp in the A160 or 161bhp in the A180.
Above it is a re-engineered version of Mercedes-Benz’s existing M254 unit that has been given the codename M260. The 2.0-litre engine is planned to deliver 188bhp in the A200 and a gutsier 221bhp in the A250.
The new M260 petrol unit also forms the basis of a new engine from AMG. Planned to see service in a four-wheel drive A35 4Matic model scheduled to be revealed at next year’s Paris motor show, it receives a belt-driven generator and 48-volt electric architecture that allow an electric boost function and an output of 302bhp along with a sturdy 302lb ft of torque.
Despite a sharp downturn in diesel sales in key markets such as Germany, Britain and France, Mercedes-Benz also plans to provide the new A-Class with two different oilburners - both featuring a SCR (selected catalytic converter) filter as standard. Included is the new OM608 engine – a development of today’s Renault-supplied 1.5-litre OM607 diesel, which is claimed to offer subtle performance and economy gains with 94bhp and 177lb ft in the A160d or 114bhp and 207lb ft in the A180d.
It will be joined by Mercedes-Benz’s OM654 unit, as already available in various Mercedes-Benz models, albeit in longitudinal as opposed to the transverse guise used by the A-Class. Internal sales documents sighted by Autocar reveal it is planned to produce 148bhp and 236lb ft in the A200d and 188bhp and 295lb ft in the A220d – both of which are planned to be sold in either standard front- or 4Matic four-wheel-drive forms.
Heading the new model range, although not planned to be unleashed on to UK roads until 2019, is a successor to today’s rapid A45 4Matic. The junior AMG model is set to run a heavily reworked version of the A35’s turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, complete with a belt-driven generator and 48-volt electric system for mild-hybrid properties. Nothing is official just yet, though Autocar has been told it will be tuned to deliver in the region of 402bhp, with an additional 16bhp from the alternator able to be accessed on kick down for even greater performance potential under full throttle loads.
The new A-Class heralds a planned eight-strong line-up of so-called compact models from Mercedes-Benz. Joining it in UK showrooms in 2018 will be a production version of the German car maker’s Concept A saloon – a new Audi A3 saloon rivalling four-door first due to make its debut at in long wheelbase guise at next year’s Beijing motor show before a planned première in standard wheelbase form, as it will be sold in Britain, at the 2018 Paris motor show.
Codenamed V177, the first-ever A-Class-based saloon will be slot into the Mercedes-Benz line-up below the more traditional C-Class saloon, complementing successor models to the CLA and CLA Shooting Brake scheduled to appear before the end of 2019.
Also planned for introduction next year is a successor to today’s second-generation B-Class. It carries the internal codename W247 and is claimed to retain the same basic dimensions and practical one-box silhouette as today’s second-generation model, albeit with what insiders describe as more dynamic styling and a more upmarket interior.
As well as sharing the same engine line-up as the A-Class, the new B-Class is also planned to offer a plug-in-hybrid drivetrain in a new B220e model. It is expected to run a 134bhp version of joint Mercedes-Benz/Renault-Nissan turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in combination with an 81bhp electric motor and 13.8kWh lithium-ion battery for an all-electric range over 31 miles (50km).
Other A-Class derivatives include a successor to the GLA due in 2020, a new BMW X1 and Audi Q3 rivalling SUV expected to carry GLB badges and a replacement for the ageing third-generation SLC – the latter of which is planned to switch from today’s rear-wheel-drive C-Class-based platform to the new MFA structure offering the choice of either front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive in a move similar to that undertaken by Audi with the TT and TT Roadster.
Production of the new A-Class and its various compact model siblings is planned to take place in five different plants: Rastatt in Germany; Kecskemet in Hungry; Uusikaupunki in Finland; Beijing in China; and a new factory being established by Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan, in Aguascalientes, Mexico.