INTERNATIONAL - Mercedes-Benz introduced the car it will pit against the likes of the tiny Audi A3, the BMW 1-Series, and the Volvo S60: the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class sedan.
It was the global debut of the entry-level sedan and the U.S. debut of any configuration of an A Class vehicle, which has been previously sold as a sleek hatchback in Europe.
“We didn’t feel the European version was quite right for the European market,” said Mercedes USA President and CEO Dietmar Exler. “With the sedan, that changes completely.”
Mercedes is using it to try to capture more conquest buyers from Audi and BMW, tearing a page from the playbook it wrote in 2013 when it launched the also-diminutive four-door CLA Coupe. That car saw a 50-percent conquest rate of first-time buyers to the Mercedes brand.
This time around, although Mercedes has yet to release pricing for the vehicle, it’s likely to be the least expensive Mercedes on the market today. That helps it to appeal to younger buyers, Exler said.
Indeed, people who bought the CLA were on average 11 years younger than the average age of buyers of other Mercedes vehicles. Exler said the A Class is expected to follow in those footsteps.
“The formula for success in this industry is pretty simple: attract younger customers to the brand and keep them for life,” he said tonight on the top of the 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge in DUMBO, where the launch was held. “The A Class will establish an all-new gateway for our brand to new customers, the young.”
It already happens to be the most aerodynamic—with a drag coefficient of 0.22, the A Class beats even the industry-leading Tesla Model S, which has a drag coefficient of 0.24. Mercedes did not release efficiency numbers, but buyers can expect it to sip fuel in the 30mpg range due to its slippery nature.
The A-Class Sedan will be available as an A220 two-wheel-drive and as an A220 4MATIC in four-wheel-drive.
Both come equipped with a 2.0L inline-4 turbocharged engine that gets 188 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Both come with a seven-speed paddle-shift transmission. Top speed is 130mph.
From the exterior, the A Class looks much like a baby S Class, with a low, elongated hood, slim chrome headlamps, torch-like daytime driving lights, optional diamond radiator, and, of course, the central star.
But there are some new additions: Each headlamp features multiple individually actuated LEDs and standard LED headlamps with integrated LED daytime running lamps. Optional 19-inch wheels look bigger and sportier than normal under the compact, 107.4-inch wheelbase.
On the inside, 64 colors of the optional ambient lighting make five times as many colors available than before. And Mercedes’ famous safety and crash avoidance systems are there as plentiful as in its other, more expensive vehicles.
It even includes all of the autonomous driving systems now found in the S Class, a significant offering considering the expected price disparity between the two. (S Class sedans start at $89,900; the A Class will likely cost less than $40,000.)
Foremost among the new technologies offered in this least-expensive Mercedes is the latest version of the automaker’s infotainment system, called MBUX, which comes with advanced voice-recognition control and a choice between two fully free-standing high-resolution cockpits. (Those configurations offer either two 7-inch displays as standard or two 10.25-inch displays as optional).
“Think of it as Siri or Alexa, just on wheels,” Exler said.
Drivers address the system by saying, “Hey Mercedes” and then stating their command.
This will be the first time Mercedes introduces the MBUX system, which also includes 3D maximum-resolution graphics calculated in real time as the car drives. It’s likely to continue the brand’s status of leading the segment when it comes to digitization and overall technology.
And will be a key decider for potential conquest customers considering buying the car. It will give Volvo in particular a strong challenge; the Swedish brand has been producing excellent screens and connectivity technology in its new cars and SUVs like the XC60 and V60.
Production of the new A-Class Sedan will be at the Mercedes-Benz Rastatt Plant in Germany in 2019. Orders begin later this year.