Hi-tech Merc B-Class launched in SA

By Staff reporter Time of article published Mar 23, 2012

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We're not ones for regurgitating PR-department hype, but Mercedes-Benz does make a rather bold claim that its new B-Class “heralds a new era in the compact class.”

Technology and driving dynamics are the big words here, despite it being one of the only front-wheel drive products from a company renowned for its rear-driven sedans and coupes.

Mercedes-Benz has put considerable effort into these areas, even though you'd never guess so when glancing at its rather evolutionary, perhaps even borderline-bland, exterior design.

KEEPS YOU AWAKE

Just take the safety kit as an example. It has radar-based collision warning system as standard, which warns of an impending collision (and another gizmo that makes sure you're awake) and even if the worst happens, its Pre-Safe system will prepare the car for a collision. Of course, you can also order some typical 'big Merc' features like blind spot and lane keeping assistants.

The technological revolution continues under the bonnet, where the all-new B-Class is endowed with a range of brand new turbocharged four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines that make the new B up to 21 percent more efficient that the previous model.

On the petrol front there's a 1.6-litre unit offered in two output levels - 90kW and 200Nm (B 180) and 115kW/250Nm (B 200), with diesel buyers also getting a choice of two output levels (80kW/250Nm in the B 180 CDI or 100kW/300Nm in the B200 CDI) from a 1.8-litre commonrail unit.

According to claimed figures, the B 200 manual will run from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds while the B 180 will take 10.4, the B 200 CDI 9.5 and B 180 CDI 10.9.

The big boasting point for the diesels are combined consumption figures of 4.4 litres per 100km for both models, although the petrols are not far behind at 5.9 l/100km.

BRILLIANT AUTOBOX

Gearbox choices include a new six-speed manual or a 7G-DCT dual-clutch automated gearbox and our launch correspondent Mike Winfield reckons the latter is the one to go for:

“Normally I'm a manual kinda guy but the auto box is so brilliant you shouldn't even consider ordering the manual. The shifts up and down are imperceptible and when you climb on the gas the gearbox finds the right gear at a speed that your hand never would.”

Mike was also pleased with the ride and handling, now that the B-Class has ditched the previous 'sandwich floor' design for a conventional layout that significantly lowers the centre of gravity and the company has invested in a sophisticated new four-link rear axle.

“On the road, the handling and roadholding of the new B are remarkable. Steering is go-kart direct, grip is prodigious, body roll is minimal and yet the ride remains cushy and comfortable,” Mike enthused.

“Yet despite excellent road holding, the ride remains cushy and comfortable,” he concluded.

The B-Class still boasts a cab-forward design, which means it has a lot more interior space than you'd expect from a car of its size - it measures just 4359mm in length.

“Although I'm over 1.8m tall I found I could 'sit behind myself', although I wouldn't necessarily want to do it over a long distance. Nevertheless four more normally-sized passengers could be carried in comfort,” Mike explained.

The B-Class is also available (optionally) with the 'Easy-Vario-Plus' system that includes fore/aft adjustment of the rear seats by up to 140mm, thereby increasing luggage space from 486 to 666 litres.

Being a German car, there are plenty of gadgets and trim packages that can be ordered on the options list, as well as internet access while the car is stationary, Linguatronic voice control and two navigation options.

Prices start at the 300-grand mark and include a six-year/120 000km maintenance contract.

THE DAMAGE:

B 180 - R299 600

B 200 - R319 600

B 180 CDI - R325 000

B 200 CDI - R358 000

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