Mercedes Benz launched the second-generation B Class just as the leaves started to turn shades of gold and bronze, and with the hype of the Olympics in the air. I would like to commend a deserving motoring competitor in what is the new B Class Mercedes Benz.
The concept of a “sports wagon” sounds new age, polarised and very now. The manufacturers at car companies have teams that spend months – and sometimes even years – dreaming up, and then engineering, sculpting and refining, the modern production car that we are then presented with, with as much passion as Nigella Lawson would lick a spoonful of one of her indulgent treats. What impresses me about this particular car is the fact that it has gone down a road less travelled by other manufactures. It’s not your typical hatchback or station wagon but rather a hybrid of the two, with sport-utility vehicle aspirations. It’s really a very carefully considered modern-day car. It is for the “i-generation” who are entering family mode, or looking for a car that is practical, yet interesting and super-advanced.
We all know that marketing people create strategies on their Apple MacBook Pros, which includes time to create research groups, asking questions and basically playing the role of a psychologist, all the while recording, “i-padding”, or just filming the feedback from these sample groups. When interacting with the car it’s easy to see that Mercedes Benz has definitely done its homework in profiling and defining who the B Class customer is, and they have created a car perfect for their target audience. This follow-up is by no means a stretched version of the dinky A Class, but rather a symbiosis of modern electronic wizardry. “The new generation sports wagon” is the first model in the history of the brand to have seen so many new developments introduced at any one time. You will notice this immediately when you look at, enter, and drive away in this car.
To test-drive, I was given a metallic navy (lotus blue) and pale-grey leather-trimmed version, with a 180 CDI (which is 1.8 litre), 4-cylinder, turbo-enhanced diesel engine (80kw for those of you who understand techno talk). More often these days, car companies produce two or three engines, then stick in turbos under the bonnet with varying strengths, and then badge them with larger sounding engines. This is the case with the 200 CDI version of the car: it has the same 1.8 diesel engine but has a more powerful turbo (100kw). However, with the enhanced technology available today, these modern-day units do actually produce what their predecessors did but in a more efficient space-saving volume. The amazing thing about these two diesel units is they both have enough torque (this is the shove you feel in your upper body as you accelerate – 250 newton metres of torque to be precise), to put a smile on your face as you keep up with most hot-hatched GTIs. It genuinely uses very little fuel – an improvement of 20 percent on its predecessor – with comparatively low CO2 emissions. I loved the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which –while at high speed – nimbly slides from gear to gear, as Spiderman leaps from building to building.
The new generation car is also great to look at, with flared body-panels that has your eye dancing from creative fold to innovative bend. You can visually see that the car’s designer conducted each individual panel into an overall body symphony that just works. This translates aerodynamically into a very silky figure of the enigmatic 0.26. Think of it as Hollywood’s best, walking down the red carpet at the Oscars, like goddesses in their size 2 Versace gowns and visually you will get the picture of what exactly I am referring to when I say the car has a 0.26 drag coefficient .
My unit was spec’d with three active safety-programs: collision-prevention assist; lane-keeping assist; and blind-spot assist. All three of these amazing technologies are designed to keep your insurance company very happy, and in day-to-day driving I’m happy to say that once you understand the foreign “safety aid” dialect the car speaks, you feel really well looked after. The car cleverly flashes, vibrates and hazards you when it is speaking the language of “no accident”. It truly is a testimony to how far we have come and where we are going with modern motorcars. When you get in the car, slot in the key, and clip your safety belt in, you will notice almost immediately that the safety belt wraps tighter around you so as to ensure that there is no slack in the belt. When you engage the car in “drive” mode, the park sensors are active but once you reach speeds above those desirable in a parking lot, the same sensors monitor your distance and speed and give you a visual and acoustic sound when it feels that you are in fact too close, or approaching the car ahead of you at an unsafe speed. The lane-keeping assist monitors the lines in the road and notices if you have not initiated your indicators. It sends a vibration through the steering wheel if you are carelessly meandering from lane to lane. The other nifty piece of technology fitted to the car is the blind-spot assist: through sensors in the wing mirrors, visual triangles illuminate between yellow and orange depending on the level of warning to alert the driver of any potential blind-spot accidents that could occur.
The B Class does its job well in most respects. It has the correct amount of power for urban use, good road-holding, and a comfortable road manner. It will accommodate four to five average-height passengers in comfort. It has the ability to carry large loads in the boot, all in a very frugal space-saving manner. It’s unfortunate that some of the active safety-features are optional extras because, when you start ticking the boxes on your order form for Harry Potter’s list of magical safety and entertainment options, the price does add up. My car had R 80 000 worth of optional equipment, of which I would have chosen at least R 50 000 of the magic. For between R 300 000 and R 360 000, and some additional bells and whistles, you will have a very safe and practical B Class car for a family or pre-family set up. At that price point there are a number of good alternatives but none that put a focus on safety as much as this medal winner does.
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