The latest A-Class hatchback

Even before the first units of the all-new fourth generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback begin shipping to customers in Europe next month, the carmaker is presenting a new 3-box sedan variant of the compact model at Auto China in Beijing today. It’s not surprising these days that Mercedes-Benz, like other major carmakers, chooses China for the global debut of new models since the largest auto market in the world contributes greatly to its sales volume each year.

At this time, the variant – referred to as the A-Class L Sedan – is intended only for China, produced exclusively at Beijing Benz Automotive Co., Ltd, a joint venture between Daimler and its Chinese partner BAIC Motor.

For other markets, there is another variant that may be slightly different which Mercedes-Benz will reveal sometime in the second half of this year. It is possible that the global version may not have the extended wheelbase that is highlighted, this being needed for China where there is a preference for longer cars. No doubt, the sedan will eventually come to Malaysia which has traditionally been a sedan market (although the bestselling model has been a hatchback for many years).

“With our Chinese customers’ wishes and needs in mind, we developed the A‑Class L Sedan for the local market, which is the first and only long wheelbase model in the premium compact car segment,” said Hubertus Troska, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Greater China. “This long wheelbase version offers added space, with a rear compartment dedicated to meeting local preferences. And given our customers in China are young and connected, our new, intuitive MBUX telematics system gives them a highly individualized digital experience. With these highlight features and more, the A‑Class L Sedan is an excellent choice for our Chinese customers. We believe it will promote our further growth as our fifth model produced locally at BBAC, and we will build it in China, for China together with our partner BAIC.”

Based on the Concept A Sedan shown in Shanghai a year ago, the A-Class L Sedan reflects the purist, surface-accentuating design of the latest Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of Sensual Purity. The compact form has very short overhangs at front and rear which, in combination with the side feature line, reinforces the sporty image.

As on the hatchback model, the progressive design is achieved by the low, drawn-out bonnet, flat headlamps with chrome elements, and torch-like daytime driving lights – plus the diamond radiator grille with single louvre, chrome pins, and central star. There is a choice of Sedan and Sport Sedan versions, with the latter featuring powerdomes on the bonnet. Rose gold is an exclusive paint finish planned for the Chinese market.

The greenhouse over the cabin, which sits far back, and the compact rear end emphasise the sportiness of the vehicle. The wheels fit flush in the wheelarches and, like the strongly pronounced shoulders in the rear area, give the car a square stance on the road.

As in the hatchback, the interior is a completely new departure with a stronger feeling of spaciousness. The interior architecture along with the displays and controls is an avant-garde highlight in this segment. For the first time, the cowl above the instrument panel area has been completely dispensed with. As a result, the wing-shaped main body of the dashboard with its trim level extends from one front door to the other with no visual discontinuity.

Below this main body is a low-lying section, the so-called ‘wing’. This element appears to float, as there are no connections or shape transitions to the surrounding area. The ambience lighting with up to 64 colour choices reinforces this effect and is a new interior experience, especially for customers in China. The wing also forms the basis for the turbine-look air vents, which are embedded in trim, and the completely free-standing widescreen display.

On board is the MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – multimedia system with unique learning abilities, thanks to artificial intelligence. The popular WeChatMyCar app is integrated and MBUX makes it possible, for the first time, for two or more users to connect simultaneously to the system. The intelligent voice control with natural speech recognition is proficient in various Chinese dialects, including Sichuanese and Cantonese. Mercedes-Benz is the world’s first automotive manufacturer to provide navigation display featuring augmented reality technology on the Chinese market.

When developing the Chinese A-Class L Sedan, a focal point was the kneeroom for rear passengers. As a result, at 2789 mm, the wheelbase is 60 mm longer than in the hatchback model. The boot has a capacity of 420 litres.

When the A-Class L Sedan goes on sale in China from the middle of this year, the power unit under the bonnet will be the M282 engine. This is the 1.33-litre all-aluminium 4-cylinder petrol engine from Renault which has been adapted by Mercedes-Benz for use in the new A-Class. It will be available with outputs of 136 ps and 163 ps (with cylinder shut-off) and comes with a 7G-DCT transmission as standard. Later on, a 2‑litre 4-cylinder engine with CONICSHAPE trumpet honing and CAMTRONIC variable valve timing will also be offered, this producing 190 ps.

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[Chips Yap]

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