Mercedes finally gets it right with the new B-Class
The new Mercedes-Benz B-Class has a 208 hp turbocharged engine coupled to a seven-speed automatic transmission (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)
Published Saturday, December 22, 2012 7:00AM EST
I have covered many Mercedes-Benz product launches and, while I admire the engineering that goes into them, I have often come away saying, “It’s good, but...”. Finally I’ve attended one where I can say they got the whole thing right. It’s the all-new 2013 B-Class.
It’s a stylish, compact wagon that competes with the likes of the Toyota Venza, Audi A3, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford C-Maxx and others that aren’t quite either SUV’s or station wagons. But it is a segment with a lot of growth.
Generally, what Mercedes really wants to do is sell you an SLS AMG for a quarter of a million bucks or maybe a big S-Class Sedan for a little under two hundred. But if you have holes in your shoes and can only afford a shabby pair of jeans (and they still allow you into the showroom) you can pick up this cool looking, technology-laden wagon for a mere thirty grand. Three-pointed star included.
What you get is a super-efficient 208 hp turbocharged, 16 valve, direct gas injection, 4 cylinder engine coupled with a brilliant double-clutch seven speed automatic tranny. Exaggerated fuel economy numbers have been getting some automakers in a lot of trouble, not Mercedes so far, but they do swear that even with 200-plus horses it gets better combined economy numbers than the 148 hp Mazda3, the 132 hp Toyota Matrix or the 122 Nissan Versa. Mind you those cars cost thousands of dollars less but it does show that this is a very frugal little Merc.
Passenger safety in cars has improved so significantly over the years and Mercedes is at the forefront. The B-Class has virtually all the same safety technology as far more expensive models. First, of course, is the structure of the vehicle itself - and then they pack in nine airbags plus electronic stability and traction control along with a couple of new ones: Collision Attention Assist and Attention Assist. The former is a radar system that scans the road ahead for anything you’re about to crash into, sounds a warning then hits the brakes. Attention Assist is a driver surveillance system that watches to see if you’re driving in a way that suggests you’re falling asleep and then sounds the alarm.
What I’m telling you is that this is no stripped-down econo-Benz. They’ve given it their best stuff at a relatively low price to try and entice people with less surplus income than a mortgage broker to enter the brand.
Mercedes needs new customers - they’re slipping in the global luxury car market and are now third behind BMW and Audi. You could buy three of these B-Class things and still not hit six figures and that’s the way Mercedes has to think.
Canadians buy lots of this kind of car and so do Europeans and Chinese. In fact, it is sold just about everywhere except the U.S.A. For some reason the Yanks have decided it’s not snobby enough for their Mercedes customers so it’s not available there. Dumb.
This is a compact “sports tourer” that’s worth a Mercedes badge. It sits down nice and low, handles in a most balanced way, has plenty of power that the seven-speed gearbox keeps nicely under control. And there is tons of room inside for front seat, back seat and luggage.
It’s very comfortable too but don’t expect it to be as silent at cruising speed as that S-Class you didn’t want to spend two hundred on. And unfortunately you can’t attach a trailer hitch to it. So if you tow a boat or a trailer you’re out of luck.
I think they should go right after Mini customers with this. Yes, it’s not as edgy as a Mini but it does basically the same things with a lot more comfort and luxury. Mini is one of the reasons Mercedes can barely see BMW’s tail lights in the distance. BMW’s Mini has been a smash hit selling around 275,000 a year. The Mercedes smart car, while a commendable concept, has been an utter disaster financially.
I’ve been wrong before and will be wrong again, but I think this will be the best seller for M-B Canada for the foreseeable future.