Having presented its vision for the tippy-top of the luxury market with a Maybach sedan-SUV mashup, Mercedes-Benz now is unveiling in China its car for proletariat, the new A-Class sedan. It's the smallest and least-expensive Benz without a Smart badge, and a version of it will be coming to the U.S., Mercedes has confirmed to dealers.
The A-Class being shown at Auto China 2018 in Beijing is a China-only long-wheelbase version of the new sedan, stretched about 2.4 inches between the wheels to provide a bigger backseat, which in China may be where the owner rides. Other makes, such as BMW and Volvo, also produce long-wheelbase version of their smaller sedans for this market.
The new car's styling is very much like the Concept A sedan shown in Shanghai a year ago. And we've seen the sleek new interior and advanced technology already in the new-generation A-Class hatchback (which the U.S. won't get) that was unveiled at Geneva in March; it'll go on sale in Europe in June, where it competes against the Volkswagen Golf and other hatchbacks. Both versions share Mercedes' new front-end look, with a large grille, aggressive front bumper and low hood. Wheels from 16 to 19 inches will fill the big wheel arches. There also is a sport version with sportier appearance and interior. See more of the styling and interior in the photo gallery below.
The A-Class models long have been sold globally but not here. In the U.S., the new sedan will slide in for 2019 below its CLA sedan and GLA hatchback cousins-in-size. It also is more of a notchback sedan than the CLA, which sports a steep-sloping "four-door coupe" roofline. The long-wheelbase version for China — Mercedes' largest sales market in 2017 — and the regular-wheelbase sedan for global markets both will roll out in the second half of this year.
The redesign is not just about a pretty new face and interior. Mercedes is loading up the little car with its latest technology, including driver assistance and active safety features adapted from the new S-Class and a downsized version of Mercedes' sophisticated new MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) multimedia and control system. The intuitive system uses artificial intelligence to adapt to the user, anticipate needs and appointments, and improve voice recognition and response.
The fancy twin-screen system (7 inches each in the A-Class hatch versus 10.25 in the S-Class), which floats as a single unit above the low dashboard, uses one display for instruments and information, and the other as a touchscreen for multimedia and controls. There also is touchpad control for the system on the console and the steering wheel. But beyond the touch controls, a highlight is the improved no-hands voice interaction, which Mercedes says will learn to respond to natural language commands given in the way you want to say them. For China, that also means being understanding multiple Chinese dialects.
U.S. powertrains have not been announced; the lineup for China includes 1.33-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines, while Europe also gets a diesel. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
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