ROAD TEST

MERCEDES-BENZ B-CLASS

March 4, 2019 – Published in Design & Decor Spring 2019 issue

Family values

Words Malcolm J. Naudi

There is a time for everything in life, depending on what your professional and family responsibilities bring with them. Just as there is a time for an A-Class if you are downsizing or want an entry to the Mercedes-Benz family, similarly if you need space and still want something compact, without necessarily going for a full-blown SUV, there is the B-Class, which is a Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV).


Such a sensible yet now entirely dynamic step up, with improved looks over the outgoing model and great levels of comfort, stability and safety inside. It is referred to as a Sports Tourer, yet I see it as a practical family car, with its high seating position, increased levels of interior space and the solidity that comes with a Merc.


According to Daimler AG Chief Design Officer Gorden Wagener, “the new B-Class blends seamlessly into the design language of Sensual Purity”. The design brief was to make the new B-Class stand out visually from the world of minivans. That brief was executed, with the long wheelbase (2,729 mm – 30 mm longer than the outgoing model), short overhangs, slightly lowered roof line and larger (17-inch on the test model) wheels, making for dynamic proportions.


The progressive front end, with flowing transition from bonnet to A-pillar and on to the windscreen, along with the muscular shoulder of the body, underlines the sporty overall look. With a cd (drag coefficient) starting at 0.24, the new B-Class trumps its predecessor (value starting at 0.25 cd) and is the leader in its segment.


The low-profile headlamps, with a high-grade, detailed and precisely designed interior even on the entry level model, with H7 headlamps and LED daytime running lights (featuring fibre-optic technology), further enhance the sporty looks. When ordered with LED headlamps or higher, the B-Class comes with its own daytime running light signature in the form of a double torch.


The optional MULTIBEAM LED headlamps look especially sporty. They allow fast, electronically controlled adjustment to suit the current traffic conditions. This feature, typically from the luxury class, made its début in the compact segment in the new A-Class, and now produces striking looks and added safety also in the new B-Class.


At the rear, the width of the vehicle is accentuated by two-part lamps, reflectors integrated in the bumper and a distinctive black bumper bottom section with diffuser look and chrome trim strip surrounding the double exhaust. The large roof spoiler, along with high-gloss black spoilers at the sides of the rear window, makes for improved aerodynamics while ensuring a sporty appearance.


Inside there is ample room for five adults or a couple of car chairs plus three adults. The rear seat is split so either the middle part or the two end seats can be folded forward individually (40:20:40). The emphasis has clearly been on increasing passenger space, with maximum luggage space of 1,540 litres more or less the same as the outgoing model.


There is a choice of both petrol and diesel direct injection turbo engines, with the model on test being powered by a 1,461 cc, 116 bhp four-cylinder diesel mounted transversely. The key number to look at is the maximum torque (pulling power) of 260 Nm at between 1,750 and 2,500 rpm. All engines being offered comply with the Euro 6d-TEMP limits.


The B-Class has a drive that suits your style, with four options: Comfort, Economy, Sport and Individual (allowing further personalisation). My test route over 81 km in the north of the island, sometimes in heavy traffic, especially due to the roadworks all over the place, still enabled me to return an average 5.9 l/100 km (47.8 mpg), with the manufacturer claiming 4.0 l/100 km in the combined and city cycles and 3.7 l/100 km in the extra urban cycle.


As in other models in the Mercedes-Benz range, the seven-speed automatic (7G-DCT) gearbox is seamless, with the option for manual override thanks to the paddles behind the multi-function steering column (since the driving position is 90 mm higher than in the A-Class, there is no need for compromises – you get a full function, round steering wheel). The higher powered engines come with the 8G-DCT automatic gearbox.


I never cease to be amazed by the technology that is in these cars. The B-Class now benefits from driving assistance systems with co-operative driver support, providing one of the highest levels of active safety in its segment, incorporating functions from the S-Class. For the first time, the B-Class is able to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations.


To do so, it employs improved camera and radar systems to anticipate the traffic up to 500 m ahead, while using map and navigation data for assistance functions. For example, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC as part of the optional Driving Assistance package is able to support the driver in many route-specific situations, predictively and conveniently adjusting the speed when approaching bends, junctions, roundabouts and in traffic.


Also, on board are Active Emergency Stop Assist and intuitively understandable Active Lane Change Assist. Extended Active Brake Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist are both standard throughout the range. This can help mitigate the severity of rear-end collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead – and now even with crossing pedestrians or cyclists – or prevent them altogether.


Finally, the MBUX is a user experience revolution for its 3D graphics, intuitive operation including via touchscreen and ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice-operated control, with the ability to learn, as well as functions such as MBUX Augmented Reality. The new MBUX is of a modular concept, allowing the driver to purchase what is needed when needed since it is software based.


Standard features for the entry level model, starting at €31,700, include the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system; Communications module; manual gearbox (automatic is available); the mirror package; climate control; a tyre pressure monitoring system (tyres are 205/55R17 on 17-inch alloys) and a five-year service plan.


The extra optional features that come with the Progressive model on test were the Polar White paint, smartphone integration package, blind spot assistant, extended MBUX functions, a panoramic sliding sunroof, touchpad, all-digital instrument panel, LED headlamps, media display, 64-colour ambient interior lighting, keyless-Go package, parking package with a 360° camera, and velour floor mats, which take the price up to €46,400.
The B-Class has come a long way and is a clear example of a car that enlarges the Mercedes-Benz model offering with characteristics that are unique and distinguishable from other Mercedes-Benz models and the competition.

Visit the Auto Sales showroom in Lija to book a test drive, or book online by visiting: www.autosales.com.mt

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