Is America Ready For The New Mercedes A-Class?

April 7, 2011

Mercedes-Benz will be showing a high-performance version of their A-Class urban commuter at both the upcoming Shanghai and New York Auto Shows.

Long a favorite in the space-starved EU, the Mercedes A-Class is small even by European standards; larger than a Smart Fortwo, the A-Class is still smaller than both the MINI Cooper and the Fiat 500. Will a car this size be a hit in America, long the home of the pickup and full-size SUV? Mercedes-Benz is betting that the answer is yes. While the Concept A-Class is being shown as styling exercise, make no mistake that Mercedes-Benz will be gauging customer interest in the diminutive four-seat hatchback.

Taking the car from concept to production shouldn’t prove difficult--and Mercedes is embarking on a major expansion of its Alabama production facility for future needs. So don’t be surprised if Mercedes announces U.S. sales of the A-Class following the New York Auto Show.

The Concept A-Class features a transverse-mounted, four-cylinder engine sending power to the front wheels. The 2.0-liter engine benefits from both direct injection and turbocharging, and is mated to a new Mercedes-Benz dual-clutch transmission. The Concept A-Class is rated at 210 horsepower, which should make it among the most entertaining rides in the compact class. More pedestrian variants (with improved fuel economy) will also be offered, but Mercedes is using the highest performance version to build interest in the A-Class product line.

As you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz, the Concept A-Class incorporates cutting edge technology. It’s the first compact-class car to feature a radar-based collision warning system, which also ties to Mercedes’ Brake Assist system, ensuring that maximum braking effort is delivered as early as possible. The manufacturer also boasts of fully integrated smartphone technology, although Mercedes stops short of revealing exactly what functions can be controlled via a linked phone.

There's no word or detail on how much the A-Class could have in common with a future small Infiniti, one based on the Etherea concept from the recent Geneva motor show. Daimler and Nissan-Renault are official business partners now, which makes a combined effort on small cars all the more likely.

There’s no doubt that we’ll see the new A-Class in Europe in the very near future, and rising gas prices may encourage Mercedes-Benz to sell the car, or even build it, on this side of the pond as well. If they price it right, and if gas continues its steady upward climb, then Mercedes may have a new way to tackle small cars from all around the luxury world.

2011 Infiniti Etherea Concept

2011 Infiniti Etherea Concept

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