Mercedes-Benz walks away with the coveted AutoTrader South African Car Of The Year trophy with their ultra-modern champion
By RUBIN VAN NIEKERK
Recently I had the rare privilege to observe the magnificent Mercedes-Benz A-Class under the most stringent testing conditions as a jury member at the 2019 AutoTrader South African Car Of The Year competition. Most cars will show up some weaknesses, especially at the Kyalami race track, but the A-Class remained steadfast and unperturbed. The top 5 cars tend to be retested by several journalists, which toughens the endurance challenge. Also knowing how popular it also was with the public, as well as the jury, I expected it to do well, however any technical failure is disastrous for any favourite. Fortunately, it passed the technical endurance test with flying colours and made history by winning the South African Car Of The Year title as well as its category. Historically a first as categories were just introduced. This sought-after award was presented at a spectacular function at Shepstone Gardens in Johannesburg on 4 April. The win was an extremely momentous occasion for Mercedes-Benz, who last won the South African Car Of The Year in 1987 with the Mercedes-Benz 260E.
The judges were particularly impressed with its interior comfort, stunning design, innovative technology, terrific road manners and exemplary safety features. Furthermore, the advanced engine offers the optimal blend of efficiency, performance and driving fun.
Most impressively, I do not think any other car in South Africa has evolved as much as the A-Class over the same time. It sets the benchmark for luxury in the compact car segment with an unrivalled user experience through MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) that heralds a new era in Mercedes me connectivity.
The best-seller success story of the compact cars from Mercedes-Benz began 21 years ago, with the launch of the first-generation A-Class. Since then, nearly 6 million Mercedes-Benz compact cars have been delivered worldwide, 3 million of which were A-Class models.
“The expansion and rejuvenation of the compact car range are key factors behind the sustained market success that Mercedes-Benz enjoys. The Mercedes-Benz brand has also become noticeably more youthful since the introduction of the third-generation compact models,” says Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO of Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars.
The youthful, but now grown up A-Class offers more utility value and is slightly larger than its predecessor. Sensual Purity is the next step in the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy as portrayed in the purist, surface-accentuating design. A longer wheelbase and larger wheel arches for bigger wheels, make it sit more squarely on the road.
Being the aerodynamic leader in its segment the A-Class has a tough to beat, incredibly low Cd figure of only 0,25. All the wheel spoilers are specifically optimised to achieve low airflow losses around the wheels, while wind noise inside the avant-garde looking cabin has also been significantly reduced.
A feeling of spaciousness is accentuated by the increased shoulder, elbow and headroom. Access to the rear is easier and the 370 litre boot is 8% bigger with a wider loading aperture. All-round visibility has improved which enhances both safety and the impression of spaciousness.
MBUX, the new multimedia system, is a revolution of the user experience in the car. It learns and adapts to suit the user through artificial intelligence so the more a user interacts with it, the more the new A-Class becomes just like them. In addition, it offers intelligent voice control with natural language comprehension. By using the phrase “Hey Mercedes”, users can adjust the air-conditioning, send a text message, find the quickest route, or even change radio stations.
“The new A-Class offers modern luxury at a level previously unthought of in the compact segment. It uses technology to create an emotional connection between the vehicle and driver,” says Selvin Govender, Marketing Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa.
MBUX has new and improved Mercedes me connect services that include navigation functions like emergency braking, On-Street Prediction, Real-Time Information and Off-Street Information, which save time and reduce stress levels when searching for a parking space.
Some functions were previously the preserve of the luxury class, like real-time parking and the ability to drive semi-autonomously in certain situations with improved camera and radar systems that see up to 500m ahead.
Extended Active Brake Assist effectively helps to mitigate the consequences of rear-end collisions and responds to crossing pedestrians and cyclists to help prevent collisions altogether.
Two new engine variants are available namely the A 200 and the A 250 Sport, while diesel models are expected soon. Both models benefit from new engines. The A 200 is powered by a 1,33-litre unit which generates 120kW and 250Nm of torque with a 7G DCT dual-clutch transmission (5,2 l/100 km). The 2,0-litre engine of the A 250 Sport generates 165kW and 350Nm, and is available with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch transmission which provides a claimed fuel consumption of 6,2 l/100 km.
There is a choice of suspension systems depending on engine variant and driver preference. The A 250 Sport is equipped with adaptive damping in combination with larger wheels, giving it a sophisticated four-link rear suspension and the proportion of aluminium in the suspension components is one of the highest in this vehicle segment.
The standard comfort suspension has steel springs and DYNAMIC SELECT. It is lowered by 15mm and specially configured springs and dampers gives more sporty characteristics. The suspension with active damping control enables the driver to choose the preferred damping characteristics at the touch of a button.
Great suspension aside, the concept that a car learns to behave like you is incredibly futuristic and embodies advanced evolution in automotive technology.
Pricing ranges from R499 000 to R593 300 and includes a 5-year/100 000km Motor Plan.