NY Show 2011 Highlights: Mercedes A-Class Concept

With automakers from St. Petersburg to Seoul presenting show cars heralded as the future of wheeled urban logistics, the Mercedes-Benz A-class concept taking the stand at this year’s New York auto show is a breath of fresh air. (It also will be simultaneously unveiled at the Shanghai auto show.) There are no electric motors spinning the rubber here—a conventional engine and transmission motivate the curvaceous car. It previews Benz’s upcoming competitor for the Audi A3, Volkswagen Golf, and BMW 1-series.

Benz’s first preview of its next-gen small cars came via the F800 Style concept, and this A-class concept moves the design language one step closer to reality. Still, despite this car’s connection to an actual future product, don’t expect everything from the concept on the stand in New York to be duplicated in production.

Among the A-class’s pure auto-show fantasies: the LED-lit turn signals delicately integrated into the sliver of a mount for the side-view mirrors and the “star-filled sky” pattern on the grill and lower air dam. The same can be said for the wheels—very cool, but very much not happening.

Other aspects of the concept’s design are no less bold—but more realistic. The prominent strake starting behind the front wheel and sweeping up to the top of the rear fender is abrupt; it could be toned down for the real deal, and the same goes for the AMG-esque hood strakes. The elegant side-window profile recalls those on several Mercedes coupes, and the ginormous headlights, which here are illuminated by LEDs and integrate fiber-optic daytime running lights, are straight outta the CLS.

Both the current, second-gen A-class and its predecessor were front-wheel drive, and the next A will be no different. The concept packs a transversely mounted 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine under the hood—it’s turbocharged and direct-injected, and Mercedes says it’s good for 210 hp. The engine is from the automaker’s newest family of four-bangers. It’s hooked to a new dual-clutch transmission, and though the company is mum on its number of gears or provenance, we’d guess that it has at least seven cogs.

Unlike previous A-classes, however, this model and its spin-offs—more on those below—will sit much closer to the ground. The first two A-class generations had a “sandwich” floor meant to accommodate the batteries for an electric-drive system. It never happened in much volume—some 500 A-class E-cells were leased—but the layout meant that even the conventionally powered cars looked like mini MPVs. As the new A-class concept demonstrates, the dorky upright look will be reserved for the B-class, while the A is more reminiscent of Volkswagen’s racy Euro-market Scirocco.

Thanks to: Car and Driver


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