Mercedes: Class meets economy

The revamped B-Class has left room for future fuel cell technologies. Photo / Supplied
The revamped B-Class has left room for future fuel cell technologies. Photo / Supplied

The wraps are off the new Mercedes B-Class - and as this picture shows, it looks much sleeker than the model it replaces, thanks to the curvy design language introduced on the latest CLS four-door coupe.

The sharp crease and tick on the flanks are recognisable Mercedes-Benz traits, as is the bold three-bar grille. A more steeply raked roofline gives the B-Class a sportier stance than before.

Inside, the sweeping dash incorporates big SLS-style metal air vents, and can be finished in a choice of classy wood or metal trim. A large display sitting above the centre console has been shaped to mimic an Apple iPad.

Driver and passengers can use this to navigate the brand's Comand media interface. The colour screen is available in 15cm or 17cm sizes, and gives passengers internet access via a 3G phone connection.

The luxury feel is worthy of far more expensive models, thanks to an extensive list of gadgets taken from the rest of the Mercedes-Benz range.

This includes Distronic radar-guided cruise control and fatigue sensors. Plus, the advanced braking system helps perform emergency stops if it senses an imminent collision. High-spec models get heated leather seats as standard.

Under the skin, engineers have concentrated on improving refinement and agility, so the new model's centre of gravity is 30mm lower than in the original B-Class.

This has been made possible by ditching the old car's "sandwich" architecture in favour of a more traditional construction.

There's also a clever multi-link rear suspension set-up that will help improve handling and ride comfort. In addition, buyers can specify a Sport package, which will lower the suspension and quicken up the steering for a more engaging drive.

The engines promise to be among the most efficient in the class, with Mercedes-Benz claiming that the standard diesels will "offer the same fuel economy as a VW Golf BlueMotion".

The carmaker is most likely referring to the 1.8-litre CDI, which should deliver sub-100gr/km CO2 emissions and return fuel economy of around 4 litres/100km (70mpg).

A 2.1-litre diesel - currently offered in the C and E-Class - will also be available, and an all-new 1.6-litre petrol turbo is on the cards, too.

Mercedes-Benz has engineered an "energy space" beneath the passenger compartment. This can be used to store batteries or even a fuel cell for future all-electric or hydrogen-powered cars, expected to debut in 2014. On top of that, the next B-Class's chassis will form the basis for a range of new models, including a four-door coupe and a small SUV.

The newcomer will debut in the flesh at the Frankfurt motor show.

- NZ Herald

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