The new Mercedes-Benz A-class was caught on film, being tested in near-production-ready guise on the road in Germany. Two cars were caught on camera, with one apparently in higher-spec trim and the other in a lower form, as shown by the different wheel sizes. The cars were heavily camouflaged but the elongated wheelbase and sleeker design of the next-gen A-class was clear.
The new A-class will be 10mm longer than the current car and adopt a new floorpan and body structure that are claimed to provide it with significant increases in rigidity.
The increase in the car’s length is concentrated almost wholly within the wheelbase, providing improvements in interior packaging and the scope for larger rear-door apertures for added ease of entry and exit. The boot capacity has also grown beyond the nominal 341 litres of the current model.
Underpinning the new A-class is a redeveloped Modular Front Architecture (MFA) and a chassis featuring a MacPherson-strut front and a multi-link rear suspension. It supports Mercedes’ Drive Select function, which allows the driver to alter the characteristics of the steering, engine mapping, gearbox software and damping, using at least four different modes.
The roomier cabin has a brand-new dashboard that features higher-grade materials, digital instruments and a new touch-based COMAND 5 infotainment system. There is also a new steering wheel with touchpad controls, new sport seats and a raft of new driver assistance systems as part of Mercedes’ suite of Level-2 autonomous driving functions – benefiting from tech first demonstrated in the S-class.
Mercedes sales boss Britta Seeger hinted to our sister publication, Autocar UK, earlier in the year that this new tech would be integrated, giving the A-class the potential to steer and brake itself up to certain speeds. It'll do this using systems that are part of the car's lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control technology.
The future A-Class is the first of up to eight new compact cars, which include replacements for today’s B-Class, CLA and CLA Shooting Brake, as well as the GLA. There will also be an A-class Saloon – and its own 406hp A45 variant – a GLB and a possible new seven-seat version of the GLB.
The new A-class and its seven compact car siblings will feature a range of new four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines — all claimed to offer better economy and emissions than current units.
Kicking off the line-up will be the new M282 petrol engine. Developed in conjunction with parent company Daimler’s alliance partner, Renault, it will first be offered in 1.4-litre guise, providing the next A-class with a new entry-level point. A 1.2-litre version of this engine has also been engineered through to production maturity, although doubts remain over whether it will be used by Mercedes or remain exclusive to Renault.
Above it will be the M260 petrol engine, which has been developed in 1.6-litre and 2.0-litres guises. Both versions are planned to appear in the next A-class in a variety of different tunes. In its most powerful form, the M260 will feature a belt-driven generator capable of operating as a mild hybrid, with electrically assisted boosting and step-off in combination with a 48V electrical system.
The diesels will all be based around Mercedes’ latest 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine, the OM654, and come in up to three states of tune, according to engineering sources at the company’s Sindelfingen R&D centre.
A plug-in hybrid version is also planned as a rival to the Volkswagen Golf GTE. Details remain scarce, although it is expected to run the 1.4-litre version of the M282 four-cylinder petrol engine in combination with an electric motor housed within the forward section of Mercedes’ new nine-speed DCT gearbox. It will be one of a number of EQ Power-branded drivelines.
Insiders have suggested to Autocar UK, our sister publication, that the lithium battery pack for the new plug-in A-class will possess sufficient energy density for an all-electric range of up to 50km.
The new A-class will use revised versions of today’s six-speed manual and seven-speed DCT gearboxes. Selected models will also get an optional nine-speed DCT unit that supports a coasting mode together with kinetic energy regeneration. Alongside standard front-wheel drive, Mercedes will make the 4Matic all-wheel drive system available on higher-end models.