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Merc A-Class: An SA game-changer

2013-04-15 08:51

AN SA MARKET GAME-CHANGER: Mark Fetherston, team leader of the new A-project back in Mercedes-Benz’ headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, explains the intricacies of the A-Class radiator grille. Image: DAVE FALL

Author: DAVE FALL

 

It was touted as the biggest car launch in South Africa thus far this year – a claim that, in my opinion, is most certainly justified. What am I talking about? The launch of the new, fully-imported A-Class from Mercedes-Benz, of course!

Mercedes-Benz South Africa president and CEO, Dr Martin Zimmermann told me at the launch in Cape Town: "Mercedes-Benz is becoming the most dynamic premium brand in the world."

A NEW LEGACY

As part of this development, the A-Class represents an important milestone. The A-Class is completely new, right down to the last minute detail.

“It’s not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper in automotive development. Our designers and engineers have made the very most of that opportunity.”

That quote was putting it mildly: the new A-Class is to my mind simply stupendous in looks and the way it drives. With prices starting at R273 718 for the 1.6 A180 BE version – this car is a real game-changer.

There’s a six-model range for South African buyers (plus diesel derivatives) with the range-topping A250 Sport version coming in at just below R400 000 – R392 606 actually – with an AMG version of the model due in SA before the end of 2013, according to Zimmermann.

CHANGING THE RULES

Mercedes-Benz reckons it is opening up a whole new chapter in the compact segment by offering this their powerful new engine line-up offering from 80 to 155kW; best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.27 and, to prove the point about being really efficient in today’s world, the emissions tariff offers 98g of CO2/km.

It’s plain to see that this new model bears absolutely no resemblance to the outgoing model.

Divisional manager of MBSA, Mayur Bhana, said “If you still want a boxy, mom’s taxi with the three-pointed star you’ll have to step up the B-Class - a vehicle that still has a place in its own right.”

The slogan for the completely redesigned and totally fresh-looking A-Class is “The best or nothing.” How apt, methinks, because a lot of customers who would have until now been looking, for instance, at a BMW 1 Series , an Audi A3 or maybe even the new Golf will most certainly beat a path to Mercedes-Benz showrooms up and down the country – if only to get a test ride.

It’s that good.

Some background to the car reveals it was introduced to European buyers nine months earlier (July 2012) due to the fact that the biggest growth and demand revolves around the premium compact car segment.

Zimmermann emphasised: “Six billion cars of this type have been sold globally since 2011 from many manufacturers – a figure expected to rise to 10.6-billion by 2020.”

LOOKING GOOD

Mark Fetherston, team leader of the project back in Stuttgart, Germany, attended the SA launch and had this to say: “The new A-Class has a long, sporty front with a pronounced V-shape, separate headlights, radiator grille with a central Mercedes star and double slats to either side of the star, as well as the additional air intakes on the sides.

“The ‘dropping line’ apparent in the profile dissipates towards the vehicle's front. The design of the headlights, together with the configuration of the light functions within them, is key design elements.

“The light modules and LEDs behind the headlights covers have been arranged to create the characteristic ‘flare effect’ for the daytime driving lights and indicators.”

Moving inside the A-Class there seems to have been a step forward in terms of quality – both in the materials used and in the consistency of the design. The instrument cluster comprises two large round dials, each containing a small dial set. At rest, the dial needles stand at 6 o'clock.

FEELING SPORTY

The pointer inlays are white, although those in the sportier design and equipment lines such as Urban and AMG Sport are red. The dials on the sporty equipment lines and packages are silver with a chequered flag effect. The three-spoked leather-covered steering wheel comes with 12 function buttons and an electroplated three-star logo bezel.

To drive, this new model is simply superb. Without doubt you know you are driving a Mercedes-Benz, albeit the entry-level variety. All the cars available to test at launch were “loaded” with extras – one by as much as R95 000! I really don’t think Mercedes-Benz was simply out to impress motoring hacks, rather revealing how easy it is to “customise” your purchase with your cheque book.

Standard fare, incidentally, on the base model includes six-speed manual transmission, multifunction steering wheel, aircon, tyre pressure loss warning and all the usual creature comforts such as a six-CD/radio audio system, multiple crash bags, ECO start/stop function and front fog lights.

Undoubtedly there’s room for five adults because the rear seat provides ample room for three passengers. The boot volume is 341 litres, based on the VDA standard. If the rear seat backrests are folded down its capacity jumps to 1157 litres.

In all models the rear backrests split 60:40 and can be folded forward individually. The width of the luggage compartment between the wheel housings is 1050mm. Dimensions: measuring 4292 x 1780 x 1433 mm (length x width x height), compared with its predecessor (which followed an obvious very different design) the height of the vehicle has been reduced by 160mm.

• The A-Class has been a best-seller for a number of generations. Since its market launch in 1997 it has blazed a trail for a new vehicle class with its unique design, becoming a driving force in the compact car segment.

The second generation, launched in 2005, sold more than a million worldwide.

PRICES
A180 BE - R273 718
A200 BE - R296 632
A250 BE Sport - R392 606
A180 CDI BE - R300 000
A180 CDI BE a/t - R310 100
A220 CDI BE a/t -R355 000


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