Monday, June 18, 2012

Mercedes Concept A-Class Transcends Earthly Realm

Mercedes-Benz is calling the car its "Concept A-Class," but in all likelihood this car will be built or something very close to it. Without benefit of being able to show you a picture means that my words will have to sketch in your mind what this vehicle will look like. Importantly, I must explain the importance of bringing such a vehicle to market.

Auto Show Stopper

Scheduled to debut at auto shows in Shanghai and in New York this month, the Concept A-Class is a subcompact three-door hatchback with a long hood, narrow side windows and a tapered rear deck. Seating four passengers, the concept sits on huge wheels and is powered by its front wheels. Underneath its hood, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder direction injection engine resides, paired with a dual clutch transmission. This car is all about presenting an athletic look and backing it up with a compact engine that can move it with authority.

Inside, the concept evokes an airliner theme, with an aircraft styled dashboard, thrust lever and a center stack resembling the flight control panel you'd see on a commercial jet. In an unusual touch, Mercedes has made the dials shine bright red, evoking comparisons to the afterburners on a jet. Inside and out, you get the feeling that this car is fast and won't play second fiddle to anything else on the road.

Cabin Seat Comfort

Seating four passengers, the Concept A-Class offers a non-skid storage area immediately behind the rear seats. All four seat placements are bucket seats, demonstrating Mercedes' interest in offering individual seating comfort. This car features integrated smartphone technology and a three-dimensional center stack screen for navigation and entertainment purposes.

Getting the Concept A-Class to market shouldn't be much of a challenge. Whether it'll look like the car on display at auto shows in 2011 remains to be seen. Daimler AG, parent of Mercedes-Benz, will be gauging customer reaction. Likely, the footprint for this concept will underpin whatever M-B builds, with some smoothing out of the lines and calming down of the interior, but not by much. After all, Mercedes is in this market to win it, and it won't do so by playing it safe.

Build It, Buy It

Mercedes has been building subcompact cars for years and selling these models in Europe. In America, small, premium cars haven't been offered, because consumer tastes have always centered on cars that are big, roomy and powerful. With gas prices pushing near record levels, the trend to smaller, premium cars appears to be catching on. If M-B decides to build the Concept A-Class, chances are consumers will buy it.

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