Last Updated at
- 10:19 am, September 12, 2012
We take Merc’s sports-tourer for a spin around the Buddh International Circuit.
Mercedes Benz gave us a quick spin of its upcoming B-class sports-tourer around the F1 circuit in Noida. The car we drove was a B200 petrol which is likely to come to India before the diesel version. However, there are limited aspects that we’ll talk about since the car we drove was a left-hand-drive, Euro-spec version.
The design of the B-class is more or less similar to the one that we’ll get in India soon. The front end has familiar design elements seen on all the new Mercedes Benz cars. The headlights have the Mercedes Benz SUV-inspired styling with the eye-lash-like placement for the LED turn-blinkers. The bumper mounted, daytime-running LEDs are similar to the ones that you can have on the E-class. The grille is typical Mercedes Benz too.
However, look at the car from the front-three-quarter angle and the face looks a tad disproportionate. The headlights try to give the nose a sharp character, but the flat and relatively low grille, the raised bonnet and the significantly high windshield and roofline make the nose and the rest of the body appear disconnected. However, this face is set to become familiar soon as it will find its way on the upcoming compact sedan and crossover based on the New Generation Compact Car (NGCC) platform.
The side profile too makes the disproportionate styling evident. However, it also highlights the beefy size of the B-class. Though not entirely visible in these photos, thanks to the funky decals on the bodywork, the B-class gets a stylized crease that runs along the length of the doors – and looks like it was inspired from an ice-hockey stick! You’ll see such creases on all the new Mercs that will roll into India in the recent future. The roofline of the B-class recedes towards the tail end and makes the side profile look smarter than the front end. The reclining roof also makes sure that the B-class doesn’t look van-like like the previous generation model (which wasn’t sold in India).
The tailgate also contributes to this end with its large wedge-shaped taillights, which look more stylized than the predecessor’s. The roof spoiler adds a nice touch too, while the recesses on the spoiler and the presence of a chrome plate between the boot-lip and the bumper add a tiny bit of ruggedness to the design – making the entire tail look like a scaled-down version of the M-class’ tailgate.
Overall, the B-class looks like a puffed up hatchback or a scaled down station wagon / MPV – whichever way you look at it – with all the current Mercedes Benz styling elements. It definitely doesn’t look SUV-ish like the BMW X1 or the Audi Q3 – the two primary opponents that it targets – but fortunately, the B-class doesn’t look like anything else on the road either, which gives this sports tourer its exclusivity.
The B-class will be the smallest Mercedes Benz car that will be available in India this year – both in terms of size and price. However, the interiors will remind you of the priciest Mercedes Benz car that is sold in India – the SLS AMG. No, it doesn’t have any winged doors or a flat-bottom steering wheel, but what catches your attention instantly is the cross-bun design of the A/C vents, which look funky. The steering wheel too has a new design with a three-spoke layout, unlike the four-spoke one on the current crop of Mercs. What you’ll also like is the tablet-like high-resolution LCD screen that sticks out from the dash. We expect the Indian version to show radio, audio and vehicle information only. But we would be glad to see satellite navigation too – since Merc likes to call the B-class a sports tourer.
The front seats are large unlike what the B-class’ mini-MPV form-factor would suggest – but that said, don’t expect C-class level of comfort. The seats have all the adjustments that you expect from a luxury car – height, reach, recline, lumbar and even headrest reach. The rear seats are adequately large too. Since the B-class is a front-wheel drive car, you don’t get the usual transmission tunnel sticking out of the floor – therefore the floor is flat and you can accommodate a third person in the backseat without making them sit in discomfort. On the European version of the B-class, you can have the rear seats with an adjustable recline – let’s wait and watch if Mercedes Benz India brings that option too.
I’ll leave out things like ride quality, NVH levels and engine performance for a proper road test – because the car we drove was left hand drive, manual, with the gearstick on the wrong side and the mechanicals that underpinned our test car may not even make it to India. What we need to talk about though is the front wheel drive mechanism, which really makes the headlines with the New Generation Compact Cars (NGCC) platform that underpins the B-class, the A-class and all the future compacts that will be introduced by Mercedes Benz in the coming few years.
As I mentioned in the beginning, we drove this car on the Buddh International Circuit – no, I’m not rubbing it in – what I’m trying to highlight instead is the fact that the quick drive involved quite a few high speed turns. The B-class does have that wee bit of under-steer when you push the car into a bend at high speed – blame that to the FWD configuration. The car doesn’t feel as agile or planted as a typical rear-wheel drive Mercedes Benz. You always have that feeling that the under-steer might prevent you from negotiating the bend with precision – but the array of computers under the hood make sure that things don’t go wrong.
The braking feels spot-on and the feedback is linear. The steering wheel has a dead at-centre feel but feels better otherwise. It weighs up decently well at speed but doesn’t really feel like a point-and-shoot-controller. But the overall setup is acceptable for a car that is more of a compact people carrier than a track tool – though our test destination may have suggested otherwise.
In fact, the B isn’t a hot-hatch or a SUV or a full-blown MPV – it just tries very hard at being all of those in one compact package. The way I see it, the B-class is just a bloated hatchback that offers premium quality interiors and good creature and luggage space, while being a good mile-muncher. How it handles the Indian conditions, remains to be seen.
First Published on 01:33 am, September 12, 2012
Rohit (Rash) Paradkar
He is called "Rash" for a reason. He loves his toys, this boy. If it's cool, he's either got it or most probably gotten tired of it by the time you've discovered it. His one dear aim is to convert every Windows and Android user into a customer for Apple.