Frankfurt motor show 2011 - Mercedes B-Class

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• Second-generation family car
• Price from £21,500 (est)
• On sale April 2012

The new Mercedes B-Class is Mercedes’ big news at Frankfurt. The second-generation model has a new platform and advanced technology that will be shared with a family of future Mercedes models.

What’s it like inside?
The new B-Class is longer, wider and lower. It doesn’t have the current car’s ‘sandwich floor’, where the engine is designed to slide under the passenger compartment in a collision. Instead, there’s a longer front end to provide crash protection and a lower floor that gives a more conventional driving position; you no longer feel like you’re sitting with your legs stretched out ahead of you.

Inside, the current car’s austere, angular design has gone, replaced by a curvy dash with large circular air vents. Mercedes says the design is inspired by nature, and that its cabins had become too rational and devoid of emotion.

A display screen, unashamedly iPad-like in appearance, takes centre stage. It comes in two sizes, depending on trim, and is linked to a controller on the centre console.

The B-Class will be practical, with plenty of head- and legroom and a 488-litre boot. A split/folding rear seat will be standard; sliding rear seats will be an option.

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Technical details
At launch, the B-Class will be available with four new engines. There will be 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol units with 121- or 154bhp and engineered to provide high torque at low engine revs. There’ll be 1.8-litre diesel engines with 107- or 134bhp, which are based on the 2.1-litre diesel engines used in Mercedes’ larger cars. Six-speed manual gearboxes and a new seven-speed dual-clutch transmission will be available.

Mercedes has engineered the B-Class to run on more than just petrol or diesel. The floorplan has been developed to accommodate various powertrains. Eventually, there could be an all-electric version, an electric range-extender model, a plug-in hybrid and a version powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

Five key facts:
• Lower and wider
• Various power sources planned
• Dual-clutch semi-auto option
• Advanced safety features
• New 1.8-litre diesel engines

A huge range of active and passive safety features will be fitted as standard or available as options. Collision Prevention Assist – which uses radar technology to monitor the road in front and warn the driver if a collision is imminent – will be standard. Every B-Class will have Attention Assist and front-, side-, curtain- and driver’s knee airbags. Rear side airbags will be optional.

Should I buy one?
The B-Class goes on sale in April 2012. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but we’d expect it to start at around £21,500.

A range of cars using the same technology and platform as the B-Class will follow. The next A-Class will arrive later in 2012;
the five-door being followed by a sportier three-door. A compact SUV and a mini-CLS-style saloon are also due.

Also on the Merc stand is a range-extender B-Class concept. Like the Vauxhall Ampera, the E-Cell Plus combines an electric motor with a small petrol engine, but it can manage up to 62 miles on pure electric power (the Ampera can only manage around 40).

After the batteries run out of juice, a three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol engine generates enough electric to keep you going. At higher speeds it helps out further by driving the wheels directly.

Mercedes says the E-Cell emits just 32g/km of CO2 on the combined driving cycle. Yet despite this performance isn't too shabby: 0-62mph takes 11.0 seconds and top speed is 93 mph.

A road-going version of the E-Cell is expected to go on sale in 2014.

Frankfurt motor show 2011 - Mercedes F 125!


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