The new-generation A-Class will be stepping into the limelight at the "Auto Mobil International" (AMI) motor show in Leipzig from 5th - 13th April, 2008. Following an extensive facelift, the successful compact car is younger, more attractive and more environmentally friendly than ever before.
The convenient ECO start/stop function is available for the first time for the high-volume A 150 and A 170 models, which reduces fuel consumption of these BlueEFFICIENCY vehicles by up to nine percent when driving in city traffic. Mercedes-Benz has developed an additional BlueEFFICIENCY package for the three-door A 160 CDI, reducing the Coupé’s fuel consumption to just 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
Independent experts have confirmed these major environmental advances by awarding the A‑Class an internationally valid Environmental Certificate - the world’s first compact car to receive such an accolade. The new-generation B-Class will also be celebrating its world premiere at the AMI. The sports tourer is now available with a petrol/natural-gas drive system for the very first time.
Since its world premiere in 1997, the A-Class has made a name for itself in the compact-car class as a trendsetter and groundbreaking innovator. Outstanding safety, everyday versatility and hallmark Mercedes reliability have always been the strengths of the A-Class, whose distinctive yet equally versatile concept has won over more than two million drivers since its launch.
The new-generation A-Class builds on these virtues: Mercedes-Benz is presenting a range of five-door saloon and three-door coupé versions in spring 2008, each sporting an all-round upgrade. The front end of the compact Mercedes -Benz is younger, yet at the same time more poised and assured than before. The sweeping lines of the new-look headlamps flow seamlessly along the front and into the flanks, which literally appear to have been moulded from a single piece.
The equally redesigned bumper reinforces this impression; its air intake at the bottom is noticeably larger, emphasising the width of the body. The radiator grille has also been redesigned to reinforce the progressive character of the A‑Class.
Design elements at the front help differentiate the A-Class lines even more clearly than before. For instance, the AVANTGARDE line features a specially designed bumper that further emphasises the arrow shape of the front and symbolises even more agility. Individual wheel designs help differentiate the side view of the A-Class lines. While the entry-level model comes with 15‑inch wheels with 7-spoke trim, the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE lines sport individually styled 16-inch light-alloy wheels. The new, larger exterior mirror housings and the door handles are now painted in the vehicle colour on all model variants.
The rear of the A-Class is dominated by a modified bumper and new-look tail lights that extend well into the flanks. Both features ensure that the body looks wider and even more powerful.
Interior: larger stowage compartments and new fabrics further upgrade the interior
The Mercedes designers also paid particular attention to increasing perceived value when it came to revamping the interior, selecting a range of new high-grade upholstery fabrics and door trim. In addition, new trim elements made out of smoke grey, diagonally brushed aluminium add an upscale feel to the interior of the AVANTGARDE line, while the distinguished ambience of the ELEGANCE model is reinforced through wood trim elements. All variants of the A-Class come with a larger stowage compartment in the centre console and a new-look cup holder between the front seats.
Economy: the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY consumes just 4.5 litres
The new-generation A-Class emphasises its economy with fuel consumption of between 4.9 and 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres. Thanks to further detailed enhancements, fuel consumption of the sophisticated direct-injection diesel engines has been reduced by over 8 percent or 0.5 litres per 100 kilometres compared with the outgoing models. From autumn 2008, Mercedes-Benz will supply a standard-fit BlueEFFICIENCY package for the three-door A 160 CDIwith manual transmission, which further improves engine efficiency, aerodynamics, rolling resistance, energy management and weight. Taken together, these measures add up to a fuel saving of 0.4 litres so that the A 160 CDIBlueEFFICIENCY consumes just 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres on the NEDC cycle. CO2 emissions of the 60 kW/82 hp coupé are 119 grams per kilometre.
The BlueEFFICIENCY package includes an aerodynamically optimised radiator grille, the rear side of which is sealed off, thus reducing the volume of air flowing into the engine compartment; despite this, sufficient cooling for the CDI engine is ensured at all times. The bodywork has also been lowered by 10 millimetres to further reduce wind drag. The Mercedes engineers have leveraged further potential to save fuel by dynamically controlling the power supply on board the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY to save energy. The generator management system consistently converts the power generated when the engine decelerates (i.e. on the overrun) into electrical energy, which is then used to recharge the battery in an optimum, energy-efficient manner.
Start/stop function: the engine automatically switches off when idling
The Mercedes engineers have achieved fuel savings for the petrol-engined models of up to 0.4 litres per 100 kilometres on the NEDC cycle thanks to the newly developed ECO start/stop function. This system will be available for the high-volume A 150 BlueEFFICIENCY and A 170 BlueEFFICIENCY models from autumn 2008. It automatically switches the engine off when the driver shifts to neutral at low speed whilst depressing the brake pedal. A special display in the instrument cluster informs the driver if the conditions for switching off the engine are met.
The moment the clutch is pressed or the brake pedal released, the engine springs back to life almost noiselessly and in a fraction of a second. This ability to restart the engine swiftly yet smoothly gives the Mercedes technology a key edge over other systems of this type.
The ECOstart/stop function further reduces fuel consumption by around 6.5 percent on the NEDC cycle. The A 150 BlueEFFICIENCY (70 kW/95 hp) completes the cycle with fuel consumption figures of 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres , the equivalent of 139 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre.
Even greater savings can be made in urban traffic, as the results of extensive field testing show: Mercedes employees have tested the system in 175 test vehicles, notching up some 1.2 million kilometres in the process. Around half of this marathon testing schedule involved driving on urban roads where the new ECOstart/stop function produced fuel savings of up to nine percent.
Environment: the A-Class is the first compact-class car with an Environmental Certificate
These kinds of practical results are all-important to Mercedes-Benz when it comes to assessing new technologies. The Stuttgart-based brand assesses the environmental compatibility of vehicles not just on the basis of the results of standardised exhaust emissions and fuel consumption measurements but also looks at the entire lifecycle - from manufacture through use over many years to end-of-life disposal. The analysis of more than 40,000 individual processes provides a complete picture that helps the engineers objectively assess development work.
This lifecycle assessment forms the basis for the Environmental Certificate based on the stringent international ISO standard 14062 "Design For Environment" which the A-Class is the world’s first compact car to receive.
Safety: flashing brake lights warn drivers behind
Mercedes-Benz has also enhanced safety and comfort in the A-Class. Technology from the luxury-class segment has found its way into the compact car with the adaptive brake lights, which add another accident prevention system to the standard specification. During emergency braking when travelling at more than 50 km/h, the brake lights flash at high frequency to warn drivers behind who can consequently react faster and are in a better position to prevent an accident.
The A-Class also sets new standards in this market segment in the area of occupant protection with two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners for the front and outer rear seats, belt force limiters, active front head restraints and head/thorax sidebags. Mercedes-Benz is now complementing this extensive safety technology with crash-responsive emergency lighting in the interior, which comes on automatically after an accident of a defined severity to provide occupants with better orientation and make the task of the emergency services easier.
Parking assist: ultrasound and electric steering make parking easier
In future, A-Class owners will have assistance looking for a parking space and when reverse parking, courtesy of active parking assist, which is optionally available for all model variants. Using newly developed ultrasonic sensors on the sides the system looks for an appropriate spot on either side of the road as the A-Class drives by and informs the driver via a display in the instrument cluster. Once a suitable spot has been found, an arrow also appears in the display, informing the driver on which side of the road the parking spot is located. If the driver selects reverse, accepts the suggested space and depresses the accelerator, active parking assist takes over and manoeuvres the A-Class automatically into the space. The driver simply needs to press the accelerator pedal and use the brake; the ultrasonic sensors associated with PARKTRONIC provide assistance and information on the distance to the vehicle in front of and behind the A-Class.
To be able to use the automatic parking feature, the parking spot only has to be 1.30 metres longer than the A-Class - an indication of the technology’s tremendous precision. Thanks to the very compact dimensions of the A-Class, a parking space of just around 5.19 metres long is sufficient to park; no other car can automatically park in such a small space.
The Mercedes engineers have added a new function to the tried-and-trusted assistance system on the A-Class: the Electronic Stability Program (ESP®) on the A-Class now comes with automatic hill-start assist, which prevents the compact car from rolling backwards if the driver moves his or her foot from the brake to the accelerator pedal when moving off on an uphill slope.
Audio: new units offer Bluetooth, colour display and Europe-wide navigation
Just like all the other new Mercedes models in 2008, the A-Class also comes with enhanced units that provide information, communication, navigation and entertainment. The new Audio 50 APS is fitted with a colour display, Europe-wide DVD navigation system and DVD drive, while the top-of-the-range COMAND APS includes hard-disc navigation, Music Register, a slot for SD memory cards and a voice-operated control system. The newly developed, interactive media interface provides even more options for in-car listening pleasure by allowing an optional MP3 player, USBstick or another external audio device to be connected to the A-Class infotainment system.
B-Class: sports tourer with petrol/natural-gas drive system for the first time Mercedes-Benz has also revamped the design and technology of the B-Class - the success story launched three years ago. Thanks to a series of detailed improvements, the four-cylinder engines now burn up to seven percent less fuel than previously, and distinguish themselves with remarkably low exhaust emissions that undercut the current EU limits by as much as 90 percent. As with the A-Class, the new ECO start/stop function is also available for the high-volume B 150 and B 170 models. Another new development for the B-Class comes in the shape of the bivalent petrol/natural-gas drive system in the B 170 NGT BlueEFFICIENCY, which consumes just 4.9 kilograms of natural gas per 100 kilometres. Converted into the equivalent quantity of petrol energy, the fuel cost per kilometre is around 50 percent less than when running on petrol.
Since 1997 the A-Class has self-confidently and emphatically shown itself to be a cut above other compact cars, and set standards in safety, practicality and reliability. To date around 1.7 million customers worldwide have been convinced by these and the many other qualities. More than half of these are new Mercedes customers – clear testimony to the great attractiveness of this vehicle.
In numerous respects the new-generation A-Class is now a more attractive proposition. Its design, equipment, technology, economy and environmental compatibility have been improved further, which means that the best and also most innovative A-Class ever is making its debut in spring 2008.
Individuality continues to be another hallmark of this model, with a choice of two body versions designed to appeal to different customer groups: the five-door A-Class with its great day-to-day variability and practicality, and the three-door Coupé which adds a special youthful and sporty appeal to the outstanding safety and comfort attributes. Further options to realise individual wishes are offered by the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE design and equipment lines, as well as by special equipment packages and optional extras.
As before, the A-Class is available with a choice of seven four-cylinder engines which are combined with a five or six-speed manual transmission, depending on the level of torque. The variable AUTOTRONIC transmission is available on request. The output range of these engines extends from 60 kW/82 hp to 142 kW/193 hp. With a fuel consumption of 4.5 to 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres (combined NEDC consumption), these four-cylinder units are among the most economical engines in their displacement and output classes.
New driver support systems as standard equipment
The A-Class is distinctly superior to other compact cars where safety and comfort features are concerned. The standard appointments already include adaptive front airbags, head/thorax sidebags, adaptive belt force limiters, crash-responsive front head restraints, a multifunction steering wheel, speed-sensitive power steering (parameter steering), a selective damping system and air conditioning.
Now Mercedes-Benz has extended this large range of features with more standard equipment and new driver support systems which further enhance both safety and comfort:
- Larger-capacity stowage compartment between the front seats
- Exterior mirrors painted in the vehicle colour
- Adaptive, flashing brake lights
- Crash-responsive emergency lighting
- Cupholder in a new design
- Power windows with one-touch control
- Headlamp assist
- Luggage cover
- Wheel embellishers in a new design
- Upholstery fabrics in a new design
- Door handles painted in the vehicle colour
- Ambient and warning light in the tailgate
ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE with even more individual features
The ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE lines are highlighted by additional comfort and design features. The features introduced with the model facelift include the following in addition to the basic model:
- Oval exhaust tailpipe of polished stainless steel
- Chrome trim strip above the side skirts
- Front apron with chrome insert, in a distinctive design for the AVANTGARDE line
- Rear bumper with chrome inserts and reflector-look, additional black insert for the AVANTGARDE line
- 16-inch light-alloy wheels in a 10 twin-spoke design (ELEGANCE) or five-spoke design (AVANTGARDE)
- Leather-lined steering wheel
- Foglamps with chrome surround
- Seat upholstery in fabric and ARTICO man-made leather
- Luxury seat package with front seat cushion angle adjustment, front lumbar supports and height-adjustable front passenger seat
- Myrtle wood trim (ELEGANCE) or diagonally brushed aluminium trim in smoke-silver (AVANTGARDE)
New optional extras for more economy and comfort
The list of available optional extras continues to include high-tech systems which are by no means to be expected in this vehicle class. For example the newly developed infotainment units, which boast a colour display, Bluetooth interface, telephone keypad and a connection for external audio units depending on the model. The new top-of-the-line Audio 50 APS and COMAND APS units also have additional functions such as Europe-wide navigation and a DVD drive. COMAND APS is also equipped with a voice control system as standard.
Another outstanding technical highlight is the new active parking assist, which helps the driver to reverse into parking spaces and carries out all the necessary steering movements automatically. The newly developed optional extras for the A-Class at a glance:
- Active parking assist
- Audio 20, on request also with an integrated 6 CD-changer
- Audio 50 APS with Europe-wide DVD navigation, on request with an integrated 6 DVD-changer
- COMAND APS with HDD navigation and map display
- ECO start-stop function (for A 150 and A 170 with manual transmission)
- LINGUATRONIC voice control with whole-word commands
- „Logic7®“ surround-sound system
- Media interface for external music units
A number of optional extras are also included in the attractive equipment packages which Mercedes-Benz has put together for the A-Class. These are the Light and Sight Package, the Sports Package and the new Selective Package. This includes a leather interior, electrically adjustable front seats with heating and the THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control system.
Short and practical – that was the succinct motto with which Mercedes designers embarked on a completely new challenge in the mid-1990s. The aim was to design an automobile whose unique bodyshell concept demanded equally original design ideas: the A-Class.
The fact that the designers came up with the right ideas is demonstrated by the success of this Mercedes compact car, whose design lines continue to reflect its essential character: youthful, progressive and dynamic.
For the new A-Class, which was presented to the public for the first time in spring 2008, the successful one-box design has been improved upon in a number of details. The aim was to emphasise the presence and superiority of this compact car with tighter, more striking body contours. This was mainly achieved by a revised front-end design with new headlamps, an even more imposing front bumper and a modified radiator grille.
The bumper of the A-Class has a pronounced arrow-shape as a characteristic feature of the Mercedes design idiom. This unmistakably conveys attributes such as forward-flowing energy, performance and agility. It is matched by the sharper contours of the front bumper and its enlarged lower air intake, which emphasises the width of the body and lends it a more muscular appearance.
The radiator grille is more striking than before, and an eye-catching central feature of the front end. The headlamps, bumper, radiator grille and bonnet form an extremely harmonious unit which reflects the greatest precision in both formal and technical terms. In other words, everything appears to be cast from a single mould.
Clearer distinction between the lines
Redesigning the front end provided the opportunity to emphasise the appearance of the lines more clearly, thereby underlining the individual characters of the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE models more emphatically. While the lines were previously distinguished mainly by the design of the radiator grille, the front bumper and lower cooling air intake now also act as distinguishing features:
In the basic model the louvres in the radiator grille are in dark-grey, and the lower air intake in the bumper is divided by a cross-piece painted in the vehicle colour.
In the ELEGANCE line the louvres of the radiator grille are painted in metallic atlas grey, with slim chrome trim strips on the leading edges. The bumper is likewise embellished with chrome inserts, and the foglamps in the bumper’s lower air intakes have chrome surrounds.
In the AVANTGARDE line Mercedes-Benz paints the louvres of the radiator grille in iridium silver, emphasising this decidedly elegant look with additional chrome trim strips on the leading edges of the louvres. The front bumper has a distinctive design which emphasises the arrow-shape of the front end. The prominent lower air intake is subdivided by two angled sections. Discreet chrome trim strips and chrome surrounds on the foglamps further enhance the overall appearance.
Elegant side aspect
The A-Class is more elegant than before when viewed from the side, and mainly for two reasons: firstly because the exterior mirror housings and door handles in all lines are painted in the vehicle colour, and secondly because the designers have dispensed with the previous side rubbing strips, which are replaced by fine chrome trim strips in the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE models. The wheel embellishers and light-alloy wheels have also been redesigned. The basic model now has a 7-spoke wheel embellisher, while the two lines are shod with eye-catching 16-inch light-alloy wheels in a 10 twin-spoke design (ELEGANCE) and 5-spoke design (AVANTGARDE). The light-alloy wheels are painted in titanium silver.
Powerful highlights at the rear
The new-generation A-Class is also significantly different from the preceding series when viewed from the rear. The rear bumper, tail lights and exhaust tailpipe are in a new design which further emphasises the width of the body to ensure a more muscular appearance. The designers achieved this by reshaping the rear light clusters, whose height has been reduced. As a result they blend into the rear-end design more harmoniously, ensuring an attractive visual transition to the vehicle flanks.
At the rear end, discreet design features serve to differentiate between the lines:
In the basic model, the redesigned and ergonomically improved handle of the tailgate is in black.
The tailgate handle is chrome-plated in the ELEGANCE line. In addition the rear bumper is upgraded by a reflector-look at both ends, and the oval exhaust pipe has a stainless steel tailpipe.
In the AVANTGARDE line the lower section of the rear bumper is distinguished by a black centre section. Standard features also include a chrome-plated tailgate handle, the reflector-look and polished stainless steel exhaust tailpipe.
New fabrics, colours and trim elements in the interior
The first impression when entering the A-Class is one of generous spaciousness. In addition to large window surfaces, this is ensured by a harmonious design and colour concept which lends the interior a bright, friendly and yet dramatic atmosphere. A high value impression results from the use of first-class materials and a very high standard of finish.
For the new-generation, Mercedes designers have selected new, high-grade upholstery fabrics and door linings which emphasise the homely interior atmosphere. The upholstery fabrics for the basic model are available in single-tone black and orient beige, or in a combination of black/multicolour. In the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE lines the seats impress with an elegant combination of ARTICO man-made leather and fabric available in a choice of three colours: black, orient beige and alpaca grey.
The centre console is attractively bordered by vertical trim strips. In the basic version these border strips are in shining black plastic of high quality, while the ELEGANCE line has trim strips of fine myrtle wood and the AVANTGARDE line a sporty trim of smoke-grey, diagonally brushed aluminium. The inner door panels are also embellished with trim strips made from these materials.
A leather-lined steering wheel, chrome surrounds on the door loudspeakers, a leather-lined shift lever and parking brake lever and the new luxury seating package are further features of the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE models. All variants of the A-Class share a larger stowage compartment in the centre console and a newly designed cupholder between the front seats.
The A-Class remains true to its role as a technological trendsetter. Mercedes engineers have developed new systems for this compact car that bring major progress in important areas – notably safety, comfort, economy and environmental compatibility.
One major aspect is the further reduction of fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. Mercedes-Benz has thoroughly re-examined the car, and achieved remarkable results by making detailed improvements: compared to the previous series, the new-generation A-Class consumes around eight percent less fuel per 100 kilometres. The Mercedes hit-list of particularly economical models is headed by Coupé version of the A 160 CDI, which is equipped with a new BlueEFFICIENCY package as standard. This reduces the NEDC fuel consumption of the three-door car to 4.5 litres per 100 kilometres, which is 0.4 litres below the previous figure. CO2 emissions are nine grams lower at 119 grams per kilometre.
BlueEFFICIENCY is the new trademark for particularly economical and environmentally compatible Mercedes passenger cars. Mercedes engineers have utilised the potentials from various development areas to reduce fuel consumption even further by means of lightweight construction, a lower air and rolling resistance and more efficient energy management. In the A 160 CDIBlueEFFICIENCY, it is particularly the aerodynamic measures and demand-related control of the generator that make themselves felt in terms of fuel consumption:
The suspension has been lowered by ten millimetres, thereby exposing a smaller frontal area to the airstream. The inner surface of the radiator grille is enclosed, reducing the volume of air flowing into the engine compartment. This significantly reduces the drag coefficient, but has no negative effect on engine cooling.
The generator of the A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY is controlled according to demand, and therefore effectively contributes to fuel economy. This energy management is based on sensor information about the battery’s charge status. If it has a sufficient charge, the output of the generator is reduced for certain periods. This reduces the work required of the CDI engine, which therefore consumes less fuel. To recharge the battery the system utilises the engine’s overrun phases, and therefore its braking energy, which is converted into electrical energy by recuperation.
The three-door A 160 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY is available with a five-speed manual transmission from autumn 2008.
Fuel savings of up to nine percent with the ECO start-stop function
During the design and development of their BlueEFFICIENCY measures, the Mercedes specialists were primarily guided by the actual user behaviour of Mercedes customers as identified by a large-scale practical analysis. These data covering the day-to-day operating conditions and profiles of Mercedes car models have shown that the A-Class is predominantly used for short and medium-range journeys with frequent traffic light stops, stop-and-go traffic and tailbacks. Accordingly Mercedes -Benz has developed a technology which offers significant fuel consumption advantages in such traffic situations: the ECO start-stop function. From autumn 2008 this will be optionally available for the high-volume models A 150 and A 170 equipped with the five-speed manual transmission, which will also receive the BlueEFFICIENCY hallmark thanks to this technology. The ECOstart-stop function lowers fuel consumption and exhaust emissions by automatically switching off the engine during idling phases. The driver is informed by a special display in the instrument cluster if and when the conditions for engine switch-off are met. When travelling at low speed, he only needs to shift the manual transmission to neutral and apply the brakes. The engine is then switched off, and the ECO display appears in the instrument cluster.
The ECO start-stop function demonstrates its superiority over other systems of this kind when restarting the engine. This process is not only very fast, but also particularly quiet when the driver operates the clutch or releases the brakes. This is the major advantage of the newly developed starter generator, which is directly integrated into the engine’s belt drive and powers the crankshaft — much quicker and quieter than with the conventional starter. During a journey the starter generator acts as an alternator and feeds electrical power to the onboard network. An intelligent control system ensures that the battery is only recharged when necessary, with particular use of the engine’s overrun phases when braking energy can be converted into electrical energy by recuperation.
The ECO start-stop function features an electronic control unit which adapts the functions of the system to the operating conditions of the A-Class. This means that the engine is not switched off at low or very high ambient temperatures, so that the heating or air conditioning continue to operate at their full efficiency.
Mercedes-Benz has subjected the ECO start-stop function to extensive practical trials in which around 175 test cars covered approx. 1.2 million kilometres. Roughly half of these journeys were in city traffic, where the new system offers impressive advantages: fuel savings of up to nine percent and a reduction in NEDC fuel consumption by around 6.5 percent. The A 150 BlueEFFICIENCY consumes 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which makes it 0.4 litres more economical than the A 150 without the ECOstart-stop function. In the case of the A 170 BlueEFFICIENCY the fuel saving is 0.5 litres per 100 kilometres.
Extended safety features including emergency interior lighting
Safety is another major attribute of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. In addition to the unique body concept, which offers advantages in the event of a frontal or side impact, an effective seat belt and airbag system provides the level of occupant safety typical of a Mercedes. This includes adaptive, two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners in the front and for the outer rear seats, and adaptive belt force limiters and head/thorax sidebags in the front. The use of high-strength steel alloys, extremely strong bonded connections and robust structural members in the bodyshell also ensures that the occupants are well protected even during a serious accident.
Mercedes-Benz has supplemented this extensive range of safety features with an emergency interior lighting system which is switched on automatically following a serious collision. This provides the occupants with better orientation at night, and facilitates the work of the emergency services when recovering injured passengers.
Flashing brake lights as an effective warning when danger threatens
In the field of active safety, the A-Class benefits from the technological leadership of the Mercedes models in the luxury and super-luxury class. In addition to ESP®, Brake Assist and other systems which make driving safer and demonstrably contribute to accident prevention, Mercedes-Benz is now equipping the A-Class with a new development that is able to lower the risk of rear-end collisions: flashing brake lights.
This invention is based on the findings obtained from accident research, which show that three quarters of all serious traffic accidents could be avoided if drivers were given a clear warning of potential danger at an early stage. Mercedes engineers therefore developed the flashing brake light system and tested its effectiveness during practical trials. These showed that the braking response times of drivers are reduced by an average of up to 0.2 seconds if a flashing red warning signal is given instead of conventional brake lights in an emergency braking situation. As a result the stopping distance of the vehicle behind is reduced by around 4.40 metres at a speed of 80 km/h, and even by around 5.50 metres at 100 km/h.
Flashing brake lights are therefore an effective means of preventing rear-end collisions. Thanks to this technology now included as standard, driving is therefore also made safer for those not travelling in a Mercedes-Benz.
Mercedes specialists tested various warning lights during the course of this study. Brake lights that flash more rapidly than the hazard warning lights during emergency braking proved to be particularly effective in warning following traffic of an impending rear-end collision. The Mercedes study also revealed that switching on the hazard warning system in a critical situation has only an insignificant effect on the reaction time of other drivers.
Automatic parking with ultrasound
Newly developed driver support systems and functions not only make travel in the A-Class even safer, but also more comfortable. For example, Mercedes-Benz have enhanced the Electronic Stability Program with a new, standard function aimed at increased comfort: the automatic hill-holder. This prevents the car from rolling backwards when the driver changes from the brake pedal to the accelerator when moving off on an uphill gradient. In these situations ESP® maintains the brake pressure for a short time, so that the driver can move off smoothly.
Finding and reversing the A-Class into a parking space is also made easier and more convenient with the newly developed, optional parking assist system, which uses ten ultrasonic sensors. These sensors are active up to a speed of 35 km/h, and monitor the area to the left and right of the A-Class, measuring the length and depth of possible parking spaces. A "P" symbol in the instrument cluster informs the driver that this electronic search for a parking space is in progress.
Once a suitable parking space has been found, an arrow appears in the display to inform the driver on which side of the road the parking space is located. Now the driver only needs to stop, engage reverse gear and confirm his acceptance of the recommended parking space by pressing a key on the multifunction steering wheel. As soon as he operates the accelerator, active parking assist takes over the steering and automatically manoeuvres the car into the parking space. The driver only needs to accelerate and operate the brakes; the ultrasonic sensors of the PARKTRONIC system assist him in this by keeping him informed about the distance to the vehicle in front of and behind the A-Class.
The ten ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumpers send their information to an electronic control unit, which not only measures the size of the parking space but also calculates the best possible entry path. The data are fed to the electromechanical power steering of the A-Class, whose electric motor performs the necessary steering movements of its own accord.
Active parking assist enables drivers to use suitable parking spaces which they would normally consider too small and pass by. This is because the parking space only needs to be 1.30 metres longer than the A-Class for this automatic parking procedure to take place – an indication of the great precision of this technology. Thanks to the compact dimensions of the A-Class, a parking space with a length of just 5.18 metres or so is sufficient.
New infotainment units for a digital music experience
Information, communication, navigation and entertainment – four terms which are nowadays just as important to drivers as e.g. agile handling, a high standard of comfort or a powerful engine. Nobody wants to be without news, telephone, route guidance or musical enjoyment, even in the car. Accordingly these topics enjoy a very high priority during the development of new Mercedes models. The engineers in Sindelfingen have developed new systems for the A-Class which bring cutting-edge technology from the luxury class to the compact class.
There is a choice of three new units, all of them with a colour display, a twin or triple tuner for superior radio reception, speed-sensitive volume control, a keypad for entering telephone numbers and radio frequencies, a connection for external audio units and a Bluetooth interface that wirelessly connects a mobile phone to the onboard hands-free system.
Audio 20 with CD-player
This car radio with an integral CD-player (MP3-capable) includes an FM/ MW, AM and LW tuner with automatic station search, RDS (during FM reception), direct frequency input via the keypad in the centre console and a 5-inch colour display.
Audio 50 APS with DVD navigation
This infotainment system combines a car radio, telephone exchange and Europe-wide DVD navigation system in a single head unit. The route guidance information – with zoom function – is arrow-based and appears on a 5-inch colour display. The integral DVD drive can be used for navigation or audio data. If the optional 6 DVD-changer is specified, Audio 50 APS also includes the improved LINGUATRONIC voice control system with whole-word commands.
COMAND APS with HDD navigation and music register
This multimedia system has a Europe-wide navigation system whose data are stored on a hard disc (40 gigabytes), allowing particularly fast access to the navigation data and faster route calculation. The route map is shown on a 6.5-inch, high-resolution colour display. COMAND APS also includes a music register with a memory capacity of four gigabytes. This enables the driver to store around 1000 music tracks in the MP3 format from CDs, DVDs or memory cards. The system automatically recognises the titles and performers, and shows them on the colour display. Above the colour display the unit has a slot for SD memory cards which can also be used to store music files. COMAND APS also features voice control as standard, and a 6 DVD-changer is available on request.
The Audio 5car radio with its familiar functions and features remains part of the range available for the A-Class.
Interactive interface for an iPod etc.
Equipping COMAND APS with a music register and memory card slot shows that entertainment was an important aspect during the development of the new audio units: Mercedes customers are able to compile their own musical playlist and take it with them on an SD card. Now an iPod, USBstick or other external audio unit can also be connected to the onboard infotainment system of the A-Class. A newly developed universal media interface available ex factory for all the infotainment systems makes this possible. All that is required is a suitable cable which is available from the Mercedes accessories range.
This interface is much more than just an electronic “socket” in the glove compartment. The new technology also includes a control unit that connects the external music files with the onboard electronics and operating system of the A-Class. This means that the music stored in an iPod is also displayed in the instrument cluster and the colour display in the centre console, and can be conveniently selected using the keys on the multifunction steering wheel. While the portable audio unit is connected to the onboard system via the media interface, its battery is also charged.
The ultimate musical enjoyment is guaranteed if the optional “Logic7®” surround-sound system is ordered. This offers a natural 360-degree sound experience for all the occupants – a concert hall on wheels. It makes no difference whether the music source is a DVD or CD, or whether the recording is in Dolby 5.1 Surround or normal stereo. The music signals are distributed via twelve loudspeakers (Coupé: ten) and a 450-watt amplifier.
Voice control with whole-word commands
Voice control is standard equipment in the A-Class if Mercedes customers specify Audio 50 APS with a 6 DVD-changer or the COMAND APS multimedia unit. LINGUATRONIC operates the telephone, audio and navigation systems particularly conveniently by whole-word commands. This means that the driver need no longer spell out his commands, but merely has to say what he requires when entering a destination, selecting a radio station or choosing a name from the stored telephone directory.
During this brief dialogue the sound signal is digitised, converted into a frequency range and analysed. Within milliseconds the computer identifies various characteristics of the voice signal and recognises what are known as the phonemes or linguistic components. The electronics rapidly check each sound, join the different phonemes together, compare them with the contents of a stored phoneme dictionary and ascertain the acoustic probability of the word. This enables the system to recognise even very minor differences in pronunciation, e.g. between the words "Town" and "Down". The phonemes of six different languages are stored in the system.
With LINGUATRONIC Mercedes-Benz makes an important contribution to traffic safety, as the driver no longer needs to take his hands off the wheel to operate the telephone or audio equipment. His workload is reduced and he is better able to concentrate on the traffic situation. In 1996 Mercedes -Benz was the first automobile brand to offer such an onboard system. The first-generation LINGUATRONIC system only required a processor with a memory capacity of 512 kilobytes, but more than ten megabytes are now needed for the greatly increased capabilities of the voice control system.