It’s just a few inches shorter and nearly as wide as the C-Class

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Chinese-specific A-Class L has a serious resemblance to the current-gen C-Class. It’s so similar, in fact, that it looks like a facelifted version of the C-Class inside and out, albeit with some upper-trim-level standard features and a slightly (and I do mean slightly) smaller presence. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it’s far from what you would call a compact, despite the fact that Mercedes is boasting it as the first and only long-wheelbase compact car in the Chinese market. Sorry folks, but this is just a C-Class with smaller overhangs. Let’s look at things a little closer.

Mercedes A-Class L Sedan Exterior

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It really does look like a C-Class, but it does stand out in its own right.

It really does look like a C-Class, but it does stand out in its own right. It’s got sleeker headlights, and the front fascia is a little different. It has the usual AMG grille and those fake air intakes in the corners of the fascia. Like the C-Class, it even has those weird notches ahead of the front wheel wells. The side profile features a stout line below the belt line and a mild line toward the bottom of the doors. The bottom line is very similar to the that of the C-Class while the upper line is longer and more pronounced. The window trim is identical while the rear is only differentiated by a different set of taillights that are actually split between the rear quarters and the rear decklid. On that note, they are much more attractive than those found on the C-Class. The rear fascia is similar as well, featuring a similar rear diffuser and those weird vents in the corners. Seems more like a facelifted C-Class, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s a bit shorter, to tell you the truth.

Mercedes Took the C-Class, Gave it a Face Lift, and Calls it the A-Class L in China Exterior
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Mercedes says it measures 181.45 inches long, 70.7 inches wide, and 57.48 inches tall.

Mercedes says it measures 181.45 inches long, 70.7 inches wide, and 57.48 inches tall. It has a wheelbase of 109.80. That makes it just a hair shorter in the length and width department and 0.48 inches taller than the current C-Class. So, with the length coming in shorter by just three inches (clearly lost due to the shorter overhangs) and width falling just at just 0.6 inches less, wouldn’t it just make more sense to go with the C-Class instead? Can this thing really be considered a true compact?

Comparing the Figures

Mercedes A-Class L Sedan Mercedes C-Class
Length 181.45 in 184.5 in
Width 70.7 in 71.3 in
Height 57.48 in 57.0 in
Wheelbase 109.80 in 111.8 in

Mercedes A-Class L Sedan Interior

Mercedes Took the C-Class, Gave it a Face Lift, and Calls it the A-Class L in China Interior
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Mercedes decided to go with a double-screen layout for the dash – giving the A-Class a full digital instrument cluster and the new MBUX infotainment system

This is where things get different but remain suspiciously familiar. First off, Mercedes decided to go with a double-screen layout for the dash – giving the A-Class a full digital instrument cluster and the new MBUX infotainment system. It delivers voice control, speech recognition in various Chinese dialects (including Sichuanese and Cantonese,) and Navigation with augmented reality – something Mercedes wants you to know is a world first on the Chinese market. Outside of the large displays ahead of the driver, the dashboard is rather bland. It does have the familiar tri-circular-vent layout on the center stack, but the upper tier of the dash is flat while the lower tier has a bubbled look to it.

The center console is relatively thin, featuring that touchpad controller in the center along with a few buttons. A cubby sits ahead of the controller and HVAC controls sit just above that. The door trim panels get a new-for-Mercedes look with the pull handles located at the front of the armrests and a large storage area down below. The nice thing here, however, is that the design of the dash and door trim panels, and the way they come together, give an emphasis of width that you just don’t get from the C-Class of even the E-Class, not that the latter needed that emphasis, anyway.

Mercedes Took the C-Class, Gave it a Face Lift, and Calls it the A-Class L in China Interior
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The seats have a sunk-in portion in the middle that just looks comfortable from afar, and there’s an overwhelming sense of space here

The rear end of the new A-Class L Sedan is attractive and inviting. The seats have a sunk-in portion in the middle that just looks comfortable from afar, and there’s an overwhelming sense of space here. Notice how the trim beyond the doors are thinned out and compared to the trim above and below? That’s done specifically to provide more elbow and shoulder room. It’s not your typical long wheelbase model for China, so there isn’t some hidden footrest, massive center console with a champagne chiller, or a big screen TV anywhere, but it’s pretty luxurious and comfortable for anyone that wants to sit back here. With that in mind, this isn’t a car designed for wealthy businessmen that want to be driven around. No, this is for guys who want something sporty and just a bit smaller than the C-Class.

Mercedes A-Class L Sedan Performance

Mercedes Took the C-Class, Gave it a Face Lift, and Calls it the A-Class L in China Exterior
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The initial engine offering is a 1.33-liter four-cylinder that can be tuned to deliver 134 horsepower (100 kW) or 160 horsepower (120 kW)

So, it’s about the same size as a C-Class, and get’s some of the same optional equipment as standard, but what about the power? Well, this is where the A-Class L Sedan really fits into the compact market. The initial engine offering is a 1.33-liter four-cylinder that can be tuned to deliver 134 horsepower (100 kW) or 160 horsepower (120 kW). There’s no word on torque output yet, but it’s probably best not to expect much. It will feature cylinder shut-off to offer better efficiency and all-aluminum construction. After launch, Mercedes will begin offering a 2.0-liter mill that features “CONICSHAPE trumpet honing” and “CAMTRONIC variable valve timing.” Mercedes claims we can expect an output of 187 horsepower or 140 kW. As with the previous engine, there’s no word on torque figures, but we do know all three engines will mate to a seven-speed, 7G-DCT, dual-clutch transmission as standard equipment.

Mercedes says the new A-Class L Sedan will come with its latest driving assistance systems and will adopt functions from the range-topping S-Class, including cooperative driver support.

Final Thoughts

Mercedes Took the C-Class, Gave it a Face Lift, and Calls it the A-Class L in China Exterior Wallpaper quality
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There’s no word on how much the A-Class L Sedan will set you back, but considering it’s basically a slightly smaller C-Class with all of the options, you can expect it to carry a somewhat hefty price tag for something in the “compact” market. Of course, don’t expect this thing to come to the U.S. anytime soon. It was built specifically for the Chinese market, and it’s way too similar in size and appearance to the C-Class to ever get even the smallest foothold here in the States. When you consider the small power figures and the C-Class-like sizing, it will be interesting to see how this model is accepted into the Chinese market. We know it wouldn’t fly here in the States, but the little differences here and the A-Class badge might be enough for it to have a chance. We’ll just have to wait and see.

References

2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Exterior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class.

2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Exterior Interior
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Read our full review on the 2018 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

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Read more Mercedes-Benz news.

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Read more 2018 Beijing Auto Show news.

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