Mercedes-Benz has released the first images of its upcoming A-class replacement. The 2012 production A-class will be previewed by this Concept A-class, which makes its simultaneous debut at the 2011 Shanghai and New York motor shows.
Mercedes Concept A-class: Wait... that's an A-class?
Yes, it really is. Mercedes have ditched the sandwich floor, high-rise A-class platform with the new 2011 Concept A-class. The next A-class will be a conventional front-wheel drive hatchback in the mould of the VW Golf or more specifically its upwardly-mobile cousin, the Audi A3. Exact dimensions of the Concept A-class haven't been released but our sources say to expect the production car to be 170mm lower and 440mm longer than its predecessor.
Mercedes Concept A-class: exterior styling
For the 2011 Concept A-class, Mercedes has gone with a three-door shooting brake, incorporating several design cues from the F800 Style concept which debuted at the 2010 Geneva motor show. Heavily-sculpted flanks on the Concept A-class leave no surface untweaked in seeking to emphasise the coupe's rear haunches. Up front, Mercedes has employed LED lighting along with an unconventional material for the grille: metallic silver hexagons on black stems, designed to create a 'starry sky' motif in concert with the LEDs.
Inside the Concept A-class
Mercedes has used a translucent, stretchable textile lining on the dashboard, which allows the underlying 'bionic, cellular' structure to remain visible. The instrument panel shape is influenced by an aircraft wing, the vents are inspired by jet engines, and the red displays in the instrument cluster are apparently inspired by jet afterburners. So if the exterior appearance hadn't blown you away, the interior seems to be doing its best to offer a bracing blast of jet exhaust.
As you'd expect with a modern concept car, the infotainment display offers integration with the driver's smartphone. In this case the car's various functions are displayed as smartphone applications, and operated by a rotary/push controller hinting at the next generation of Mercedes' Komand interface.
What's under the bonnet of the Concept A-class?
You may be expecting an alternative-fuel powertrain offering saintly CO2 figures. But just as the Concept A-class's platform heralds a shift to conventional proportions, the engine chosen for the Concept A-class is fueled by unfashionable petrol, and petrol alone. The 2.0-litre engine, from the new M270 series of small engines, is a direct-injection turbocharged unit with Mercedes' BlueEfficiency eco technology, serving up 208bhp. Power goes to the front wheels via a dual-clutch transmission.
Driver assistance technology also gets a showing in the Concept A-class, with a radar-based collision warning system linked to adaptive Brake Assist.
We expect the A-class to arrive in UK showrooms early 2012 in five-door hatchback form, wearing a £20k starting price to match its radically-altered proportions.