Just a few kilometers down my test road, the Mercedes A 250 gave the initial impression that confirmed what the bling-laden large grille made a point of. The low firm ride, tight manoeuvring, a delayed yet strong pick up – all of it gave a full clearance to its Sport tag. The rigid ride of the Mercedes A 250 drive almost serves as a counter-balance to the Volvo V 40, in an attempt to create a segment between them that could qualify as recently-launched “premium sporty hatchbacks”.
UPSIDE: Sporty handling, Powerful acceleration, Good music, Impressive interior
FLIPSIDE: Firm ride, Pick up delay, restricted vision, narrow boot
THE PRICE: AED 136,800 to 206,000 (Pre-order required in Dubai at present)
The all-new Mercedes A Class levels the ground between those who are already familiar with the old A-class since 1997 and those who aren’t. In looks and character, this is a totally new car. The façade has moved away from ‘meek and clueless’ to flaunt a large and aggressive grille with a ripple-like lattice dotted with a lot of bling – perhaps the only time bad girls might ever like it. The tall and short design of the A that started it all has made a U-turn to low and long. In fact, the rear rakes so low and the profile is so close to the ground that it has a squatting stance!
Comparing it with the Alfa Romeo Giulietta that I drove around the same time, well, both believe black and red is sporty, especially in the inside. The A 250 sport takes it further with red seat belts and red-rimmed propeller shaped air vents that remind you of cult cars like the Mini Cooper. A red underlining is given to the aggressive air dams behind the bumper – a touch like the GTI. In comparison, the Volvo V40 has much tamer interiors.
One could argue that the Mercedes A 250 Sport makes cult hatchbacks look imperfect (Read GTIs or Alfa Romeos) with its flamboyant front design, low and sporty profile, sports exhaust system and amazingly agile handling. But what it also tends to render imperfect in the bargain are the gleaming tarmacs of Dubai. You end up taking note of every road imperfection there isn’t! The A 250 has a lowered AMG-tuned sports suspension that tests your own.
The visibility in a Mercedes A 250 Sport doesn’t keep up with its speedy designs. The B pillars are drawn back so briefly that shoulder checks are hard to come by. It doesn’t compensate with large enough side view mirrors either.
That said, the handling of the car is excellent. The A 250 Sport really responds to the road and almost gives half the fulfilment of driving a track car. The 20” rear wheels have been pushed to the extreme, making way for superior control while the firm suspension allows a vice-like grip of the road even as the car sweeps across curves and bends. This is a car that just doesn’t give in. With 350 Newton meters of torque and 211 hp of power, it’s quite adamant when switched to sport mode. Never mind that also brings on a grating roar at times and occasional power surges.
Even at almost one and a half tonnes, the new A class is lighter than its earlier generations and a good part of the 350 Nm torque is made available in the mid-range. Even though a casual test counted around 8 seconds, given its athletic spirit and ample torque, I’m sure the A 250 Sport would have done better if I had pushed it a little.
The new 7-speed dual clutch is comparable to the new generation Golf DSG. But even though both of them are seamless, the Golf’s shifts felt slightly smoother. The braking is efficient; the speedo comes down as quickly as it climbs up!
Cabin and Controls
The Mercedes A 250 Sport cabin is clad in Napa leather which is lined with red stitching all over. Even the leather breathing seats are dotted with red. For some strange reason, the overdose of carbon graphite finish (on the dashboard for instance) cheapens the otherwise well appointed interiors. Even though there are no air vents at the back, the central flow is meant to cool all the way down. The seats are firm and seat adjustment controls are all manual, keeping with the sporty spirit I guess.
The navigation system in the A 250 sport is not only easy to handle but also very interesting to follow with its 3D graphics. But the device is mounted on a screen that has no place to sit other than being clipped on to the dashboard. The voice command is available for navigation too, and makes it rather easy to register your destination.
Speed limiters, cruise control and distance warning were a part of my gadgetry, and there was a tiredness warning system as well. An auto hold function to prevent the car from rolling away aids the driver. Visual assistance is provided by powerful cornering lights but rear view camera is missing in the A 250.
The two things I loved in the C 350 AMG (and that’s perhaps an even sportier car) was the noise sealed cabin and the excellent Harmon Kardon system that reached out from the right spots to tickle an audiophile in the right places. The latter is present in the A-class too but looks like the former has been deliberately kept out. This Mercedes is noisy – in part from the wind and largely from the road noise.
I’ve no clue whoever had this impression that sporty equals bumpy, rugged and noisy. Whoever it is, I beg to disagree with regard to a premium family hatch. Those who really wouldn’t mind the ride are likely those yearn for a test of their bones on the race tracks. Then again, the driver at least has firm and supportive seats that holds him tight when the body lean plays out; the passengers aren’t going to be thankful.
Uniquely A 250 – the gearshift
Those who are used to resting an anticipating palm on the stick shift, while waiting for the light to turn green, might be disappointed. There is no such place to hold on, because there is no gear shift lever in the A 250 Sport, giving a generally vacant feeling to the console. The gear is a little stalk towards the right which you move up or down for shifting, with a button at the head of the stalk for P – parking mode, much like the BMW.
The Essential Mercedes A 250 Sport
The Mercedes A 250 Sport is a lively car to drive, as long as the road is short or you don’t mind the firm ride. The engaging handling makes the drive thoroughly enjoyable, how much ever sinewy or winding the roads are. Whether they are smooth or bumpy are not going to make a difference anyway!
Drive Courtesy: Daimler Middle East
Photo courtesy: Sudeep Koshy, Wikipedia