After three successful years, Mercedes-Benz has overhauled the design and engineering of the B-Class. The facelift programme focused on environmental compatibility, economic efficiency and comfort, with further advances being made in each of these areas. 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. Headlining the technology front is the all-new Active parking assist which helps drivers to both find a suitable parking spot, and then manoeuvre into it.
Since its market premiere in summer 2005, the B-Class has evolved into the blueprint for a new species of car which harmonises the benefits of various vehicle concepts: the four-door model boasts the dynamic design of a sporty saloon, the exterior dimensions of a compact car, the spaciousness of an estate, the versatility of a mini MPV and the trademark safety of a Mercedes-Benz.
The sales figures for the B-Class to date provide clear evidence that the Mercedes-Benz product planners hit the mark with a concept that caters to the motoring needs of today's sophisticated society: since mid-2005, over 350,000 motorists around the world have been won over by the Sports Tourer.
The restyled front end injects the B-Class with more poise and assurance than before. This is primarily down to the radiator grille with its three chromed cross fins painted in metallic grey and the Mercedes star integrated into its centre.
However, the more imposing appearance of the B-Class also stems from the new-look bumper - whose design emphasises the large air intake at the bottom - as well as the modified bonnet. This new design idiom makes the front look broad and, as a consequence, especially powerful, symbolising the sporty attributes of the B-Class even more clearly than before. The design at the sides seems more harmonious and elegant than before, because the exterior mirror housings, door handles and skirt panels are now painted to match the body colour on all model variants.
The rear styling picks up on the dynamic flow of lines at the front and along the sides. A direct visual link is created by the tail light assemblies, whose upper edges merge seamlessly with the character line along the vehicle's sides. The tail lights sport a new high-brilliance look and draw the gaze to the large tailgate, which now comes with an ergonomically enhanced chrome handle strip.
Interior: high-grade appointments with new upholsteries and trims
High-class appeal, attention to detail and a sense of ample spaciousness - these qualities have always been intrinsic to the B-Class. The winning blend of forms, colours and materials teams up with the interior's roominess, the pleasant feel of all its surface materials and the expansive window areas to produce a most inviting ambience. This is helped by the high seating position - which, incidentally, improves the driver's all-round view, too - while the relatively high waistline fosters a sense of security without making the occupants feel confined.
The Mercedes design team has further upgraded the interior with a new upholstery fabric, plus a new fabric pattern for the seat cushions. If the B-Class is ordered with the sports package, the side seat bolsters are trimmed in ARTICO man-made leather and the centre panels in fabric. The interior door linings likewise feature a new fabric trim.
The centre console continues to be bordered by trim strips on both sides, but they are now made from diagonally brushed aluminium in a smoke grey finish. The same, integrated trim is found again in the vicinity of the gearshift and in the door panelling, giving the interior an added sense of refinement.
Choice of petrol and diesel technology
The B-Class continues to be available in a choice of three models: the B 180 CDI (four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, 80 kW, 250Nm), the B 200 (four cylinder petrol engine, 100kW, 185Nm), and the range-leading B 200 Turbo (four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, 142 kW, 280Nm).
For the B 180 CDI, combined-cycle ADR 81/01 fuel consumption remains at an impressively low 5.8 litres per 100 kilometres. This agile yet frugal sports tourer will now be an even less frequent sight at the filling station from now on; the B 180 CDI can clock up almost 1000 kilometres on a single tank of fuel (54 litres).
Mercedes engineers have, for the first time, compiled an eco balance sheet for the natural-gas powered B 170 NGT (Natural Gas Technology). Despite not available for sale in Australia, this model and its certification nonetheless demonstrate the eco-friendly nature of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class sports tourer. This environmental certificate forms one element of the Environmental Certificate awarded to the B-Class by Germany's TÜV Technical Inspection Authority.
Mercedes-Benz is the only automotive brand in the world to have been granted this certificate, which is based on the stringent international standard ISO 14062 "Design For Environment".
It is a confirmation of the Stuttgart-based brand's commitment to all aspects of environmental protection.
In contrast to just the standardised measurement of exhaust emissions and fuel consumption on the roller dynamometer, Mercedes engineers analyse the environmental compatibility of vehicles over their entire lifecycle - starting with their manufacture, continuing with their many years of use and finishing with their end-of-life disposal.
In all, over 40,000 individual processes come under scrutiny, whose analysis, computation and evaluation ultimately produce a comprehensive eco profile. This in turn forms the basis for the environmental certificate of the B-Class.
The environmentally driven concept of the B-Class is clearly evident from its use of high-quality recycled plastics, for instance, or its components made from natural materials, including flax, cotton, coconut fibre, wood veneer and fibres from the abaca banana.
Mercedes-Benz has put together a brochure containing detailed information about the environmental certificate awarded to the B-Class, and published it on the internet at www.media.daimler.com.
Occupant protection: extensive safety features enhanced yet further
When it comes to safety, the B-Class sets an example for all other models of these dimensions to follow: in the European NCAP test programme, the Sports Tourer was awarded the highest rating of five stars.
The comprehensive safety specification, comprising two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners for the front and outer rear seats, belt force limiters plus active head restraints in the front, ISOFIX child seat attachment points and head/thorax sidebags, has now been complemented by the addition of crash-responsive emergency lighting in the passenger compartment. Following an accident of a predetermined severity, the lighting comes on automatically to allow the occupants to get their bearings more easily in the dark and expedite the work of the rescue services.
Active safety: flashing brake lights as a warning to other motorists
Accident prevention is the overriding priority of the Mercedes safety concept - a concept that is geared towards motoring reality. To help them bring critical situations under control safely and with ease, drivers of the B-Class can count on highly effective, standard-fit technology in the form of systems such as ABS, Brake Assist and ESP®. Mercedes engineers have however gone that little bit further by seeking to devise a way of offering other motorists added safety too. The result is a simple but highly effective method of avoiding rear-end collisions: flashing brake lights. This safety technology is included as standard on the 2008 model year B-Class.
During testing, Mercedes engineers were able to ascertain that the braking reaction time of motorists is quickened by an average of 0.2 seconds if they see a flashing red warning signal instead of conventional brake lights in an emergency braking situation. This shortens the stopping distance by around 4.40 metres if they are travelling at a speed of 80 km/h, and by a whole 5.50 metres or so when braking from 100 km/h. Brake lights flashing at a high frequency therefore prove to be an effective means of alerting drivers behind to the risk of a rear-end collision.
The flashing brake lights are triggered automatically if the driver initiates emergency braking when travelling at a speed of 50 km/h or more. And if the B-Class is braked to a stop from a speed of over 70 km/h, the hazard warning lights will come on too.
Assistance systems: automatic parking with ultrasound and electric steering
The Electronic Stability Program has been expanded to include a new, standard function: the automatic hill-start assist. This prevents the B-Class from rolling backwards as the driver switches from the brake to the accelerator pedal when starting off uphill. In such situations, the ESP® briefly maintains the brake pressure to make pulling away easy.
Reverse parking will pose less of a challenge for motorists in future. The new Active parking assist (optional on B 180 CDI and B 200) searches for an appropriate spot at the side of the road as the B-Class drives by, than takes care of all the steering manoeuvres as the driver reverses into it. How it works: at speeds below 18 km/h, ultrasonic sensors at the sides of the car scan the zones to the immediate left and right of the B-Class, and measure the length and depth of any potential parking spaces.
Once a suitable spot has been found between two cars, the system flashes up a message in the display to inform the driver. When the driver engages reverse, confirms the display and presses the accelerator, the active parking assist takes over the steering and automatically manoeuvres the B‑Class into the space. All the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake; the PARKTRONIC system's ultrasonic sensors provide further assistance by indicating how much room there is in front of and behind the B-Class.
To be able to use the automatic parking feature, the parking spot only has to be 1.30 metres longer than the B-Class - an indication of the technology's tremendous precision.
The newly developed assistance system comprises a total of ten ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumper, as well as an electronic control unit that processes the sensor signals and calculates the best path to take into the parking space. This information is supplied to the electromechanical power steering in the B‑Class, enabling its electric motor to perform the necessary steering movements.
Infotainment: new systems for digital listening pleasure and nation-wide navigation
It is not just the spacious interior, the high-grade materials and the standard automatic climate control that make the B-Class such a pleasure to travel in: the new generation of infotainment systems has an important role to play too.
There are two new options to choose from: Audio 20 and COMAND APS. Both units incorporate a radio with dual tuner, colour display, Bluetooth interface for mobile phones, CD player, automatic volume adjustment, plus a media interface connection for external audio devices in the glove compartment.
To cater for motorists who have their personal music compilations stored on an MP3 player, a USB stick or any other external audio device, Mercedes-Benz has developed an interactive media interface. This is a standard feature in the new-generation B-Class range and allows iPod & Co. to be linked up to the Sports Tourer's infotainment system. This has the advantage of allowing the external audio devices to be operated by simply using the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel, while the track titles are shown in both the instrument cluster and the centre console's colour display.
The sophisticated infotainment systems may be optionally combined with the "Logic7®"surround sound system, which transforms the passenger compartment of the B-Class into a concert hall on wheels.
Model facelift details at a glance
New features of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class
• Front end: redesigned bonnet, radiator grille and bumper
• Side design: exterior mirrors in a new design and new light-alloy wheels
• Rear end: new, high-brilliance look and redesigned bumper
• Interior: new seat fabrics and trim of diagonally brushed aluminium
• Exterior mirror housings, door handles and skirt panels painted in the vehicle
• Headlamp assist as standard
• ESP® with automatic hill-start assist as standard
• Steering column manually adjustable for reach
• Flashing brake lights as standard
• Crash-responsive emergency interior lighting as standard
• Improved engines with up to seven percent fuel savings
• Active parking assist (optional on B 180 CDI and B 200, standard on B 200 Turbo)
• New infotainment units with many additional functions
• Surround sound system available as an optional extra
• COMAND APS with voice control and other features as standard
• Interactive media interface for connecting external audio units
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class range
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