Mercedes W176 A-Class 2012 –
The most progressive design in the compact class
Standing as much as 18 centimetres lower on the road than the preceding model, the new A-Class communicates design and dynamism at the very first glance.
This radical form language, presented and enthusiastically acclaimed around the world with the Concept A-CLASS, was consistently implemented in the series production car.
The appearance of the new A-Class reflects this new Mercedes-Benz design strategy. The result is what is known as a two-box design with a distinct character of its own, a sportily emotive exterior and an exceptionally high-quality feel to the interior.
“Translating the new dynamic style of Mercedes-Benz into the compact class was a challenge that was great fun to tackle”, explains Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz. “No other car in this segment is as progressive as the A-Class.
Absolutely typical for Mercedes is the sculptural shape of the A-Class. The character lines, in particular on its sides, lend the A-Class structure and terseness. The new dynamic style is perceptible at first glance in the interior as well.”
Defined edges and tautly drawn surfaces mark out the exterior design of the new A-Class. The constant interplay between concave and convex surfaces creates a characteristic play of light, particularly along the sides of the car, which contributes to its unique appearance.
Typical features of the long, sporty front are its pronounced V-shape, the separate headlamps, the radiator grille with central Mercedes star and double slats to either side of the star, as well as the additional air intakes on the sides.
The “dropping line” apparent in the side profile dissipates towards the vehicle’s front end.
The design of the headlamps, together with the configuration of the light functions within them, are a key element of the design concept.
The light modules and LEDs behind the headlamp cover glass have been arranged in such a way as to create the characteristic “flare effect” for the daytime driving lights and indicators.
The so-called “flare” is made up of the feature line within the headlamp, the LED modules for the daytime running lamps and the bulb sets for the indicators.
This signature effect gives the car its energetic look and so helps to define a new, youthful face for Mercedes.
The perfect interplay of dynamic design and excellent aerodynamics is nowhere more apparent than in the roof, with its smooth surfaces and taut, arcing curve. The silhouette reveals smooth, flowing lines finishing in a flat edge.
The roof spoiler, which conveniently hides all the aerials, provides an extra sporty touch and gives structure to the roof assembly. The beltline rises to the rear to form a pronounced wedge-shape.
The side view is distinguished by sensuously moulded sculptural side panels and crisp lines. The front structural edge, above the wing, falls in what is known as a “dropping line” in a gentle arc towards the rear.
The powerfully-shaped shoulder muscles above the rear axle serve to emphasise the car’s coupé-like character.
A further line sweeps up from just in front of the rear wheel arch, then gently fades away. All these lines give depth and dynamism to the car’s profile.
Dynamic side sill panels provide a final finishing touch towards the bottom of the car, enhancing the appearance of elegant light-footedness.
The broad emphasis of the tail end is revealed in an interplay of convex-concave surfaces and edges. The tail lights continue the line of the muscular shoulders back towards the rear, while their horizontal orientation emphasises the car’s powerful breadth.
The light functions are provided optionally by fibre-optic cables and LED modules. Here, too, the interaction between design and aerodynamics is very clear: the surface finish of the tail lights is not only an interesting design feature, but also improves the airflow around the vehicle thanks to defined airflow break-away edges in the rear section.
TIREFIT and electric pump as standard
Getting home safely with a flat tyre
The A-Class does without a spare wheel well. This saves space and weight – the latter contributing to efficiency.
In western and central Europe, all versions come as standard with the TIREFIT system comprising tyre sealant and an electric pump as well as a tyre pressure loss warning system which displays a warning in the instrument cluster in the event of a marked pressure loss.
Input variables for the system are the speeds of the four wheels, which are recorded by the ABS sensors.
A relative comparison of all measured wheel speeds reveals the divergent speed of a wheel in the event of a pressure loss in the tyre.
As wheel speeds are also influenced by other dynamic variables, such as tyre slip, slip angle or cornering, the sensor signals from driving assistance systems such as ESP® and ADAPTIVE BRAKE (including ABS and ASR) also receive due consideration in assessing the wheel speeds.
Tyres with run-flat capability are optionally available. These so-called MOE tyres (“Mercedes Original Extended”) feature the latest generation of run-flat technology, offering the same ride comfort as conventional tyres, despite reinforced sidewalls. In the event of a flat tyre, the journey can be continued at 80 km/h.
The possible range is then around 30 kilometres when there is no air pressure whatsoever in the tyre concerned, or otherwise up to 300 km – sufficient to return safely home or to reach a Mercedes-Benz partner.
The MOE can be combined with all light-alloy wheels which are available for the A-Class.
The Mercedes management team on the A-Class
“All set for attack”
“‘A’ is for attack. Mercedes-Benz is becoming the most dynamic premium brand in the world. As part of this development, the A-Class represents an important milestone. The A-Class is completely new, down to the last detail. In automotive development, it’s not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper. Our engineers have made the very most of that opportunity.”
Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars
“A new Mercedes must take the lead, in technical terms, in every class of vehicle. Whether we’re talking about efficiency, driving dynamics or safety: the new A-Class raises the benchmark significantly. Pure driving enjoyment, plus exemplary efficiency – from a technical perspective that is the quintessence of the A-Class.”
Prof Dr Thomas Weber, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Group Research and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars Development
“With the new A-Class, the company is opening up a whole new chapter in the compact segment. The A-Class is the sporty Mercedes among the compact models. It’s the right product at the right time – and has tremendous potential to tap into new target groups and markets.”
Dr Joachim Schmidt, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes-Benz Cars responsible for Sales & Marketing
“The A-Class is a clear statement of the dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand. No other car in this segment is as expressive as the A-Class. The almost sculptural lines of the A-Class are very typical for Mercedes. The feature lines, particularly along the sides of the car, give the A-Class structure and tautness. This new sense of dynamism is also immediately apparent in the interior.” Professor Gorden Wagener, Head of Design, Mercedes-Benz Cars
Interview with Mark Fetherston, A-Class designer
“The A-Class puts an end to boredom in this segment”
Mark Fetherston (35) earned his graduate degree in Transport Design at Coventry University in 1999. Since then he has worked at Mercedes-Benz, and one of his last projects involved working on the design of the SLS AMG super sports car.
Mr Fetherston, did you have to overcome particularly great resistance in the company in order to implement series production of the expressive, emotional design of the new A-Class, which does break with some preconceptions towards the brand?
Fetherston: To be quite honest – at first I wouldn’t have imagined that at Mercedes we would dare to build such a car. But the Board gave us wide-ranging freedom in respect of the design of the A-Class. Indeed, they even encouraged us to be more progressive.
If you are so clearly breaking new ground – what is it that makes this new A-Class a true Mercedes, then?
Fetherston: The sculptural quality of the A-Class’s form is typically Mercedes. This traditionally distinguishes Mercedes-Benz from other brands.
We made the A-Class sculpture in clay by hand – you can’t do this on the computer. Look for instance at the muscular shape of the shoulder above the rear axle.
The character lines, in particular on the vehicle sides lend this sculpture structure and terseness. The Dropping Line is an elegant link to the Mercedes heritage, the high side sill line provides dynamism.
The A-Class is a clear statement of the dynamism of the Mercedes-Benz brand.
One of your last projects was the state-of-the-art SLS AMG gullwing. What is more difficult to design – a super sports car or a compact-class Mercedes?
Fetherston: In terms of dynamics, a super sports car is easier to design – because its proportions are intrinsically dynamic. But that is precisely why the challenge of implementing the sporty dynamics of Mercedes-Benz in the compact class was such fun.
And apart from the SLS AMG super sports car, what else served as inspiration in the first design phase?
Fetherston: Nature itself is a very important source of inspiration; take for
instance the way the wind sculpts sand into sand dunes – magnificent. One can also observe beautiful shapes in winter landscapes. I love aircraft, too. One of the greatest designs of all times is the Concorde – sheer aerodynamics. And even though it may seem a bit like a cliché – when you see the A‑Class from the front, you can be reminded of a wild cat, a lion or a cheetah. Aggressive and sleek.
We thought of another likeness when we saw the A-Class for the first time: in the compact-car segment, the new A-Class is like the face in the crowd…
Fetherston: Yes, no other car is so progressive in this vehicle class. The A-Class puts an end to boredom in this segment.
Interview with Dr Jörg Breuer, Head of Passenger Car Development, Active Safety
“A positive effect comparable to that of ESP®“
Dr. Jörg Breuer (46) studied mechanical engineering at the Technische Universität Darmstadt and the ETH Zürich, receiving his PhD in 1995 for his thesis “Ergonomic assessment and design of safety in the motor vehicle control system”.
Breuer, who comes from Aachen, has worked for Daimler AG since July 1996 and has been in charge of the company’s Active Safety department since 2001.
He is also a member of numerous auto industry safety committees, such as the “ACEA Task Force Active Safety” and the e-Safety “Implementation Roadmap” working group.
Other manufacturers already have brake assistance systems for urban driving. How does the Mercedes-Benz radar-based collision warning system differ from these?
Breuer: COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST is not a system to minimise minor damage in an urban driving context. Instead, this assistance system aims to provide protection against typical rear-end collisions at speeds above 30 km/h.
You mean that’s the relevant speed range – the hazardous situations that can lead to rear-end collisions usually occur above 30 km/h?
Breuer: Yes, that’s shown by our field tests, in which we’ve covered over 4.5 million kilometres in Europe, the US, Japan and South Africa since 2005.
And this speed profile is also confirmed by the real-world accident data from GIDAS, the largest project to record accident data in Germany.
The new compact class vehicles from Mercedes-Benz are equipped with COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST as standard. What effect are you hoping this will have on accident figures and accident severity?
Breuer: We expect COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST to have a positive effect on real-world accidents similar to that seen following the introduction of ESP® as standard.
This is backed up by initial test results. Tests involving 110 car drivers in the dynamic simulator saw the accident rate fall from 44 to 11 percent in three typical situations thanks to the combination of collision warning and adaptive braking assistance.
COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST gives a warning and adjusts the braking force as required, but unlike the optional DISTRONIC PLUS it does not initiate braking autonomously. Is that a disadvantage?
Breuer: Our tests show that, with DISTRONIC PLUS, almost all drivers react to the collision warning and initiate braking themselves.
The advantage of DISTRONIC PLUS is the comfort and convenience it provides by automatically adjusting the speed and therefore also the distance to the vehicle ahead.
COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST is only one of many driving assistance systems available for the A-Class. What are the other highlights?
Breuer: In all, ten driving assistance systems are available. Reserved until now for higher vehicle categories, they include systems such as ATTENTION ASSIST, which detects drowsy driving, and the PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection system. This can really be described as the democratisation of safety.
Democratisation of safety means that safety innovations from higher vehicle segments find their way into the medium and compact class. Does it also mean that the A-Class has passed the brand’s own rigorous crash tests despite its compact exterior dimensions?
Breuer: Yes, “One star is all you need” is our safety philosophy and it goes without saying that it also applies to the A-Class. My colleagues in the Passive Safety department have done a great job here and achieved their objective: the A-Class has passed the brand’s rigorous test programme.
This includes not only some 30 different impact configurations, which are laid down as requirements for safety ratings and international type approval, but also nine proprietary crash tests, such as the roof-drop test or the pole impact test, developed by the brand itself.