Mercedes-Benz B-Class: Sports Tourer in better shape than ever
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 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 en 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.
Diesel engines: fuel consumption reduced by seven percent
The B-Class continues to be available with a choice of six engines – two direct-injection diesel units (80 kW/109 hp and 103 kW/140 hp) delivering up to 300 newton metres of torque, as well as four petrol engines with a peak power output of up to 142 kW/193 hp and a maximum torque of 280 newton metres. The four-cylinder power units have undergone a series of detailed improvements in order to further reduce fuel consumption.
For the diesel models, this means that the combined NEDC (New European Driving Cycle) fuel consumption of the B 180 CDI and B 200 CDI has dropped by as much as seven percent – depending on tyre size – to 5.2 – 5.4 and 5.4 – 5.6 litres per 100 kilometres, respectively. The two turbodiesel models, which are particularly smooth-running thanks to a balancer shaft, will therefore be an even less frequent sight at the filling station from now on; the B 180 CDI can clock up over 1000 kilometres on a single tank of fuel (54 litres).
Petrol models: new fuel-saving ECO start/stop function
Depending on the model and engine output, the four petrol variants of the B-Class return fuel consumption figures of between 6.6 and 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the NEDC driving cycle. From autumn 2008, motoring is set to become even more economical with the arrival of the B 150 and B 170 BlueEFFICIENCY models featuring the ECO start/stop function. This newly developed function automatically switches the engine off when the driver shifts to neutral at low speed whilst depressing the brake pedal. If the criteria for stopping the engine are fulfilled, a special display appears in the instrument cluster to inform the driver.
The moment the clutch is pressed or the brake pedal released, the engine springs back to life almost noiselessly and in a fraction of a second. This ability to restart the engine swiftly yet smoothly gives the ECO start/stop function a key edge over other systems of this type. To achieve this, Mercedes-Benz fits a starter-generator which is connected to the crankshaft via the belt drive. This allows the engine to start much faster and far more quietly than with the conventional starter. During the journey, the starter-generator feeds the electrical system on board the B-Class with energy. An intelligent control system ensures that the battery is only charged when needed, and that charging predominantly takes place when the engine is on the overrun to convert braking energy into electrical energy by recuperation.
In practical operation, substantial fuel savings of up to nine percent can be achieved with the ECO start/stop function, particularly when driving in city traffic with frequent stops at traffic lights or in tailbacks.