Home / Reviews / Mercedes-Benz A 200 d Road Test Review – Quantum of Solace

 

Story: Sayantan De

Photography: Sanjay Raikar

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class Limousine is the entry point for a Mercedes-Benz sedan and despite the SUV-pocalypse sweeping across the planet, there is still a market for sedans, particularly from luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz. However, the A-Class eschews the traditional FR layout of Mercs in favour of an FF layout to keep the costs down, something BMW does with the 2 Series as well. Unlike Audi, Merc are known for RWD sedans, so how different it feels compared to the C-Class and does it hold up to the expectations of a customer shopping for a three-pointed star?

Back in the early 90s, all Mercedes cars looked similar, which is also the case with contemporary Mercedes design philosophy and this works in favour of the A-Class. It looks like a proper Mercedes-Benz sedan, even from quite a distance. The uninitiated may even mistake it for the C-Class. It’s less coupé-like than the CLA it replaces which suits the A-Class’ Limousine nomenclature. While there’s nothing groundbreaking about the design, it is also as inoffensive as an IKEA product, which means the majority would have nothing to complain about the looks of the A-Class. Personally, I like the two power bulges on the hood and the slightly kicked up rear deck which is stubby as well, resulting in a perfect three-box proportion; the word “timeless” comes to mind. While it is true that this is a facelift, the difference between the exterior design of the two is virtually non-existent.

Step inside though, and it’s a different story, albeit not by a huge margin. The biggest change is the latest MBUX infotainment system which offers wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. There’s an additional USB Type-C charging port as well. As is the case with all modern luxury cars, the interior light colour can be changed; I felt the number of steps required to go into the menu to do this is less than the cars from Munich. A change I did not like was on the steering wheel, where the knurled metal knobs have been replaced by a touchpad-esque slide control, which is rather difficult to operate on the move and nearly impossible to be precise with. The column-mounted gear selector is intuitive, though and is a throwback I rather liked. All models come with a panoramic sunroof which is two-thirds the size of the entire roof, which I have a feeling is appreciated by the target clientele.

Our test vehicle was the A 200 d, outfitted with the OM 654q (the letter ‘q’ denoting “quer” or a transverse installation) 1,950-cc, in-line four-cylinder, turbo-diesel coupled to an 8G-DCT, that is an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This motor is capable of delivering 150 hp at between 3,400 to 4,400 rpm and 320 Nm starting at just 1,400 rpm all the way to 3,200 rpm. The result is the A 200 d feels extremely muscular in its driving experience, even in Eco mode, in which the transmission aggressively short-shifts in pursuit of best possible fuel economy. If the driving mode is changed to Sport, the transmission holds on to gears like a toxic ex, squeezing out maximum possible acceleration. The transmission kicks down quickly in Eco or Comfort Mode as well and makes overtaking a seamless affair. Claimed 0-100 km/h time is 8.4 seconds and it was evident in the acceleration that the claim made by Mercedes may be slightly conservative in nature as the car felt extremely grunty. The A 200 d hits triple-digit speeds effortlessly and though I did not push it above 120 km/h, it was evident the A-Class could go much faster, depending on the road you’re driving on. The claimed top speed of 227 km/h is entirely believable, provided you are on the autobahn. From the inside there is absolutely no way of knowing that there’s a diesel under the hood.

As the A-Class Limousine has a FWD architecture, the dynamics are stable rather than exciting. We don’t get the A 220 d which comes with 4MATIC AWD, and in the FWD A-Class the turn in is predictable and stable instead of sharp and sporty. While accelerating hard, there’s mildly noticeable torque-steer, not surprising with a peak torque figure of 320 Nm. The stability control masks the effect to a great extent though, and traction control light flashes urgently on spirited launches. Through corners, the A-Class remains perfectly composed even when the speedo needle is on the wrong side of 100 km/h. But this sure-footedness doesn’t come at the cost of ride comfort. It may not be plush, but it is exceptionally compliant. Not everything needs to be sporty with sharp handling and a back-breaking ride and no one understands this better than Mercedes-Benz. This is reflected in the A-Class as well, as it smothers minor road imperfections into oblivion that are felt through most cars. Larger undulations are felt but are seldom bothersome, the A-Class cocooning you in comfort. Braking is predictable with the car masking its near two-tonne kerb weight rather well, except in the most extreme situations. The collision-avoiding emergency braking works too, which I found out thanks to a pedestrian, whose lack of survival instinct would have surprised one Mr Charles Darwin.

Overall, the baby Benz does exactly what it promises to do—offer the essentials of three-pointed star experience in a compact and easy to use package. Unless you need a lot of interior space (for instance if your entire family were luchadors) you wouldn’t need the C-Class. It starts at Rs 46.30 lakh (ex-showroom), which makes it less than the base C-Class diesel, the C 220 d, by Rs 12.3 lakh. However, for this difference the C-Class offers a lot more car for the money and there’s no escaping it is overall a better car. If the price difference had been larger by Rs 5 lakh more, then the A 200 d would have been a no-brainer, but at its current price, it only makes sense if you are unable to stretch to the C 220 d. But even if you get the A 200 d, it will still give the core of the experience that Mercedes-Benz is known for.

 

About the author: Sayantan De

 

 

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