As the Indian luxury car market continues to grow at a rapid pace, luxury car brands are fast-tracking launches in a hope to keep improving their sales numbers. One company that has underperformed of late is Mercedes Benz, which was the undisputed leader of the Indian luxury market until BMW’s entry into the market. In 2012, the challenge is getting mightier, with a strong-performing Audi introducing the Q3, which is selling like hot cakes. With the competition threatening to woo more customers, the three-pointed star will have to get its act together quickly.
In this edition of autoX, we’re laying down details on three upcoming launches of Mercedes Benz that hold the key to the company’s chances of redeeming itself. Two of these launches will be in the entry-level segment, which is fast becoming the heart of the luxury market, mainly for fulfilling the aspiration of an upgrading customer in the market for a premium car.
Mercedes A-Class hatchback
The second generation A-Class hatch is a clean sheet design that targets the young crowd of the market for the luxury brand. Mercedes is developing two variants on the A-Class platform and the hatchback, launched at the Geneva Motor Show in March this year, is being worked on further to give rise to new variants.
The starting price of the European model (loaded with many expensive safety features) is Rs.16.7 lakh. For this money, under the hood, you get an efficient BlueEfficiency petrol engine displacing 1.6 liters and producing 121bhp. Although the European spec A-Class’ price does not have a bearing on the Indian model’s positioning, one can imagine it to be price positioned in the Rs.15-20 lakh bracket.
To keep the tally board ticking along briskly, the three diesel options Europe gets are crucial in India. There are two A180 CDI variants and a range-topping A200 CDI. The basic diesel variant is powered by a 1461cc (Renault K9K engine) that is paired to a 6-speed manual gearbox. The second and the top-end variant use a 1,796cc engine producing 109hp and 136hp, paired to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission and a 6-speed manual transmission respectively.
Keeping it’s youthful positioning and the brand new design language in mind, the A-Class does have a chance to be reasonably successful in the Indian market, but in the end it all depends on Mercedes’ pricing strategy and acceptance of an expensive hatch by the Indian consumer.
Mercedes A-Class compact Sedan
Mercedes Benz’s third derivative on the MFA platform (that underpins the A and B-Class models) will yield another interesting and a completely new introduction in 2013 for the entry-level segment. Previewed by the Mercedes Concept Style Coupe, the Mercedes compact sedan will wage war with cars from forthcoming premium sedans such as the 1-Series and Audi A3. Not much is known about this vehicle at this time, but Mercedes designers have promised that over 90% of the design of the concept car will be transferred to the production model.
Considering that it is an extension to the A-Class, the mechanical package and interior are expected to be similar. The 1.6 litre petrol engine and 1.8 litre diesel engine should be carried over, married to 6-speed manual and a 7-speed automatic transmission.
We are expectantly waiting to see the production CSC’s presentation either at the Paris Auto Salon in late September or at the Geneva Motor Show in March 2013. We expect the CSC to make inroads in India either in the second half of 2013 or in 2014 for a price of RS.20-25 lakh helping Mercedes Benz India target another niche in the premium segment.
Next generation Mercedes S-Class
Mercedes is also nearing the end of the next generation S-Class’ development. Codenamed W222 (for the regular wheelbase variant) and V222 (for the long wheelbase variant), the long wheelbase variant, in a selection of trims, should make it to India in early 2014 with the launch expected to be at the Auto Expo 2014.
From photographs captured of the car from its test runs, we learn that Mercedes has adorned the new S with very attractive LED daytime running lights and indicators at the top of the headlight. The grille appears much larger than on previous generations and the lower intake has a smiley look. Space-wise it is expected to be slightly longer & roomier than the current generation while also offering more features, options and drivetrain choices.
Mercedes Benz’s R&D officials have spoken to overseas media about new direct injected and turbocharged engines forming the powertrain lineup for the new S-Class. A twin-turbo V8 is expected on the S550 producing 430 horsepower, while the S600 should pick up a derivative of the twin-turbo V-12 producing in excess of 500 horsepower. The top-end S63 AMG model with the twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 gets over 550 horsepower to play with. An unconfirmed development is that these engines will be paired to a 9-speed transmission to deliver class-leading fuel economy.
The new S is expected to up the ante in the technology department, sporting features such as the recently introduced PRE-SCAN active suspension set-up, an advanced autonomous-driving traffic assistant, and a SERVO-HMI (Human Machine Interface) virtual operating assistant. It is also touted to be one of the safest automobiles, with the introduction of a “Braking Bag”, which deflates under the front axle moments before a collision, helping the car decelerate faster and prevent it pitching forward under braking.
Shrawan Raja is the Managing Editor of the daily updated https://indianautosblog.com/