Mercedes-Benz is relying on two things for the success of its latest entry-level product, the A-Class Limousine – an already existing vast customer base and the aspirations of the youth. We find out if the most affordable Mercedes product in India justifies its three-pointed badge.
The lure of owning a product with the three-pointed star is a strong one, and not just in India. For decades, the dream of owning a Mercedes-Benz product has been an aspiration shared by people of all ages around the world. And despite the fact that Mercedes’ customer base has grown by leaps and bounds ever since it made entry into the Indian market, there are always those who aspire to own their first Mercedes. And it’s the combination of these two factors – the aspiration of people, especially the youth, and the existing customer base – that Mercedes is counting on for the success of the A-Class Limousine.
Tried and tested
The method behind the sales strategy of the A-Class Limousine is not a new one. It’s been a tried and tested way of not only increasing a brand’s appeal across customer segments but also expanding the base to bring in a new set of customers. Wonder what it is? Well, it’s simple. Launch a product at a price point that’s just above mass-market products, tempting mass-market customers into upgrading their vehicle to finally achieve their dream of owning a Mercedes product. Such a product is also a perfect addition to the garage of an existing Mercedes customer looking to buy a car for his/her children or spouse.
Now, all this sounds good, however, many a time, in the name of entry-level luxury, what customers get is a car without enough features and the luxury experience that customers expect from a blue-chip brand. The big question then is – does the A-Class Limousine offer an experience worthy of a Mercedes?
One look at the A-Class Limousine and you know that it’s a Mercedes. Right from the grille, with an oversized three-pointed star, to the sloping roofline and dual-character lines, which run along the sides of the car, the A-Class has the familiar Mercedes design cues. Interestingly, according to the brand, with an aerodynamic coefficient of 0.22, the A-Class is the most aerodynamically efficient production car in the world, which helps in terms of efficiency and refinement. Some of the adjustments made to achieve such a low Cd figure are quite evident, such as the 17-inch wheels, with special spokes designed to deal with the way air moves around them.
Stylistically, the A-Class is a respectable looking product. With its angular headlights and strikingly designed taillights, it cuts a fine figure, but it doesn’t offer any spectacular update to the brand’s design language. One trick that the A-Class seems to have missed, considering that it is targeted at a younger audience, is the lack of bright colours. I think that offering striking colour options would’ve made the A-Class stand out better.
A refreshing change
When it comes to the interior, though, the A-Class Limousine seems to have taken a massive leap forward in comparison to the earlier generation of entry-level products from the brand. The moment you step inside, you become aware that special attention has been paid not only to the design but also to the materials used inside the car. Right from the wooden elements to the dual-layered dash, it’s a striking looking cabin. I particularly love the turbine-style air vents, which look absolutely fantastic.
Of course, the A-Class also features a couple of striking looking screens – both 10.25-inch in size – which feature the latest generation of Mercedes’ UX. A fairly large sunroof adds to the airiness of the cabin, and the presence of seven airbags tells you that your safety has not been disregarded.
Now, the question of space always lingers in mind while considering a small sedan. And here, the A-Class has its hits and misses. The front seats of the A-Class feel quite plush and spacious, and most adults will be quite comfortable in them. The rear seats are also enough spacious for adults up to six feet tall. However, with a prominent transmission tunnel running through the rear seat floor, the legroom for the middle passenger is non-existent, which means that the rear seat is best suited for only two adults.
Also, the rear seat base is simply flat, which means that it’s lacking in under-thigh support – I think making it a bit more angular would do the trick. Despite those two shortcomings, I would say that with its fit-and-finish and lovely design, the A-Class Limousine’s interior is certainly a great place to spend time in.
In terms of engine options, Mercedes seems to have all the bases covered. Right from start, the A-Class will be offered with three engines – a 1.3-litre petrol, a 2.0-litre diesel, and a 35 AMG variant. We tested the 200d variant, powered by the 2.0-litre diesel engine, which produces 148bhp with 320Nm of torque and is paired with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. The remarkable thing about the engine is that the peak torque is produced from just 1,400rpm, which means that the throttle response from the engine is quite instantaneous – it reaches the 0 – 100km/h mark in just over 8 seconds. And even as you pick up speed, things remain the same – the engine offers respectable amounts of power throughout the rev range.
The A-Class also offers pretty good ride quality. But at low speeds, especially on broken roads, the ride could be a bit softer. High-speed stability is, of course, not a problem at all – in fact, it feels quite assuring to drive at high speeds.
But all is not perfect with the engine and gearbox. For one, I think that the A-Class can do with a bit more insulation of the cabin, for the engine noise is too loud inside. Second, the 8-speed DCT leaves a lot to be desired. It tends to hold on to gears for far too long at low speeds, which in turn revs the engine higher, which means too much engine noise in the cabin. The gearbox could certainly use some updates to improve the refinement and the engine response of the A-Class.
Upping the game
However, one of the biggest game-changing aspects of the A-Class is its industry-best 8-year warranty on the engine and gearbox – something unheard of in the Indian market. Naturally, for first-time luxury car buyers, maintenance cost is a big factor, and this warranty should certainly take care of some of their worries. And, interestingly, it is also valid for the second owner of the car, which is sure to drive up the resale value of the A-Class when it’ll enter the used-car market.
Now, Mercedes is hinting at very competitive pricing for the A-Class (officials have said that the A will be priced around the ₹42 lakh mark). Pair it with the standard equipment on offer – 7 airbags, LED lights, a luxurious interior, etc – and the A-Class looks like a very tempting package. In fact, with its combination of quality, features, and potentially class-leading price, the A-Class has all the signs of being a benchmark product, which could be yet another best-seller for the brand in India.
- Mercedes-Benz A 200d
Engine: 1,950cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic / Front-Wheel Drive
Power: 148bhp @ 3,400 – 4,400rpm
Torque: 320Nm @ 1,400 – 3,200rpm
X-Factor: With a combination of practicality and luxury, the A-Class has the potential to be the entry-level luxury sedan of choice for Indian customers.
• Feels plush
• It’s a Mercedes