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Mercedes-Benz A class CLA class and GLA class

Mercedes-Benz A class W176 – part 1

By Andrew Marsh, 17.08.13
Posted in: New Model Information | Public

Much has happened to Daimler AG since 1997. There have been the occasional suggestions to hive off the commercial vehicle division (the largest heavy truck maker in the world which always profitable) from car division, but shareholders have rejected the idea completely. The ultra-small car division, Smart, has introduced the ‘quadracycle’ predominantly used in France to the world with Daimler engineering as well as Swatch inspiration, but has so far failed to capture the world’s imagination. Back in 1997 the biggest market for Daimler cars was in the USA – now it’s China. Meanwhile the competition has grown from strength to strength, and now in 2013 Daimler AG is backed into a corner. Increase the passenger car division profitability, or begin the process of migrating into very niche market sectors.

The major change in direction for the third generation A class? It is targeted straight at the Audi A3 and BMW 1 series, along with Volkswagen Golf VII. It has lost the MPV mono-box profile, and instead adopted a lower profile than previous A class models. Whilst in some ways W176 has been engineered in a ‘mainstream’ way, as always with Mercedes-Benz some features indicate where others will be in another 10 years’ time

In the beginning

Way back in 1997 the original A class was the subject of an epiphany, as a group of Swedish motoring journalists performed a rapid lane switch test. The result was it took Daimler AG just 9 months from the public test to first deliveries of the revised W168. That package included brand new tyres, wider track, re-tooled rear quarter panels, re-tooled front wings, revised spring / damper / suspension bush calibration and of course the world’s first standard fitment of a system to link the electric power steering with ABS. W168 was the first car in the world to be equipped with electronic stability control as standard. Why? Daimler AG knew this could destroy their reputation for automotive engineering which had been established over the previous century.

Mercedes-Benz B class facelift NLG side ghosted

Mercedes-Benz B class W245 shown here from the side with liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanks. The LNG tanks are located near the petrol tank (centre) as well around the rear suspension. The main benefit of the ‘high’ floor skin was freedom to package things underneath – ranging from gas tanks to traction batteries and even a hydrogen fuel cell. Many of these variations did not mae commercial reality, however. © Daimler AG

The second generation A class (W169) was a much improved product with two body styles (3 and 5 door hatch) as well as the B class (W245), which was engineered in large part by engineering consultancy EDAG and aimed primarily at the North American market. Economics prevented B class from being sold in the USA even though it did go on sale in Canada, since although both W169 was well as W245 offered the interior space of an E class with the exterior volume of a Golf, the build cost as extra ordinary for the ‘Golf’ sector. In all more than 2.1 million cars were built in the W168, W169 and W245 series.

A class W169 powertain ghosted

The core package shared with W168, W169 and W245 was the steeply inclined transversely mounted engine. Four wheel drive, which existed in prototype form, was always a challenge and without that, the maximum power possible to deliver to the front wheels was limited to 250 bhp. © Daimler AG

Click here for part 2 – the MFA platform

Click here for part 3 – MFA active safety

Click here for part 4 – the body engineering

Click here for part 5 – impact energy management




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