It may take a while before the B-Class becomes available on most world markets, but Mercedes-Benz will take the wraps off its latest “compact sports tourer” at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show… here’s what to expect.

It may take a while before the B-Class becomes available on most world markets, but Mercedes-Benz will take the wraps off its latest “compact sports tourer” at the upcoming Geneva Motor Show… here’s what to expect.


CARtoday.com reported recently that Mercedes-Benz would be delaying the North American launch of its B-Class out of concern that the weak dollar could eat into the company's profits. The vehicle will be launched as planned in Canada and Mexico, and it has been questioned whether the delay is perhaps a ploy, as DaimlerChrysler is unsure of how the US will respond to the vehicle, analysts say.


Nevertheless, the B-Class will have its European unveiling early next month. Thanks to the space-saving arrangement of the engine and transmission partly in front of and partly beneath the passenger cell (which Mercedes first employed on the A-Class), the 4270-mm long new B-Class is said to offer more shoulder-room, legroom and headroom than other cars of comparable size in its segment. With a 2778-mm wheelbase, rear occupants will have “kneeroom which almost matches that in the S-Class,” the Stuttgart firm said.


The B-Class is expected to offer MPV-like versatility thanks to a height-adjustable load compartment floor, an asymmetrically divided, folding and removable rear seat unit, plus an optionally removable front passenger seat. Depending on the number and position of the seats, the load capacity can be increased from 544 to up to 2 245 dm3 (with rear seats and front passenger seat removed). The maximum loading length is 2,95 metres.


Standard interior appointments will include air-conditioning, a four-spoke steering wheel with multifunction buttons, an armrest between the front seats, power windows and tinted glass, plus high-quality trim of brushed aluminium on the centre console, tunnel and door panels. A bi-xenon active light system, Thermotronic automatic climate control, electrically adjustable front seats, leather upholstery and the Comand APS or Audio 50 APS radio/navigation system will cost extra.


Other options on the B-Class will include a panoramic louvred sunroof, which has an aperture about two thirds larger than that of a conventional sliding roof, or a fixed panoramic roof with a grey-tinted, 0,6 m2 glass panel.


Under the skin, the B-Class has a parabolic rear axle an electromechanical power steering system. The latter generates its servo effect with an electric motor, varying it as a function of road speed. This means the servo action is greater at low speeds than at high speeds, so the steering is much lighter than a conventional system when parking or manoeuvring slowly. The parabolic rear axle is likewise a new development.


The Electronic Stability Program has been upgraded with a steering assistance system. This operates in tandem with the electromechanical power steering system, providing the appropriate servo assistance in critical handling situations to help the driver stabilise the vehicle. When braking on road surfaces offering less grip on one side than the other, the new, additional, ESP function also helps with steering corrections and provides the driver with better road contact, Mercedes says.


The suspension of the B-Class comprises a new, selective damping system, which adapts the shock absorber responses to the current driving situation. A soft shock absorber configuration ensures a high level of ride comfort during normal driving, but switches to maximum damping force when taking bends at speed to give the car maximum stability.


The range will be offered in Europe with a choice of six four-cylinder engines with outputs ranging from 71 kW to 144 kW. The top-of-the-line B 200 is equipped with a new two-litre, four-cylinder engine which delivers a maximum torque output of 280 N.m from 1 800 to 4 850 r/min thanks to turbocharging and intercooling. The flagship petrol-engined model is claimed to accelerate from standstill to 100 km/h in 7,6 seconds and reach a top speed of 225 km/h.


The diesel line-up will be headed by the 104 kW B 200 CDI, which is claimed to deliver peak torque of 300 N.m. The newly developed turbodiesel with common-rail direct injection is said to accelerate the range’s flagship diesel model from nought to 100 km/h in 9,6 seconds, going on to a speed of just over 200 km/h.


The new B 200 TURBO and the CDI models B 180 CDI and B 200 CDI will be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard. The newly developed, continuously variable AUTOTRONIC automatic transmission is optionally available for all engine variants of the B-Class.


Prices and specification of South African-bound B-Class models have yet to be finalised, but the range is expected to land on local shores next year.