2021 Mercedes A-Class Limo: First Drive

Mercedes’ Generation Y, the first of the new generation built on the second-generation Modular Front Wheel Architecture, has finally made its way to Indian shores in the form of the A-Class. Mercedes calls it the Class Limo A, but the color of the lenses on my eyes isn’t as pink, so I’d rather call it a sedan. But could the Class A limo really be considered a chauffeured option? But if the youngest car to sport the three-pointed star turned out to be an entertaining and seductive companion from the driver’s seat, would the rest matter? Well, only one way to find out.

Wagner’s Symphony

The new Mercedes look, characterized by the truncated and cut headlights, is something we are still getting used to. However, one thing is clear from the outset: the Class A limo is a confident package that’s comfortable in its own understated skin. While the CLA screamed for attention, the A-Class limo has a quieter personality, which might find more long-term admirers.

As expected, the 6,300 lumen headlights pierce the darkness, just as the A-Class design slices through the air; this Merc has the lowest drag coefficient of any production car in the world today! Seals between the headlight and hood and the “Aero” design alloy wheels all help clean up the airflow around the car to make it slippery.

Even though the A is not as wide as the 2 GC, the 0.22 cd figure is impressive given that it is longer and taller than it! That last point is important because the A-Class doesn’t use a coupe-style roofline, opting instead for a roofline that stays up to provide more headroom for rear-seat occupants. It looks more like a traditional Mercedes sedan, not a boy racer for sure.

That roofline drops down to a boot that looks a bit chunky in profile. However, seen from the back, the A is beautiful. Boldly styled LED taillights sprout from the trunk onto the quarter panels. Further down, the chrome exhaust tips also spice up the bumper, but keep in mind these are dummy tailpipes.

The luggage capacity of 405 liters is reasonable for a weekend getaway. but he is not the leader of the class. It drops another ten liters on the diesel variant due to the addition of an AdBlue tank for the treatment of exhaust gases. The space saver seen in the trunk of these CBU cars used for homologation will be packed under the trunk floor on the final cars produced in India.

All in all, this millennial is pretty understated in style and all the more admirable for it, but we’re hoping Mercedes came up with some brighter colors like red and yellow to make it feel a bit younger. Until Mercedes does, the Carbon Pack, for around Rs 1.5 lakh, will splash some sportiness with carbon fiber accents on the front lip, side skirts, A-pillars and boot lip.

Life in a limo

Obviously, you start in the backseat when a vehicle is called a limo! The A-Class’ wheelbase is 59mm longer than the BMW 2 GC’s and you can feel the difference inside the cabin. Knee room is healthy and there is enough head room even for people six feet tall to sit comfortably here. It would have been a really comfortable experience if the under-thigh support had been better, which was compromised by placing the seat low to provide more headroom. Also, if there was more foot-shoving space under the front seats, it would have been more relaxing for taller occupants. As it is, shorter 5’6″ occupants like myself would also be very comfortable here for long distance stays.

Keep in mind that three will be a strain on the back, but Mercedes has also provided a headrest and a three-point seat belt for the middle occupant. Rear-seat occupants also get an armrest with two fold-out cupholders, two USB-C charging ports and AC vents, but a simple fan speed control is missing. Yes, the A-Class gets dual-zone climate control, with both zones focusing on the front seats only.

Thus, the Limo quotient is a bit thin. You don’t get sun visors, music controls, or any type of seat adjustment. The door cushion design is bland and a boss mode switch to adjust the front passenger seat would also have been a nice touch. The sunroof, while large, closes far too soon for rear-seat occupants to get the “scenic” ambience.

But the premium experience is quite emphatic in the front seat. The dashboard design is minimal and gives the cabin an airy feel, as the two large 10.25-inch screens clear the dashboard of clutter and also hug it. It also feels plush due to the rich materials used – perforated leatherette or plush plastic wraps for the various panels. The weathered wood trim gives the impression of having been ripped from a beached ship. Character !

This contrasts nicely with modern touches like 64-color ambient lighting, which also shines from the turbine-style air conditioning vents. These vents are also plush as they are well damped and finished in a satin chrome that is cool and metallic to the touch.

spoil me

Both HD displays are crisp and the MBUX system exploits their full potential with crisp, clean visuals. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are offered, but without wireless connectivity, although you do have a wireless phone charger on offer. The infotainment system can be controlled using Mercedes Me voice commands, via the haptic touchpad on the center console or via the smart touch controls on the steering wheel. The steering wheel controls on the left are linked to the infotainment, while those on the right are linked to the driver display which is also customizable. The tachometer or speedometer can be replaced by other displays, such as vehicle distance alert, on-board navigation or cruise control.

As it connected automotive technology, Class A can also be accessed via a phone app, or you can get updates on your home Alexa or Google devices. You can request mileage, location information or even setup speed warning. The A also pampers occupants with power seats including lumbar adjustment and memory function. They also feature a manually adjustable under thigh support extension. Obviously, the wow factor of the Class A limo is in the front seats.

However, when it comes to safety, Mercedes has quite a long list which, apart from the usual electronic aids like ESP and Pre-Safe, also includes radar-based Active Brake Assist for emergency braking, the active bonnet function to minimize pedestrian injuries and a total of seven airbags including a knee airbag for the driver. It even has a semi-autonomous Park Assist to make city life easier.

Slips or grunts?

The A-Class is available with a choice of two A200s – a 1.3-litre petrol and a 2-litre diesel. The diesel produces 150hp of power and 320Nm of torque which is sent to the front wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. However, we drove the petrol, resulting in a healthier 163bhp and 250Nm. This engine uses a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission and was co-developed by Daimler with the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The A 200 is ideal for daily driving as the engine is smooth, yet quick to rev when cruising at low speeds around town. Mercedes claims an impressive fuel efficiency of 17.5 kmpl for the A200 petrol. It’s also because it has mild hybrid technology like engine start stop and brake energy recuperation.

But is it ugly?

Paddle shifters let you take control of the snappy gearbox, for more precision while engine modes change nature from all sides. Sport mode is more engaging as the engine is more responsive and the gearbox more aggressive, however, the link between the accelerator pedal and the engine is far from instantaneous. Compared to diesel, petrol is down in torque and gets a lesser ratio, but it nails 0-100 km/h a tenth faster than diesel.

Although we wouldn’t call it racy, it’s quick and you’ll enjoy pushing it as the engine revs quickly and progresses well to its 6250 rpm redline. When whipped, the throaty buzz also adds character to the driving experience.

throw it away

The other reason you love driving the A-Class is the way it handles curves. This front-wheel-drive Mercto leave, despite the thin 205 section rubber, is quite pungent! Launched into a corner at high speed, it holds its line with confidence. Precise Steering allows you to position the car inches off the curb with precision when cruising through the esses. The steering, while light at low speeds, weighs beautifully when going fast. Thus, the chassis ensures that engine power is not wasted at all. As you push harder, the Pirelli Cinturatos start to protest, and as you run out of traction, the ESP steps in to keep things tidy without making noise. So if you find yourself on a twisty road with the A-Class, you’d be a happy driver.

The suspension is also adept at dealing with poor road conditions to keep you comfortable whether at low speeds or high speeds. However, it could do with a little more polishing, as big potholes and sharp edges can be felt from time to time, and the cabin could have been a bit quieter.

Verdict

The A-Class is a real blue Mercedes. He aims to wow and does too. The cabin experience is rich and on par with any of the larger Mercs. His driving manners are imbued with a quiet confidence that makes time spent behind the wheel all the more enjoyable. For its size, the A-Class managed to deliver a much more convenient and enjoyable backseat experience compared to the CLA that preceded it, making the A-Class a much more complete offering. However, to earn the limo tag, the backseat experience would have to stretch the envelope further, whether in terms of ergonomics, ride quality or comfort. Nonetheless, at around Rs 40-42 lakh, the Class A limo will be a well-rounded option for people entering the Mercedes family.