2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class breaks cover at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show

Article by Christian Andrei, on March 5, 2012

After few leaked photos, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz A-Class finally made its debut today and promises to open a new chapter in the compact segment. The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class also marks the first time when performance specialists from AMG were involved in the development of the compact class from a very early stage.

Under the hood, the 2013 A-Class offers the new generation of petrol engines with a displacement of 1.6 and 2.0 litres delivering from 90 kW (115 hp) in the A 180 and 115 kW (156 hp) in the A 200 through to 155 kW (211 hp) in the A 250. All engine feature the combination of direct injection and exhaust gas turbocharging.

Camtronic also celebrate its premiere in the 1.6-litre engine and can adjust the valve lift on the intake side and restrict the amount of fresh mixture used in the partial load range, so reducing consumption. Regarding the diesel engines, the A 180 CDI offers an output of 80 kW (109 hp) and a maximum torque of up to 250 Nm, while the A 200 CDI has a maximum output of 100 kW (136 hp) and torque that rises to 300 Nm. The A 220 CDI, this model is powered by the 2.2-liter diesel engine delivering 125 kW (170 hp) and torque of 350 Nm.

All the engines feature the ECO start/stop function as standard and can be combined either with the new six-speed manual transmission or, as an option, with the 7G-DCT dual-clutch automatic transmission. Although for the moment is not available, Mercedes-Benz promises to offer an all-wheel drive version of the A-Class. Its exceptional aerodynamic performance, with a new record Cd value of 0.26, puts the A-Class at the top of its class.

Moreover, the 2013 A-Class will offer various suspension settings, among them the optional sports suspension with Direct-Steer system. In addition, the A-Class is the only vehicle in its segment to feature a radar-based collision warning system with adaptive Brake Assist, which lowers the risk of rear-end collisions. Dubbed Collusion Prevention Assist, this system gives a visual and acoustic warning to alert a possibly distracted driver to identified obstacles.

Moreover, the new A-Class offers new systems borrowed from the larger model series, such as Attention Assist (standard), Brake Hold fuction (standard), Hill-Start Assist (standard), Distronic Plus, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Speed Limit Assist (speed limit sign recognition), Speed Limit Assist (speed limit sign recognition), Active Parking Assist, Linguatronic, Reversing Camera.

The new Mercedes-Benz A 250 Sport and the A 220 CDI Sport will also be available with the AMG Sport Package, consisting of exclusive 18-inch AMG light-alloy wheels in a 5-spoke design, new front and rear bumpers with hints of red, as well as new black trim and additional accents in red for the interior. According to the manufacturer, the A 250 Sport and the A 220 CDI Sport models offer a are differentiated, amongst other factors, by a special AMG-developed front axle and a suspension that has been configured to match.

Press Release

The new A-Class – the sporty compact model from Mercedes:

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is opening up a new chapter in the compact segment: markedly emotive in design, with powerful engines ranging from 80 kW (109 hp) to 155 kW (211 hp), extremely efficient with emissions from just 98 g of CO2/km and a best-in-class drag coefficient of 0.27. At the same time the new model underlines that for Mercedes-Benz, safety is not a question of price - the standard specification includes, amongst other things, the radar-based COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST system. Prices in Germany start at €23,978.50 (incl. 19% VAT) for the A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY.

"Mercedes-Benz is becoming the most dynamic premium brand in the world. As part of this development, the A-Class represents an important milestone. The A-Class is completely new, down to the last detail. In automotive development, it's not often you get the chance to start with a clean sheet of paper. Our engineers have made the very most of that opportunity", explains Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

Exterior design: The most progressive design in the compact class

Standing as much as 18 centimetres lower on the road than the preceding model, the new A-Class communicates design and dynamism at the very first glance. This radical form language, presented and enthusiastically acclaimed around the world with the A-Class Concept, was consistently implemented in the series production car. The appearance of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class reflects this new Mercedes-Benz design strategy. The result is what is known as a two-box design with a distinct character of its own, a sportily emotive exterior and an exceptionally high-quality feel to the interior.

"Translating the new dynamic style of Mercedes-Benz into the compact class was a challenge that was great fun to tackle", explains Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Mercedes-Benz. "No other car in this segment is as progressive as the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Absolutely typical for Mercedes is the sculptural shape of the A-Class. The character lines, in particular on its sides, lend the Mercedes-Benz A-Class structure and terseness. The new dynamic style is perceptible at first glance in the interior as well."

Defined edges and tautly drawn surfaces mark out the exterior design of the new A-Class. The constant interplay between concave and convex surfaces creates a characteristic play of light, particularly along the sides of the car, which contributes to its unique appearance.

Typical features of the long, sporty front are its pronounced V-shape, the separate headlamps, the radiator grille with central Mercedes star and double slats to either side of the star, as well as the additional air intakes on the sides. The "dropping line" apparent in the side profile dissipates towards the vehicle's front end. The design of the headlamps, together with the configuration of the light functions within them, are a key element of the design concept.

The light modules and LEDs behind the headlamp cover glass have been arranged in such a way as to create the characteristic "flare effect" for the daytime driving lights and indicators. The so-called "flare" is made up of the feature line within the headlamp, the LED modules for the daytime running lamps and the bulb sets for the indicators. This signature effect gives the car its energetic look and so helps to define a new, youthful face for Mercedes.

The perfect interplay of dynamic design and excellent aerodynamics is nowhere more apparent than in the roof, with its smooth surfaces and taut, arcing curve. The silhouette reveals smooth, flowing lines finishing in a flat edge. The roof spoiler, which conveniently hides all the aerials, provides an extra sporty touch and gives structure to the roof assembly. The beltline rises to the rear to form a pronounced wedge-shape. The side view is distinguished by sensuously moulded sculptural side panels and crisp lines. The front structural edge, above the wing, falls in what is known as a "dropping line" in a gentle arc towards the rear. The powerfully-shaped shoulder muscles above the rear axle serve to emphasise the car's coupé-like character. A further line sweeps up from just in front of the rear wheel arch, then gently fades away. All these lines give depth and dynamism to the car's profile. Dynamic side sill panels provide a final finishing touch towards the bottom of the car, enhancing the appearance of elegant light-footedness.

The broad emphasis of the tail end is revealed in an interplay of convex-concave surfaces and edges. The tail lights continue the line of the muscular shoulders back towards the rear, while their horizontal orientation emphasises the car's powerful breadth. The light functions are provided optionally by fibre-optic cables and LED modules. Here, too, the interaction between design and aerodynamics is very clear: the surface finish of the tail lights is not only an interesting design feature, but also improves the airflow around the vehicle thanks to defined airflow break-away edges in the rear section.

Interior design: Extraordinary perceived value

The starting point for the interior design was the interior sculpture "Mercedes-Benz Aesthetics No. 2" presented at the Detroit Motor Show in 2011 and which directed attention to the new Mercedes-Benz design language in the vehicle interior, too. The first concrete implementation of this was shown in April 2011 with the A-Class Concept.

"The inspiration from aircraft design is continued in the A-Class", explains designer Jan Kaul. "The instrument panel is clearly divided into an upper part inspired on a wing profile and a muscular lower section. This creates the impression that the upper section is supported by a muscle."

The process used for the production of this muscle allows diverse soft surface textures. It is thus possible to create different surface appearances with an attractive play of lights thanks to three-dimensional structures embedded in foil.

"The interior of the A-Class represents a big step forward in terms of quality - both in the materials used and in the consistency of the design" says Kaul. Both objectives have been achieved with the help of a specific design idiom and through the various combination options possible with the high-quality materials selected. All trim elements have been given an electroplated finish, resulting in real metal surfaces with "cool touch" effect. The work has been executed with considerable care and attention to detail, so that they appear to have been moulded in one piece.

The instrument panel incorporates five round vents. "Like brilliant jewels they underscore the superior quality of the vehicle interior", explains Kaul. The outer rings of the round vents have a high-quality electroplated finish. The airflow direction is governed by an insert that is reminiscent of an aircraft turbine and reveals a meticulous attention to detail. This too has an electroplated finish in silver-chrome. The free-standing display screen features a black piano-lacquer-look front panel and a flush-fitting silver frame.

The instrument cluster comprises two large round instruments, each with a small dial set within it. When at rest, the dial needles stand at 6 o'clock. The pointer inlays are in white, although with the sportier design and equipment lines such as Urban and AMG Sport they are in red. The dials on the sporty equipment lines and packages are coloured silver with a chequered flag effect. The 3-spoke steering wheel comes with 12 function buttons and an electroplated bezel.

The centre dome and console, as well as the positioning of the various elements such as the head unit, lower control panel, air conditioning operating unit, stowage compartments, rotary pushbutton and armrest, reflect the findings of the ergonomics experts at Mercedes-Benz.

An extensive range of seat coverings, in terms of material (e.g. leather, fabric, ARTICO/fabric), colour combination and also geometry, provides scope for a broad range of individualisation options. Sports seats with integrated head restraints are available with all optional design and equipment lines. The sporty nature of the seats is emphasised by the opening between the upper edge of the seat backrest and the head restraint. On the back of the front seats this opening is edged with a frame in silver chrome and, in conjunction with the Light and Sight package, can also feature ambient lighting.

Designer Jan Kaul sums up: "If you were to take a seat in the A-Class with your eyes closed - you would never think, upon opening your eyes, that you were sitting in a compact-class vehicle."

The chassis and suspension: Agility and refined sportiness

Refined sportiness means maximum agility combined with the sense of safety, unspoilt driving stability and high levels of ride comfort which are all typical of the brand. The suspension of the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has a four-link rear axle, electromechanical power steering with assistance functions and ESP® with "Extended Traction Control" (XTC). During development, the suspension experts made intensive use of simulations and the driving simulators at the Mercedes development centre in Sindelfingen as part of the so-called digital ride and handling test.

The preconditions for achieving dynamic handling are excellent in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. This is because compared with its predecessor the centre of gravity (24 mm lower) and seating position (174 mm lower) has been reduced significantly. A new feature is the four-link rear axle: forces are absorbed by three control arms and one trailing arm per wheel. This means that longitudinal and lateral dynamics are virtually independent of one another. Wheel carriers and spring links are made of aluminium to reduce the unsprung masses. The goal was to achieve high lateral agility with high driving stability thanks to small sideslip angle on the rear axle.

Three chassis and suspension set-ups are available: the comfort suspension and optional sports suspension for sporty yet comfortable handling (in conjunction with the Dynamic Handling package or the AMG Sport equipment line). In addition, the A 250 Sport has a sporty, "engineered by AMG" high-performance suspension. Altogether this results in low dynamic rolling behaviour and low start-off pitch angle. Furthermore, the vehicle also has a reduced tendency to understeer in the higher lateral acceleration range: the driver is therefore able to control changes in direction with low steering input but high steering precision. When accelerating out of bends taken at speed, the tendency to understeer is reduced even further by "Extended Traction Control" (XTC): with this function, ESP®provides support in the form of directional stability by generating a yaw moment on the front and rear wheels located on the inside of the bend.

Steering: mechanical with electric assistance

The electromechanical steering of the A-Class has been redesigned. The electric motor of the servo assistance system is now located directly on the steering gear as a dual pinion EPS system. The steering system makes an important contribution to the vehicle's overall efficiency, as the steering assist function only requires energy when steering actually takes place. A Direct-Steer system is available in combination with the Dynamic Handling package or AMG Sport equipment line. This provides a noticeably more direct steering ratio over the turning angle thanks to the variable ratio, and enhances the vehicle's handling and agility substantially. The steering conveys a high sense of safety, as the driver experiences a consistent and precise response to all steering movements.

The electric power steering also enables various steering assistance functions which are activated by the ESP® control unit. These include

Countersteering in case of oversteering
Corrective steering when braking on road surfaces offering different levels of grip (split-fraction braking)
Mitigating the extent to which the front-wheel drive influences the steering
Compensating crosswind and road gradients
The electric power steering also makes Active Park Assist possible.
With all engine variants, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class comes with disc brakes on all wheels. The callipers on the rear axle and the brake boosters are made of aluminium. A particularly convenient feature is the HOLD function, which is familiar from the larger model series: when stopping, for example at traffic lights, the driver merely has to press the brake pedal slightly more firmly and the brake will remain engaged until he moves off again. The brake is released automatically when the driver steps on the accelerator. On versions with manual transmission, the Hill Hold function automatically prevents the vehicle from rolling back unintentionally when starting on a slope.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class is equipped with an electric parking brake, which operates by means of actuator motors acting on the callipers of the rear axle. The parking brake is activated via a button under the light switch on the left of the dashboard. This creates additional space in the centre console, as the handbrake lever is no longer required. When the button is pressed at speeds of over four km/h, the parking brake acts as an emergency brake, activating all four wheel brakes via the ESP®'s hydraulic unit.

In conjunction with the 7G-DCT automatic transmission, the parking brake offers a particularly convenient mode of functioning: when the driver accelerates sufficiently after fastening their seat belt, the parking brake is released automatically.

Aerodynamics: Saving fuel the aerodynamic way

With a drag coefficient (Cd) value of 0.27, the aerodynamic experts at Mercedes-Benz succeeded in creating another masterpiece with the Mercedes-Benz A-Class. And the A 180 BlueEFFICIENCY Edition due to follow later is even able to exceed this record for hatchback vehicles: thanks to a number of aerodynamic enhancements, this beacon of efficiency achieves a Cd value of 0.26.

Countless flow simulation studies on the computer and a great deal of fine tuning in the wind tunnel resulted in a clear goal: to enhance the basic shape of the A-Class design further, with a view to achieving an exceptional drag coefficient. This is no easy task, particularly for a hatchback model with a short rear overhang. But an improvement in the Cd value of just one hundredth will reduce fuel consumption by one tenth of a litre per 100 km when driving on the motorway at approx. 120 km/h. Based on NEDC figures, this corresponds to a CO2 reduction of one gram per kilometre.

With a Cd value of 0.27 and a frontal area of 2.20 m2, the drag area (CdA) is less than 0.6 m2 - a benchmark figure for hatchback vehicles in this segment.

The detailed work behind this development is highlighted by the following examples:

The distinctive side spoilers next to the rear window ("finlets") help to create a run-on design which significantly reduces the disruptive longitudinal vortices generated at the D-pillars.
Flow losses at the front wheel arches have been reduced substantially with the aid of patented serrated wheel spoilers at front and rear, slots in the wheel arches and optimised hub caps. These measures result in improved wind flow around the wheel arches.
The Mercedes-Benz A-Class has an adjustable radiator shutter, already familiar in larger model series. The louvres behind the radiator grille are for the most part closed when there is no specific need for cooling air.
The underbody has also been aerodynamically enhanced: the main floor panel features extensive cladding up to the rear wheel arch, followed by additional cladding of the rear axle. The rear silencer has also undergone aerodynamic optimisation.
The new A-Class features exterior mirrors which have been optimised in terms of a number of details and already proven their excellent aerodynamic properties in large model series such as the S, E and C-Class, and also the B-Class. The position of the exterior mirror is adjusted in respect of the A-pillar in such a way that the airflow is directed along the side window without any significant interference or disruption.
The exterior mirrors and the low stepped height of the A-pillars reflect the fact that the work conducted in the wind tunnel was not just about optimising the flow conditions, but also about minimising wind noise. And in addition to aerodynamics and aeroacoustics, there is often another discipline to consider: in terms of water management too, the flow around the exterior mirrors and the A-pillars also has to be optimised in the wind tunnel in order to guarantee good visibility is maintained towards the rear and at the sides during wet weather.

More than with previous model series, in the case of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class the aerodynamics experts at Mercedes-Benz made particular use of flow simulation (CFD, Computational Fluid Dynamics): each component was first improved over several cycles using flow simulation before having its aerodynamic properties put to the test in the wind tunnel.

Digital flow simulation is based on so-called finite volumes as a mathematical model. A volume net is formed from around 60 million hexahedrons, or cubes, and is based around the CAD data of the new A-Class. This enables the driving cycle to be simulated over a free area in a large virtual wind tunnel. The Mercedes engineers generate the airflow using a predetermined turbulence level.

Setting new standards in terms of Cd value and consumption: BlueEFFICIENCY Edition

Due to follow later is the A 180 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY Edition boasting even better consumption levels. It is among the most efficient vehicles of its class: thanks to a series of additional aerodynamic optimisation measures, it has been possible to reduce its Cd value from 0.27 (standard model) to 0.26.

These measures include:

partially covering the upper part of the radiator grille
aerodynamically shaped spring link coverings to improve the underbody airflow at the rear axle
lowering of the suspension by 15 mm
Diesel engines: three efficient power bands

The new basic engine in the OM 607 series develops 80 kW (109 hp), delivers 260 Nm to the crankshaft and with a manual transmission consumes 3.8 litres per 100 km, corresponding to 98 g of CO2/km. This is a 22-percent improvement over the only 60 kW (82 hp) preceding model, the A 160 CDI, which consumed 4.9 litres. The new top diesel, the A 220 CDI, is no less than 25 percent better than its predecessor: it develops an output of 125 kW (170 hp) and 350 Nm of torque, and in combination with the 7G-DCT automatic dual clutch transmission it consumes only 4.3 litres/100 km (provisional figure). The figures for the preceding A 200 CDI were 103 kW(140 hp), 5.7 litres, and 149 g of CO2/km.

Petrol engines: turbocharging and direct injection for all

A comparison between the new and previous A 200 demonstrates what has been achieved with the petrol engines: with 115 kW(156 hp) and 250 Nm of torque, the new engine delivers superior performance but consumes only 5.4 litres/100 km (127g CO2/km - figures for the 7G-DCT), which is 26 percent less than its predecessor (100 kW, 185 Nm, 7.4 l/100 km, 174 g CO2/km). Even the new top model with the 7G-DCT and producing 155 kW(211 hp) and 350 Nm is considerably more efficient with a consumption of 6.1 litres and CO2 emissions of 143 g.

The completely new engines and transmissions are not the only decisive factors in this exemplary efficiency. Thanks to the modular system it has been possible to select the optimally designed transmission for each diesel and petrol engine. The overall package is rounded off perfectly with progressive aerodynamics with a Cd figure of only 0.27, as well as a number of other improvements.

"The new four-cylinder models from Mercedes-Benz occupy a leading position by virtue of their performance, high efficiency and very low emissions. They impress with their smooth, superior power delivery and offer customers refinement at the highest level," says Professor Dr Thomas Weber, Daimler Board Member responsible for Group Research and Mercedes-Benz Cars Development.

The 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission: Dynamic and efficient

Drawing on over 50 years of experience in the development and production of automatic transmissions, Mercedes-Benz ventured into new technical territory with the 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission: the new system is an automated three-shaft manual transmission consisting of two subtransmissions, each with its own clutch. Both actuation of the clutches and gear shifting take place fully automatically and without any interruption in tractive power. This allows a particularly comfortable but nevertheless dynamic mode of driving.

Thanks to its seven gears it offers an exceptionally large spread of up to 7.99. This means that a very short transmission ratio is available when moving off on an uphill slope with a high payload, for example, while during cruising the engine speed can be lowered considerably. The efficiency of this transmission leads to a nine percent improvement in fuel consumption compared to the CVT employed in the Mercedes-Benz A-Class to date, and betters the consumption with a manual transmission.

At a length of 367 millimetres and a weight of 86 kilograms, the 7G-DCT is more compact and lighter than the transmissions in this torque class which have been available on the market to date. The clutches take the form of oil-cooled multi-disc clutches. The specially developed hydraulic fluid is actively cooled, thus ensuring correct functioning of the transmission even under extreme conditions, despite the comparatively low filling level of six litres. Excess engine heat can also be transferred to the transmission, which improves its efficiency.

For the first time on this type of unit, the transmission is supplied with oil by two oil pumps - one mechanical and one electric. The electric pump maintains the oil pressure when the engine is switched off via the start/stop function. This means that the transmission is immediately operational when the engine is restarted and the vehicle can move off again without any delay. In addition, the electric pump is able to support the mechanical pump when peak loads apply, enabling a more compact and efficient design for the mechanical pump.

Another new feature is electric activation of the hydraulics for the parking lock, which is locked by mechanical means. This "park by wire" function enables the transmission selector lever to be positioned as desired: it is located in the form of a steering column lever on the right behind the steering wheel in the A-Class. In combination with the electric parking brake, additional space has thus been created in the centre console for additional stowage facilities.

Three gearshift modes are available to the driver:

ECONOMY: in this mode, the transmission performs gearshifts fully automatically and particularly comfortably. The gears are selected with due regard to a particularly economical style of driving at low revs
SPORT: the transmission performs gearshifts fully automatically. The shift and response times are shorter, with gearshifts at higher engine speeds
MANUAL: in this mode, the driver operates the transmission manually via shift paddles behind the steering wheel. The engine speeds at which the gears are shifted can therefore be freely chosen
In ECO or Sport mode, the driver is still able to intervene manually in the gear-shifting process via the shift paddles. The transmission reverts to the selected automatic mode after the paddles have remained inactive for twelve seconds, or after a longer delay when driving downhill or on winding roads.

A key factor contributing to the overall efficiency and dynamism of the A-Class is the closely coordinated operation of the transmissions and engines. A continuous exchange of data between the control units ensures that the engines run at the ideal operating point at all times. The 7G ‑DCT transmission is manufactured at Daimler's Stuttgart-Hedelfingen plant.

The six-speed manual transmission: Comfortable manual gearshifts

The new six-speed manual transmission was developed in parallel with 7G-DCT. It is extremely compact and shares a number of common parts.

The three-shaft transmission is also very compact (length 345 mm) and light (dry weight 46 kg) and incorporates a number of special features for particularly pleasant gearshifting. An integrated magnet on the gearshift shaft is detected by a Hall sensor. The idle position is identified in this way, making the start/stop function possible. The signal for reverse gear activates the reversing lights.

The large spread of 6.7 allows a reduction in engine speed while at the same time ensuring that sufficient tractive power is available when moving off with a fully laden Mercedes-Benz A-Class and trailer up to a gross weight of 3.4 tonnes. The clutch is operated hydraulically and the gears are actuated via cables.

The overhead camshaft with third and fourth gears and the reverse gear do not run in the oil bath. This reduces drag torque, thus facilitating gear shifting at low temperatures in particular. The three-cone synchronisation of the first two gears serves the same purpose, while the following gears are provided with two-cone synchronisation. The weight-optimised cast aluminium shift forks are installed on anti-friction bearings on the shift rods, in order to reduce the shift forces.

Passive safety: A strong basis and intelligent protection

"One star is all you need" - the Mercedes-Benz safety philosophy also applies to the new A-Class. Its safety equipment, some features of which are traditionally found in much higher vehicle categories, includes belt tensioners and belt force limiters for the rear seats, too, the PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection system and the active bonnet for pedestrian protection. The line-up also includes seven airbags as standard and the Mercedes automatic emergency call system.

The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class has passed the brand's rigorous programme of crash tests. This includes not only some 30 different impact configurations, which are laid down as requirements for safety ratings and international type approval, but also nine proprietary crash tests, such as the roof-drop test or the pole impact test, developed by the brand itself.

The ability of the new A-Class to satisfy requirements which go far beyond the statutory conditions in some cases is also demonstrated by an internal offset front collision test against a future luxury-segment saloon from Mercedes-Benz: despite the high impact speed and the fact that it is the smaller accident participant, the A-Class offers its occupants an intact passenger compartment and excellent chances of survival.

The bodyshell structure provides the basis for the high standard of passive safety, both in terms of material - the proportion of high-strength and ultra-high-strength sheet steel stands at 67 percent - and with regard to its structural design. Key features of the front-end structure are the systematic implementation of an available crash length of 435 millimetres, load distribution over several planes, the new bulkhead and floor concept and the subframe as a deformation element.

A total of three longitudinal member planes - consisting of the straight front longitudinal members, a second, upper plane attached to the front end consisting of extruded aluminium box sections and a third plane at the bottom in front of the subframe - allow impact energy to be reduced in a controlled manner.

The subframe provides the torque support for the transverse engine / transmission block and serves to attach the components for the front axle and steering. It consists of several steel plates, some in ultra-high-strength steel, and a hydroformed tube. In order to optimise its deformation properties, the subframe is connected via two aluminium struts leading forward to the aluminium radiator mount located under the front end. In the event of a frontal impact, forces can be discharged at an early juncture into the subframe via this third load path, in order to ensure the best possible energy dissipation.

A plastic crash wedge which is fitted at the rear of the front wheel arches helps to ensure that the wheels do not slide under the front doors in the event of a high-impact crash, irrespective of the turning angles. This means that it will be possible to open the doors, even after a serious accident.

The bulkhead also incorporates a special feature: so-called "skate runners" in front of the two middle longitudinal members discharge forces into the floor. The continuous floor structure consists of a total of four straight longitudinal members. The tunnel roof reinforcements at front and rear combine with the tunnel to provide a further closed profile supporting the front end.

Controlled deformation: protection in side-on crashes

Rigid side structures and defined deformation management help to safeguard the survival space for occupants in the event of a side impact. Elements here include the so-called "pole support", a member fitted diagonally in the rear footwell between centre tunnel and floor side wall which is intended to prevent the floor from being torn open in the event of side impact with a tree.

High-strength steels are used in the upper area of the B-pillar in order to minimise intrusion and to preserve the passenger cell in case of side impact. The lower area of the B-pillar is softer, in the interests of energy dissipation. The safety experts at Mercedes-Benz have christened the crack management system on the insides of the B-pillar "vampire teeth". In a serious side-on crash, the seat belt retractor presses against the inner wall of the B-pillar. To prevent this from leading to a transverse crack which might affect structural integrity, small, tooth-like recesses define the crack direction.

Pedestrian protection: comprehensive measures including Active Bonnet

The protection of those road users who are most at risk has always been a top priority during the development of Mercedes passenger cars. The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class features numerous protective measures designed to help lessen the risk of injury to pedestrians. In order to reduce the loads which arise in the event of a pedestrian impact on the bonnet of the vehicle, the deformation space between the bonnet and the components beneath it has been optimised. This is achieved in part through the appropriate positioning of components such as control units or fluid reservoirs in the engine compartment.

In the case of the A-Class, with its sporty, low-slung body, an active bonnet is also used. In the event of a pedestrian impact, sophisticated sensors combined with intelligent algorithms trigger actuators in the area of the bonnet hinges. These raise the bonnet by 65 millimetres. The additional space which this creates between the bonnet and the components in the engine compartment means that a head is subject to comparatively low internal acceleration forces on impact.

The deformation characteristics of the bonnet have been developed specifically to meet these requirements. Reductions in the impact loads can be achieved by using aluminium and reinforcing the inside face of the bonnet.

On all seats: intelligent restraint systems

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class protects its passengers with up to nine airbags. The standard complement comprises driver and front-passenger airbag, a kneebag for the driver, large thorax-pelvisbags incorporated in the seat to protect the chest, stomach and pelvis area and windowbags. The windowbags extend over both rows of seats to the A-pillar triangle. They serve to protect the occupants' heads from hard contact in the event of side impact and can also help to keep limbs inside the vehicle in an accident. The driver and front passenger airbags operate in two stages, according to the expected severity of the impact. The gas generator first of all fills the driver's airbag with 60 and the front passenger's airbag with 70 per cent gas. If a more severe impact is forecast, the second stage of the gas generator will additionally be activated after a delay and the airbags will be filled at a higher pressure level. Sidebags for the rear are optionally available.

The high safety expertise of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class's developers is reflected in a host of details. The deformable steering column yields by up to 100 millimetres when the driver exerts pressure on the airbag as a result of forward displacement in an accident, for example. The comfort features also reveal a fine touch: the driver's airbag is connected to a vibration absorber in the steering wheel to reduce vibrations, for example.

The head restraints for driver and front passenger are new developments. The onus in developing the new restraints was on further reducing the risk of whiplash injury. Key to effective whiplash prevention is the best possible adjustment of the distance from the rear of the occupants' heads. The restraint incorporates a button for this purpose on the left-hand side (as seen in the direction of travel). This release mechanism can be pressed to unlock the head restraint and increase the distance between head and head restraint. The button does not need to be pressed in order to reduce the distance. This enables single-handed operation in all adjustment positions.

Family-friendly: comprehensive precautionary measures in the rear

In developing the new A-Class, the Mercedes-Benz safety experts have also attached great importance to the safety of the rear-seat occupants. The new model therefore meets the relevant requirements of the Japanese and Chinese NCAP institutes which also take account of factors such as the ease of use of the rear seat belts. Experts believe that Euro NCAP will extend its rating programme to include rear-seat safety in the medium term. The A-Class is already prepared for this and is a role model in this respect - both within and beyond its own vehicle category - with features such as standard-fit belt tensioners and belt force limiters for the outer rear seats. A torsion bar in the roller mechanism twists when the load on it exceeds a defined level. In this way the belt force is limited and with it the load on the seat occupant.

The Mercedes-Benz A-Class's family-friendly features also include the ISOFIX child seat securing system on the outer seats. Child seats can additionally be fixed to the vehicle by means of special anchorage points with top tethers.

Innovation in the compact class: anticipatory occupant protection system

The PRE-SAFE® anticipatory occupant protection system is available in the A-Class for the first time. This represents a further step in the on-going democratisation of this innovation, which was premiered in the S-Class in 2002.

PRE-SAFE® from Mercedes-Benz uses the time between detection of a potential accident situation and a possible collision to initiate preventive protection measures, thus reducing the loads exerted on the occupants in the event of a crash by up to 40 percent.

Core features of PRE-SAFE® are reversible belt tensioning, the closing of side windows and sliding sunroof when critical lateral dynamics are detected and adjustment of the fully electric front passenger seat with memory function to an ideal position for maximum effectiveness of the restraint systems.

PRE-SAFE® is activated when one of the following parameters is met: emergency braking, panic braking, pronounced over- or understeering, critical steering movements or heavy support by adaptive Brake Assist.

Mercedes-Benz automatic emergency call system: faster assistance at the scene of an accident

In combination with COMAND Online, the new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is equipped with the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system. As long as COMAND Online is connected to a mobile phone, the Mercedes-Benz emergency call system can automatically alert the emergency services within a matter of minutes in the event of a serious accident.

After the airbags or belt tensioners are triggered, the vehicle's exact GPS position and vehicle identification number (VIN) are sent by SMS to a special emergency centre, with positional data also being transmitted using the DTMF method (dual-tone multi-frequency) at the same time. Even if the occupants are unconscious or unsure of exactly where they are because they are on a holiday trip, for example, the emergency services alerted by the emergency centre will be notified quickly with accurate information. The driver can also make the emergency call manually as "MB emergency call" is always the first entry in the system phone directory.

On receiving the call, the emergency centre establishes voice contact with the vehicle occupants in a matter of seconds. A particularly practical aspect in an emergency is that the communication is held not in the language of the country where the accident has occurred but in the language which the driver has preset in COMAND Online.

Other than any mobile phone communication charges, which would only arise in the event of an actual emergency call, no charges are incurred by the driver for the emergency call facility and no contractual relationship - other than the regular mobile phone contract - is required.

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