Mercedes-Benz has unveiled an all-new A-Class variant – and in doing so ripped up the rules for the compact hatchback class.
The newest A-Class Merc is essentially a four-door saloon, which will go on sale first in China before arriving on these shores early next year.
It’s official title is the A-Class L Sedan and it is more luxurious than the traditional A-Class model which itself has just been reborn in its fourth generation, having originally been launched way back in 1997.
The L Sedan version is the first time a saloon has been produced. It’s also the first A-Class with four doors.
There are few four-door saloons of this type in existence, so the new car will have few direct rivals, although one will be the Audi A3 saloon, which was born as the A3 sedan a few years back and mostly seen in overseas markets until 2017 when it began to make a mark here.
So what is the revolutionary new four-door A-Class L Sedan like?
It’s intriguingly referred to as a “notchback” by Mercedes-Benz, a rather vague car body style term more often employed in the North American car market although sometimes seen here (the Ford Sierra is sometimes cited as an example).
It refers to the rear end – the area behind the C pillar - being slightly shortened.
The A-Class L Sedan in the images has a 6 cm longer wheelbase (2789 instead of 2729 mm) and is the variant developed for the Chinese market.
It is being produced exclusively at Beijing Benz Automotive Co. Ltd, a joint venture between Merc parent Daimler and its Chinese partner BAIC Motor.
The Chinese launch is scheduled for the second half of 2018. L Sedans for other global markets will launch later in 2018.
Mercedes’ latest design language has been built in, showing “clear structures and sensual surfaces”, with safety assistance featuring S-Class functions and the MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system.
Although we haven’t glimpsed the European model yet, the Chinese one will give extremely strong clues as to what it will look like.
There are very short overhangs at front and rear, which, in combination with the side feature line, reinforces a sporty image.
There is a low, drawn-out bonnet, flat headlamps with chrome elements, and torch-like daytime driving lights - plus the diamond radiator grille with single louvre, chrome pins, and central star.
The glasswork which sits far back, and the compact rear end emphasise the sportiness of the vehicle despite its sedan features.
The cabin has been completely overhauled, with the best bits from the normal new, ourth-generation A-Class saloon being retained.
On board is the MBUX multimedia system - Mercedes-Benz User Experience - with unique learning abilities thanks to artificial intelligence.
Under the bonnet at the market launch, the A-Class L Saloon will be available in China with the state-of-the-art all-aluminium four-cylinder engine with a displacement of 1.33 litres with power outputs of 100 and 120 kW (with cylinder shut-off).
A 2-litre four-cylinder engine with CONICSHAPE trumpet honing and CAMTRONIC variable valve timing will follow later. A 7G-DCT dual clutch transmission comes as standard.
The A-Class L Saloon also boasts the very latest driving assistance systems with cooperative driver support, giving it the highest level of active safety in this segment with functions adopted from the S-Class.
No details of the European spec of the car have been revealed by Mercedes, but expect a big launch later in the year ahead of a sales push for 2019.