To B or not to B?
After our previous driving experience of the Mercedes-Benz B-Class on the Buddh International Circuit, we get our hands on the Indian-spec right hand version. The one on the track was a left-hand drive, manual transmission with a more powerful engine, hence we could not say much about the driving dynamics and the engine’s performance.
This time around we take the B-Class through our standard driving test and routine to see how does the new-entry level Mercedes-Benz fare and if it is capable to carry the three-pointed star heritage.
The B-Class is the first sports-tourer for the Indian car market. The overall appearance of the B-Class feels compact, but the vehicle is almost as large as the C-Class. The fascia of the B-Class gets the large Avantgarde front grille proudly wearing the large central star. The headlamps get a new design with an array of day-time running LEDs and also bi-xenon headlamps.
The silhouette of the B-Class does resemble an utility vehicle, but the crisp swage line makes it look short. The twin-five spoke alloy wheels also add some glam factor to the side profile. The rear reminds of the estate version of the E-Class and even the tail lamp design is similar. The spoiler on the top, further enhances the styling of the rear.
The designer at Mercedes-Benz went back to the drawing board, to craft a new design of instrument panel for the B-Class. The B-Class does sport the new interiors, and the later upcoming models from the Stuttgart-based manufacturer shall be inspired from this new instrument panel. There is no deterioration in the quality of the materials used and the B-Class has top notch materials, despite being a premium segment vehicle.
The bucket of the B-Class will come embellished with brownies like telematics, memory seats, 7 airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system, Attention Assist, ESP and panoramic sunroof. Mercedes-Benz has picked a leaf from its old instrument panel design book and introduced the old round dials for air-conditioning.
The numpad of the old car is still retained. The screen also gets satellite navigation and reverse parking camera. So, the B-Class is capable enough to wear the Mercedes-Benz crown on it.
Even the front row seats are electrically adjustable seats and once you slip behind the steering wheel, the position is commanding as you have a complete view of the road. Speaking of the space, there is ample of it in the front and the second row.
The seats are also large and are supportive. The second row has the Vario seats. The boot is also massive as it offers a storage capacity of 488 litres, and this can be increased to 1547 litres, thanks to the Vario seats.
Engine and Transmission:
Mercedes-Benz will offer the B-Class with petrol and diesel variants. As only 250 units were allotted to India, the German manufacturer had to limit the engine option to petrol only for the time being. The petrol mill is a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that tames an army of 122 horses. This is the smallest engine Mercedes-Benz has ever offered in India. The pressure produced by the turbo is fairly low and hence, one doesn’t realize when the turbo spools.
The refinement of this mill is top-notch as the NVH levels are low. The growl from the exhaust isn’t that loud either. The power delivery is decent and most of the power is available post 5,000rpm. The B-Class comes mated to a 7-speed transmission dual clutch transmission, which is the same transmission that is also used in the SLS AMG . As this has two clutches, it reduces the shift times and the process of engaging and disengaging is smoother as well. The transmission does help to extract the maximum out of this engine.
The B-Class is the first front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz for the Indian market. The Stuttgart-based manufacturer has always had rear-wheel drive cars in India. Also, the upcoming A-Class will have a front-wheel drive and will share the same platform with the B-Class.
The ride suppleness on the B-Class is excellent and it doesn’t feel jittery at low and high speeds. The suspension does a fine job of absorbing the bumps and also shocks on bad roads. Just like any other B-Class, the Mercedes-Benz brand’s reputation.
The handling of the B-Class isn’t that phenomenal, but is good for its size. There is some amount of body roll, and this is well controlled by the ESP. However, the roll does feel prominent for a fraction of a second until the ESP kicks in. The steering wheel is also light, and does weigh up slightly as the speed increases. The steering wheel feels a bit slack around the corners, but it does the job well. All one needs is some getting used to.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class is the new entry-level ticket to procure the three-pointed star badge. There have no cuts in the quality, premium-ness, refinement or even safety. This is the only sports tourer vehicle that is today available in India. So, if you need one for this reason or cant buy the C-Class, then the B-Class has to be your pick.