Road test: staying connected with the Mercedes-Benz B 180 Sports Tourer
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Connecting drivers with their vehicles through their mobile phones has become a key focus for the motor industry.
For example, Mercedes-Benz is keen to promote its “Mercedes me Connect” application on the new B-Class Sports Tourer models.
The B-Class is based on the same architecture as the successful A-Class hatch (and now sedan) models that set new benchmarks for technology in vehicles of their type.
The MBUX vehicle control system allows drivers and other occupants to say “Hey Mercedes” and make dozens of common requests verbally, such as changing the radio station or opening the sunroof.
The system can “learn” the owners’ preferences, noticing patterns and prompting occupants with timely suggestions for common habits or settings.
With this system, the new B-Class allows owners to interact remotely with their vehicles, as well as enabling numerous other convenient functions.
Benefits at the moment are mainly a matter of convenience, but who knows where they will lead as the technology develops.
Today’s connected cars are paving the way for autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and eventually vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, making our roads safer.
While the issue raises the question of who can access the data collected from vehicles, including tracking data, there is no question the systems on today’s cars offer owners convenience.
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For example, take the scenario of having locked your wallet in the B-Class in Auckland, not knowing your partner has inadvertently taken the key fob in her handbag with her on a trip to Wellington.
You wake the next day and realise that the key fob is hundreds of kilometres away in the capital. But it’s not a problem with the B-Class. You can phone your partner and she can use the app in to unlock the car so you can retrieve your wallet, even though she is nowhere near it.
B-Class owners can also use the Mercedes Me app to locate where they have parked their car, how much fuel it has, and access other information.
Some systems already offer real-time traffic information, something especially convenient with Auckland’s over-crowded roading system.
Once you are registered, the service requirements will be indicated in the car as well as on your phone.
But apart from the advanced technology, the new B-Class is a huge improvement on its predecessor. It is larger and more practical inside than the previous model, and it looks smarter. There is more passenger and loading space, a taller seating position and improved visibility, thanks to its low belt line and large windows.
Mercedes-Benz says the B-Class has a lower roofline which contributes to improved airflow and efficiency. The drag coefficient has been reduced from 0.25 to 0.24, while the company says aerodynamic engineers have reduced wind noise, contributing to a more relaxed driving experience.
Inside, the driver sits 90mm higher than in the A-Class hatch, which helps make the B-Class easier to get in and out of, something older buyers of these cars will appreciate.
It feels roomier inside, with the cabin being 33mm wider than the previous model.
The luggage compartment capacity of 455 litres (or 1540 litres with the rear seats folded) is similar to the previous model, Mercedes says there is more efficient use of the available space.
For the first time on the B-Class in this country, this model has a powered tailgate as standard equipment, along with hands-free access by running your foot under the centre of the rear bumper bar to open.
Mercedes-Benz New Zealand is offering only one B-Class model here, the B180 Sports Tourer powered by a 1.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, putting out 100kW of power and 200 Nm of torque. The engine is paired with a 7-speed DCT automatic transmission, and the package has a claimed fuel consumption of just 5.7 l/100km.
It takes nine seconds to reach 100km/h from a standing start, which isn’t bad for such a roomy and practical vehicle.
Safety and convenience technologies include Active Parking Assist (with PARKTRONIC), Active Lane Keep Assist, Active Brake Assist, Traffic Sign Assist, Blind Spot Assist with exit warning, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, electronically folding exterior mirrors, and the PRE-SAFE accident anticipatory system.
The key feature inside the cabin is the glass screen stretching across two-thirds of the dashboard, and the turbine-like air vents immediately beneath the dash.
The test vehicle was fitted with the $490 ambient lighting option, helping to provide an unexpectedly enjoyable night-driving experience.
The interior of the B-Class is plush, with Alcantara-finish sports seats and high-quality materials, with the only drawback being too much glossy piano black material which shows where sticky fingers have been.
Options on the test vehicle included the sport package with AMG line exterior that includes 18in wheels, ($1990), the seat comfort package ($1290), driver assistance package ($1790), and the cosmos black metallic paint option ($1190). The AMG line exterior finishes such as chrome-tipped exhausts help set off what is now an attractive and well-proportioned sports tourer.
The base price for the B-Class is $57,800, and standard features include 17in twin-spoke alloy wheels, smartphone integration, and a new three-spoke sports steering wheel with touch controllers and shift paddles.