Test Drive

Your First Mercedes Just Might be the A-Class

If driving a ‘Benz’ is among your future goals, Mercedes has made a vehicle that is designed to make that happen sooner than you might have imagined.

Written By Chris Penrose

The new A-Class sedan is described as a “gateway for the Mercedes-Benz brand”, which they have delivered without compromising on any of the design or performances features that make brand-lifers out of most of those who drive a Mercedes.

I arrived in Seattle for a stretch of sun-bathed days in September to experience the A-Class on an ambitious drive through the mountains to the town of Yakima, Washington. Before putting my foot to the gas pedal, I spent some time getting into the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX).

This infotainment system is presented with a high-resolution screen that stretches from the steering wheel to the passenger seat. On it, you find all of the cars’ dials, the navigation system, music options and access to your phone. While there is a touchpad that sits comfortably under your palm, what stood out the most is how much can be controlled with your voice. All you need to do is say, “Hey Mercedes”, and you initiate a conversation with your car — think of a Mercedes version of Siri.

This adaptive, intelligent voice control allows you to get directions, change the music, make a phone call, or find out information like the score in the game last night, top news stories, and the weather wherever you are headed. What’s more is that this system is powered by artificial intelligence and connected to a cloud system that is continually being updated, allowing your car to adapt to you.

It was only after driving for two days with this feature and then going back to a vehicle without these capabilities that I realized how much of a game-changer this feature is to the driving experience.

The first time I felt the true power of the 2.0 litre turbocharged engine—and just how far the 188hp goes in a Mercedes engine—was when I needed to pass a slower vehicle on a two-lane winding road. Within seconds, I had passed the car I was behind and was back in the right-lane, and had done so without any of the roaring of a revving engine that can make the act of passing on a mountain road a heart-pumping act.

The sheer smoothness of the ride stood out immediately as I rolled out of a downtown alleyway and headed through the city streets on my way to a picturesque country drive.

Before this drive, I had never been to Washington state. Much like British Columbia, the terrain changes dramatically over a relatively short distance: dense, green forest on steep mountains becomes rounded hills in the desert within hours. That drive in the countryside was filled with breathtaking views at every turn. I spent most of the time behind the wheel fighting the urge to pull over for another picture of the stunning landscapes.

That said, day two was when I became completely sold on the A-Class while taking the car out to explore the city. Traffic in Seattle is almost always heavy, which is made worse by the fact that construction is taking place at nearly every turn (apparently, there are more cranes in this city than any other metropolis on the continent right now). Driving through that chaos, the A-Class felt responsive to the fast-pace of the urban setting, yet offered a layer of insulation from the madness. Having no idea where I was going, I had an incredible morning of driving around the port, visiting key landmarks, and getting a bit of shopping done before it was time to head back to Toronto.

The promise of the A-Class is that they are offering the classic Mercedes-Benz experience, enhanced by the future of driving to a new category of drivers. Promise kept.