Luxe for the MPV class

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Text and photos by Kap Maceda Aguila

BY ITS MONIKER alone, the multi-purpose vehicle or MPV segment lends itself more to practicality rather than luxury.

But Auto Nation Group, the official Philippine distributor of Mercedes-Benz, says you can have your cake and eat it, too, via the all-new B-Class. Imported from Rastatt, Germany, the small MPV seeks to refine and redefine expectations in the segment.

With a sticker price of P2.69 million for the lone B180 variant, the Merc is powered by a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder turbo engine mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The system puts out 136hp and 200Nm.

The new B-Class joins the A-Class, CLA, and GLA as the more practical and affordable representatives of the Stuttgart-headquartered premium brand — part of its so-called New Generation Compact Car (NGCC) range.

In a Mercedes-Benz release, the B-Class is said to “(redefine) practicality, versatility and safety while putting emphasis on a sportier tourer identity.” The nameplate was first introduced more than 14 years ago for a generally younger market. Now it is seen to “appeal to a new generation of car owners who are drawn to more stylish, sporty, and technologically advanced vehicles — all new and fresh while maintaining the distinct Mercedes-Benz DNA.”

The B-Class banners a new design and improved room; it is a family car with “space, comfort, and safety yet sporting a compact vehicle profile — revolutionizing interior design while retaining cargo space.”

Compared to its predecessor, the new B-Class offers more headroom and elbow room. The seats have been raised for heightened comfort, and large windows boast increased all-around visibility for greater safety and ease in driving.

“The B-Class is more of a fun, easy-to-drive vehicle. It’s for a starting family, yuppies who have a certain budget level on their corporate (car plan), adventurers who want to go out, and mommies too who would like to go on errands and pick up their kids,” said Auto Nation Group Senior Product Manager for Mercedes-Benz Benjie Bautista, in an interview with Velocity. He added that the 1.3-liter turbocharged engine is perfectly suited for the size of the B-Class.

Cargo capacity is improved not just through generous cabin volume but via a 40-40-20 lay-fold rear seat capability. Mr. Bautista demonstrated the capacity, loading two full-size golf bags by collapsing the rear seatbacks, and showing there was still space for a piece of luggage.

The new B-Class also features an array of state-of-the-art active safety features which had been previously available only in more premium Mercs such as the S-Class. Standard on the vehicle is extended Active Brake Assist which “can effectively help to mitigate the consequences of rear-end collisions with slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles ahead, and even with crossing pedestrians and cyclists, or prevent them altogether.”

The technology does this by monitoring distance from other vehicles. Should they get closer than the safety threshold, the system issues a visual warning to the driver. If it detects a serious risk of collision, the driver receives an additional, audible warning, and the system ascertains the brake pressure required to prevent a collision, if still possible. If, having been warned, the driver then steps on the brake pedal, the feature is capable of boosting insufficient braking pressure in line with the needs of the situation. The system thus makes the best possible use of the remaining distance in order to leave the vehicles behind room to brake. If the driver fails to respond, Active Brake Assist can engage autonomously if the danger of collision persists, so as to mitigate the severity of the accident or even prevent it.

The vehicle also features Attention Assist with adjustable sensitivity, “which can warn the driver in a timely manner of inattentiveness and drowsiness.” The vehicle is equipped with air bags for the driver and front passenger, including windowbags and kneebag for the driver, as well as Isofix child-seat mounts and TopTether attachment points in the rear backrest, and other safety features.

As with the new A-Class, the newest iteration of the B-Class has been equipped with the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX), vastly improving and increasing connectivity. The MBUX system banners a “highly intelligent virtual assistant,” activated by pressing a button in the steering wheel or by simply saying, “Hey Mercedes.” It reacts to voice commands and allows the user to access infotainment functions such as destination input, phone call, music selection, climate control, and ambient lighting. The technology comes with a “natural speech recognition program” to enable it to “recognize and understand nearly all sentences from the fields of multimedia and vehicle operation.” It can also learn and customize itself to the user through artificial intelligence.

The MBUX feature is equipped with a 7.4-inch touchscreen, a touchpad on the center console, and touch-control buttons on the steering wheel for less driver distraction and stress. Five round aviation-inspired air ducts give character within, while Artico leather seats offer style and comfort even on long trips.

Mr. Bautista said that Auto Nation Group is confident in the B180 meeting and even surpassing buyer expectations, even as the company is currently looking at bringing in more trims/variants by next year.