Compact front-wheel-drive roadster planned for 2011

Plans for a compact front-wheel-drive roadster are back on the drawing board at Mercedes. The move follows a recent new model review that called for greater emphasis on affordable and fuel-efficient cars - to attract younger buyers and help satisfy the EU’s newly mandated CO2 regulations.

Mercedes boss Dieter Zetsche is weighing up a plan for a two-seat roadster, a proposal that revives the idea behind the striking Mercedes Vision SLA concept, revealed at the Detroit motor show in 2000.

The proposal is based on modified underpinnings from the third-generation 2011 Mercedes A-class - itself set to abandon today’s complex sandwich platform structure in favour of a more conventional floorpan.

No official decision on the lower-priced Mercedes roadster has been taken. However, the realities of the worldwide financial crisis are making their presence felt at Mercedes and officials feel the time is right for a small roadster.

The Mercedes SLA would join the German firm’s growing stable of small cars and slot in below the strong-selling SLK.

One decision facing Mercedes board members is whether to badge the new car as a Mercedes or incorporate it into an expanded Smart line-up. It could be sold as a replacement for the Smart Roadster alongside a possible four-seat successor to the aborted ForFour, a car that is also set to use future A-class underpinnings.

A senior Mercedes official told Autocar: “It is part of the regular new model review at Mercedes-Benz to look at ideas from the past. When the SLA was originally proposed, we didn’t have a suitable platform; the sandwich platform is too high and too heavy. This problem will be alleviated with the arrival of the next A-class, whose new platform provides much greater scope in the sort of variants it can support.”

Mercedes is already investing heavily in the new A-class. As well as spending €600 million (£521m) to revamp existing production facilities in Rastatt, Germany, it has also announced that it will build a new €800 million (£695m) production plant in Kecskemet, Hungary. Between them, the two plants are expected to have an overall annual capacity of up to 500,000 cars.

Autocar first revealed plans for new coupe and hatchback versions of the A-class earlier this year. Joining them from 2012 will be a follow-up to the B-class and a junior off-roader. By adding a roadster to the mix, Mercedes would have a full line-up of affordable front-drive models.

Mercedes’ decision to revisit the SLA comes hot on the heels of an announcement that VW is planning to reveal a new mid-engined roadster concept at next month’s Detroit motor show. It follows news that BMW is pushing ahead with a 1-series-based Z2 roadster to slot beneath the Z4 in its line-up.

Greg Kable

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5 December 2008

[quote Autocar]The move follows a recent new model review that called for greater emphasis on affordable and fuel-efficient cars - to attract younger buyers and help satisfy the EU’s newly mandated CO2 regulations.
[/quote]

Does this also mean they are going to be dropping the complex heavy folding steel roof idea as well for such a small vehicle?

When the A class was originally launched, Mercedes hailed its floor pan as the future of car production, being safe, space efficient and easy to build. What's changed?

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

5 December 2008

[quote TegTypeR]

When the A class was originally launched, Mercedes hailed its floor pan as the future of car production, being safe, space efficient and easy to build. What's changed?

[/quote]

Four things have changed:

1) They never reached the volumes they thought they would, so the unit cost is high

2) The sandwich requires a special, 45º inclined series of engines that are not compatible with other cars such as the C and E; this means even less economies of scale

3) Part of the appeal of the sandwich was to be able to host batteries, gas canisters or fuel cells for alternative propulsion concepts; these have never materialised. As a result, paradoxically, the A and B - which are indeed very spacious given their compact size - have a lot of wasted space in the floorpan

4) Merc assumed that cities would quickly become overcrowded and a lot of people would place a lot of value on space efficiency, as is the case for example in places like Rome where indeed you see lots of A and Smart and you will probably see lots of iQ. Fact is, the majority of people do not live in overcrowded places, and all cars keep growing in size generation after generation. Value for money, ride and handling are more important factors to most buyers.

The "stretch" V168 (LWB) and the less favourable space efficiency of the W169 and the B-class simply show that the engineering masterpiece of the first W168 (measuring just 361cm) did not meet a lot of people's needs.

5 December 2008

Roadster = Rear wheel drive and long bonnet.

That Merc is no more a roadster than the Vauxhall Tigra or Mitsubishi Colt CZ

5 December 2008

good answer giulivo......from memory I think they are keeping the sandwich chassis with relation to possible future battery inclusions!

5 December 2008

(sorry folks)....apologies....should clarify i.e from memory they are keeping the sandwich chassis "tooling" for possilbe future battery inclusion!..... !! (after the current A and B are out of production)......

5 December 2008

On the Lancia forum (Lancia changes dates), I suggested that the Fulvia could be a challenger to the proposed SLA and here is the proposal.

Come on Lancia lets challenge the Germans.

6 December 2008

It would seem that Mercedes have been gazing longingly at the A3 cabriolet and the Focus/Astra/Eos brigade...

7 December 2008

[quote BulletTrainMcKane]Roadster = Rear wheel drive [/quote]

A roadster doesn't have to be RWD, it just has to be an open top car, originally designed as an open top car, not based on a coupe/sedan and with only two seats. That's the basics.

Having said that, I can't see this Mercedes rivaling the MX-5 for driving dynamics, with FWD. It may be more desirable than the average coupe-convertible, but that's about it.

8 December 2008

[quote rtwingo]A roadster doesn't have to be RWD, it just has to be an open top car, originally designed as an open top car, not based on a coupe/sedan and with only two seats. That's the basics.[/quote]

Hmm - I'm not sure about this - whether or not a manufacturer has other variants of a car makes no difference as to what it is. A 3 series coupe is still a coupe, no matter if there's a saloon or estate version.

For example, would the Z4 be any less of a roadster if the coupe had come first? I don't think so!

The definition I can find is that a raodster is a two seat car without a roof, or where the roof is detachable. In the case where you have a retractable roof, this is a convertible.

However - common language would now say that a roadster would be front engined, rear wheel drive, 2 seat open top car. You could ague a Fiat Barchetta is a roadster, but mainly as it has the right proportions. The picture of the SLA in the article would suggest that it is more a compromised A3 convertible competitor!

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