From £20,530
Hottest-ever B-class may be a one-off. But it is a blast to drive and proves what a no-limits approach can achieve

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz B-Class

Change is coming to Mercedes’ small-car range, and this new B-Class is the first taste of it.

10 December 2010

What is it?

The B 55 is not a regular Mercedes-Benz model. Nor is it being considered for sale – not now or at any time in the future. Sadly, I should add. Because this wild take on the otherwise wholesomely conservative B-class, created by a team of trainees at Mercedes' Rastatt factory in Germany, is an absolute riot.

As its name suggests, the superbly constructed one-off prototype is well removed from the standard B-class. Having started off life as a humble B 200 CDI, it has been liberated from its standard turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. Shoehorned into its place and other areas of the engine bay is Mercedes’ recently superseded 5.5-litre petrol V8 packing an added 243bhp at 383bhp and 170lb ft more torque at 391lb ft.

Read our review on the Mercedes-Benz B-Class small MPV

What's it like?

Just how the new engine fits under the heavily sloping bonnet and within the tight confines of the compact MPV using the original mounts and without any modification to the standard steel body structure remains somewhat of a mystery, but with polished chrome inlet plumbing and other visual tweaks, it certainly looks the goods.

It sounds it, too. Turn the key and you’re treated to a deliciously throaty soundtrack thanks to a new exhaust system created from various replacement parts that does without the usual silencers and back-pressure reducing trickery. If you didn't know, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the product of AMG, which apparently had no direct input into the new car.

The engine is not the only highlight. Mercedes' trainees have also ditched the B-class's front-wheel drive layout for rear-wheel drive, running a propshaft from its new seven-speed automatic gearbox under the flat floor towards the rear where it mates with an axle from the old E 430 Estate; Its 1540mm rear track allowed them to retain standard rear bodywork but required new pick-up points for the rear multi-link suspension and a smaller fuel tank.

To cope with the increased performance, it also adopts the brakes from the decade-old C 32 AMG with 345mm discs up front and 300mm at the rear. Because of the limited development, though, there's no traction control or stability program to corral the engine's reserves.

The result is a driving experience quite unlike any other B-class – unlike any other Mercedes, for that matter. Without registration for road use, we used the Rastatt test track to determine the B 55 is more than mere show. It also possesses surprisingly mature dynamic properties.

With an extra 15kg placed over the front axle compared to the B 200 CDI, weight distribution definitely favours the front end. But there is sufficient balance and grip to allow you to attack corners with real gusto. Apart from a lack of self-centring with the steering, whose packaging has been compromised by the need to give up so much space to the engine and thus runs a smaller hydraulic pump than is perhaps required, the B55 also steers accurately, rides with impressive comfort and is free of any obvious vices.

With a kerb weight of 1620 – 180kg more than the B 200 CDI – it is decently quick in a straight line. Andreas Wurz, a foreman in the technical vocation training department at Rastatt largely credited with the idea behind the new car, reckons it should be good for 0-62mph in under six seconds when he finally gets around to strapping some measuring equipment to it. He's lying, of course. This thing will easily run in the low five-second bracket.

The B55 looks rather striking for what is essentially a high-powered MPV. As you can see, Mercedes' team of trainees managed to package the new engine and driveline without any obvious changes to the standard B-class body – a remarkable achievement given the major driveline modifications that have taken place underneath. But with a lowered ride height and 18-inch wheels – 8 inches wide up front and 9 inches at the rear, shod with 235/40 (front) and 255/35 (rear) profile tyres and two centrally mounted chrome tailpipes it possesses a much more aggressive stance than its standard sibling.

Should I buy one?

Sadly, though, it'll never progress beyond this prototype. But with a new, second-generation B-class due out at the Frankfurt motor show in September, it is a fitting way to send off the first-generation of Mercedes' popular compact MPV.

Mercedes-Benz B 55

Price: na; Top speed: 155mph (limited); 0-62mph: 5.2sec (est); Economy: na; CO2: na; Kerb weight: 1620kg; Engine: V8, 5461cc, petrol; Power: 383bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 391lb ft at 2800rpm; Gearbox: 7-spd automatic

Join the debate


17 December 2010

What a larf! Who says MB have no sense of humour?

17 December 2010

Finally, a B-class that's genuinely interesting and desirable!

17 December 2010

Hmmmm, I could quite fancy that!

Clearly there are people who are bored at MB.



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

17 December 2010

Perhaps it's just me, but surely a `mad one-off prototype' should have more power? B63 AMG please.



17 December 2010

[quote ischiaragazzo]What a larf! Who says MB have no sense of humour[/quote]

I was going to post that, but you beat me to it. Brilliant car.

17 December 2010

The EU should make it the Law that all car manufacturers have to build at least one pointless prototypes of this kind every year.

Corvette engined Corsa

Mustang engined Focus

S4 engined A1

Viper engined Fiat 500

W8 engined Golf

I'd be a lot happier about Brussels if they did. You know it makes sense...

17 December 2010

Eee, when I were a lad there was owt with FWD unless yer bought from 't BMC or a froggie. It were ser easy to stuff big mertors into small cars me nan could it. Me mate 'ad a Superspeed Escort - luvly mertor. In those days yer could lift the bonnet and actually clap yer eyes on 't engine, not a stupid pile of plastic.

17 December 2010

[quote Straff]

W8 engined Golf


VW made that W12 golf which clarkston tested.

17 December 2010

[quote Autocar]created by a team of trainees at Mercedes' Rastatt factory in Germany[/quote]

[quote Autocar]Having started off life as a humble B200 CDI, it has been liberated from its standard turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engine. Shoehorned into its place and other areas of the engine bay is Mercedes’ recently superseded 5.5-litre petrol V8 packing an added 243bhp at 383bhp and 170lb ft more torque at 391lb ft.[/quote]

Sounds similar to what happened with the W109 S-Class: Erich Waxenberger shoehorned the 6.3 litre V8 engine of the 600 Grosser into the W109 and the result was so impressive that a few years later it went on sale...hopefully Merc change their minds and also make it for sale (especially when you consider that this is an even more remarkable achievement)...however they'll most likely wait for the next model to do something like this, especially since the current B-Class will be replaced soon.


- Follow your own star -

17 December 2010



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