All new A-class models have a six-speed manual; a five-speed torque-converter auto and new continuously variable transmission will be optional. Warding off a repeat of the original A-class’s handling crisis, Merc has kept MacPherson struts up front, but replaced the torsion beam rear axle with a new multi-link arrangement, known internally as Omega. Wider tracks and standard 16-inch wheels and tyres will improve high-speed stability.
B-class The new A-class will splinter into more niches, offering a new B-class midi-MPV from the end of next year to challenge the Renault Scénic, Vauxhall Zafira and VW Touran. The B will come as a five-seater, but seven seats are optional. Prices will start under £20,000.
A lightly veiled concept B-class will be revealed at the Paris show under its internal working title of Compact Sports Tourer (CST). Although based on the A-class, the new five-door receives unique styling like a shrunken R-class and rides on a wheelbase that’s almost 200mm longer for interior space claimed to match that of today’s M-class.
Although front-wheel drive at launch, rumours abound that Merc will eventually provide the B-class with four-wheel drive. Engines are as for the A.
After a recent facelift to freshen its appeal, the C-class will continue unchanged until early next year when it will receive Mercedes’ new four-valve-per-cylinder V6 petrol and diesel engines and optional 7G-Tronic seven-speed auto. Under discussion for the UK is a four-wheel drive C350 4matic model.
Early development work on the third-generation C-class has started but don’t expect anything before 2007.
C-Class Sports Coupé Having just received a subtle mid-life facelift and reworked four-cylinder engines, the C-class Sports Coupé won’t see much change until early 2005 when it, too, adopts the new four-valve 3.5-litre V6. A second-generation model is due in 2007 and will be based on the same rear-drive underpinnings as the new SLK; expect a separate coupé and soft-top.
CLK-class The CLK, too, switches to the 3.5-litre V6, but little else changes before a minor facelift next year.
A new CLK, due in 2008, could adopt the four-door layout of the forthcoming CLS. ‘The four-door approach has its supporters and we are considering it for other future models,’ said an insider. CLS-class Saloon or coupé? Both, says Mercedes of its new CLS (pictured). Based on the rear-drive E-class platform, the CLS goes on UK sale in early 2005 and is barely removed from the sleek Vision CLS concept.
At 4110mm in length, 1851mm in width and 1391mm in height, Stuttgart’s new ‘coupoon’ is longer, wider and lower than the E-class. The B-pillars are cleverly masked by dark paneling and frameless side windows.
Rear-seat passengers benefit from the sort of space usually found in luxury saloons – rear knee, head and shoulder room is only fractionally smaller than in the E. Luggage capacity is 505 litres, some 55 litres more than the larger CL.
Powering the CLS are the 272bhp 3.5-litre V6 and 306bhp 5.0-litre V8, offering 0-62mph in 7.0 or 6.1sec. Eighteen months after launch, two new four-valve-per-cylinder V8 engines will arrive: a 4.6 with around 360bhp and a 5.5 with 410bhp.
Topping the CLS family is a rapid CLS55 AMG model. Due at Paris in September, it uses the supercharged 5.4-litre V8 engine already seen in a variety of AMG-fettled offerings. E-class With sales of the E-class running well up to expectations, Mercedes will wait until early 2005 before making any changes to its traditional mid-ranger. Along with the rest of the range, new V6 petrol and diesel engines will be added. G-class The first all-new G-class in over 25 years lands in 2006. Merc hopes to raise the profile of its military-inspired off-roader, by setting the seven-seater against the Range Rover.