Mercedes-Benz will launch two spacious models next year, the midi-MPV B-class and segment-busting R-class estate, both to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show later this month. Billed as ‘concepts’, both are thinly-disguised production cars. The B-class takes Benz into new territory where it will battle the Renault Scénic and Vauxhall Zafira, while the R-class will pioneer a new ‘cross-over’ segment of high-roofed estate cars.
First on sale in the UK is the B-class, slated for an autumn 2005 launch. A re-bodied long-wheelbase version of the new A-class, the crisply-styled B-class is 4.32m long and sits on a 2778mm wheelbase. Both the wheelbase and rear overhang are stretched compared to the A-class, giving the B-class similar dimensions to Renault’s Scénic.
But where the Zafira has seven seats, the B-class makes do with five, albeit with a flexible tilt/fold operation like the A-class. Cabin space should be excellent, and Mercedes claims ‘the interior space of larger saloons and estates’.
The B-class is clothed in particularly sharp sheet metal, with a more pronounced bonnet than the one-box A-class, muscular wheelarches and a more defined crease along the sides.
A new interior (right) features details such as a new four-spoke steering wheel, instrument panel and a revised centre console. Insiders report that ‘only detailed features such as the colour of the tail lamps and certain interior trims will be changed for production.’
Five four-cylinder engines will be shared with the A-class, including 115bhp 1.7-, 136bhp 2.0- and 193bhp 2.0-litre petrols, plus 109bhp and 140bhp 2.0-litre common-rail diesels. Prices are likely to start at the top of the segment, suggesting an entry level of £18,000.