If you are a tech lover, the new Mercedes A-Class Sedan makes a strong case to be your next vehicle purchase. That’s especially true if you have some disposable income but are working within a reasonable budget. The Tesla Model 3 would be its closest competitor when it comes to in-vehicle technology, but not everyone wants to go all-electric. Range anxiety is a real thing. Moreover, the fit-and-finish of some of the Model 3s to leave Elon’s lair left something to be desired. Luckily, the new A220 lives up to the Mercedes level of fit-and-finish. The kicker? Mercedes’ new dashboard and infotainment setup, called Mercedes-Benz User Experience or MBUX, is debuting in the least-expensive A-Class. It will be brought to the more expensive vehicles in time, but I guess they wanted to test it out with millennials first – not the typical purchasers of an S-Class. The good news: It is awesome. It can do some tricks better than Tesla. The vehicle is so new that Mercedes is still shy about giving an exact price, but it will start below $35,000. (Word on the street is about $32,500 to start.)
It seems strange to compare an internal combustion engine vehicle to an electric car, but when it comes to the interior technology race, the Tesla Model 3 is its only worthwhile competitor. The Mercedes A220 with the Premium Package (a $2,100 option but mandatory for tech lovers) features two 10.25” touchscreen displays mounted in one longitudinally mounted chassis. One half is touchscreen and sits where the traditional infotainment screen lives. The other half is positioned in front of the driver and acts as the instrument cluster. Mercedes does a great job of simulating the look of traditional analog gauges in a digital medium needed for an internal combustion car. There are options to change the look of the gauges, in addition to changing the ambient lighting in one of 64 colors. Other vehicles can do this, but none does it as well as the little A220. The interior lighting at night is better than the swankiest of nightclubs. Even the air duct outlets are illuminated. Switching the system to Lounge Mode brings up cool blues and muted pinks. Even SiriusXM is automatically tuned to the Chill station. The level of thought and detail for our U.S. market is amazing!
Back to the infotainment. There is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but you will want to opt for the Mercedes Augmented Reality navigation system. Let’s say you are traveling, and your next turn is at a traffic light 100 yards up the road. As you approach the traffic light, you get the verbal command of “Make a right turn on King Street.” Additionally, you get a view of the road ahead on the center screen. As you approach your turn, it superimposes an arrow in the direction you need to turn with footage of the street you need to turn down. This system will blow even young people’s minds, but the elderly will be even more impressed with how easy it is to follow the directions. And potentially keep them off of train tracks …. We can’t wait for aftermarket companies to offer this feature on navigation systems. The other big trick is the ability to talk to the car just like Amazon’s Alexa. Just say “Hey Mercedes” and the A-Class will do anything you ask short of opening and closing the windows (they want to make sure little fingers will not get pinched). The tech makes finding destinations and entering POIs into the nav easy. Aftermarket manufacturers are currently making head units with Alexa built-in. Your local aftermarket mobile enhancement specialist can help you choose one that will best fit your ride.
The 2.0-liter turbo engine offers up 188 horsepower and is more than up to the task of motivating this tech powerhouse. Although it isn’t the smoothest of engines, the 7-speed dual clutch transmission is very capable and acts just like a regular automatic with a torque converter. Also smooth but not especially impressive is the Burmester surround sound system. It comes in as an $850 option, but this money would be better spent on aftermarket speakers and a subwoofer for the stock audio system.
To look the part, my tester wore the AMG Line package. It offers a special diamond-patterned grille, side skirts and fender skirts, plus a slightly lowered suspension. It really makes the little A-Class look tough. Swing by a retailer who specializes in window tint so they can add the film – it should be mandatory for the AMG package to really set it off.
Who would have thought that the A-Class would feature technology not found on the S-Class? Mercedes is catering to the millennial market where tech is king. It’s refreshing to not have to buy the flagship in order to get all the tech you want. Bonus: You’ll have $100K left over for future upgrades!