2011 Frankfurt Auto ShowJust the Facts:
- Mercedes-Benz releases official photos of the second-generation B-class ahead of the Frankfurt auto show.
- The 2012 B-Class will go on sale across Europe in November.
- The B-Class uses a new front-wheel-drive platform that's expected to underpin the next A-Class, as well as future additions to the Mercedes lineup.
STUTTGART, Germany — Mercedes-Benz has released official pictures of the second-generation B-class, the first model to be based on Mercedes' new front-wheel drive MFA (modular front architecture) compact car platform. Set to be revealed at the upcoming 2011 Frankfurt Auto Show, the 2012 B-Class will go on sale across Europe in November as an up-market rival to the Volkswagen Touran, Ford C-Max and Citroen C4 Picasso among others.
The move to the new MFA platform, which in shortened form will also underpin the third-generation A-Class due out next year, comes after the first-generation B-Class was based on Mercedes-Benz's so-called sandwich platform. It featured a flat floor that, while providing excellent levels of safety, created compromises in interior accommodation due its lack of proper footwells.
By adopting a more conventional platform, Mercedes-Benz claims the new B-Class is able to offer even greater levels of safety together with added space — both front and rear. A new range of four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines in combination with new gearboxes are also said to provide it with class-leading levels of fuel economy and tailpipe emissions.
"No model change in the history of Mercedes-Benz has ever seen so many new developments introduced in one fell swoop," says Thomas Weber, member of the board responsible for research and development.
While no plan has been officially announced to sell the new five-seater in North America, the B-Class is expected to arrive in the U.S. in 2012. Many elements of the new B-Class will also be seen on future entry-level models from Mercedes-Benz to be sold here beginning in 2013, including a price-leading four-door coupe called the CLC, and a junior SUV likely to be marketed as the GLC.
Stylistically, the new B-Class follows the path forged by its predecessor but with cues taken from Mercedes-Benz's earlier Blue Zero concept car. Key features include a one-box design, distinctive headlamps with optional LED graphics, a wide twin-slat grille, high waistline, heavy sculpturing within the body sides and an angled tailgate.
Official dimensions released by Mercedes-Benz reveal the new second-generation B-Class to be 3.5 inches longer, 0.4 inch wider and 1.9 inches lower than its predecessor. The increase in size has provided the scope for improvements to the interior; the front seats are set lower and boast more upright positioning than before, while a lengthened wheelbase brings greater rear seat legroom than the company's flagship S-Class at 38.4 inches (achieved in part by a sliding mechanism that allows 5.5 inches of fore/aft rear seat adjustment) and an additional 4.3 cubic feet of luggage capacity over the first-generation B-Class at a nominal 23.5 cubic feet.
Mercedes-Benz is talking up the aerodynamic properties of the new B-Class prior to its unveiling in Frankfurt, claiming it possesses a drag coefficient of 0.26. But that's not all. The German automaker confirms an upcoming B-Class Blue Efficiency model earmarked for sale in Europe in 2012 features further optimized aerodynamics that are said to see it reach an outstanding-by-MPV-standards 0.24 — a figure that makes the tall hatchback as aerodynamically efficient as the latest E-Class sedan.
The second-generation B-Class will be sold with a range of small-capacity four-cylinder direct-injection gasoline and common-rail diesel engines developed from existing units in the Mercedes-Benz lineup. They replace the first-generation B-Class engines, which were conceived specifically for its flat floor design and have now ceased production due to their incompatibility with any other future model in the German carmaker's lineup.
Among the new engines is a turbocharged 1.6-liter version of Mercedes-Benz's M271 engine — as fitted to other Mercedes-Benz models in turbocharged 1.8-liter guise. It has been re-engineered to slot transversely into the new compact model's engine bay, producing 120 horsepower and 147 pound-feet of torque in the base B180 and a peppier 154 hp and 184 lb-ft in the B200.
Also available from the start of European sales shortly after the B-Class' debut in Frankfurt will be a new 1.8-liter version of Mercedes-Benz's OM651 diesel engine. Reduced in capacity from 2.1-liters, it delivers 107 hp and 184 lb-ft in the B180 CDI and 134 hp and 221 lb-ft in the B200 CDi.
Drive is sent to the front wheels via a new standard six-speed manual gearbox. It is based around a three-shaft design that Mercedes-Benz says provides lower frictional losses and a more precise shift action than the old gearbox. Buyers will also be able to order the new B-Class with an in-house-developed seven-speed double-clutch transmission. Both gearboxes feature automatic stop/start and brake energy recuperation functions.
Together with standard gasoline and diesel engines, Mercedes-Benz is also preparing to offer the new B-Class with a upgraded version of its hydrogen-based fuel-cell system in a limited-production F-Cell model, which is said to pave the way for a series production version of the zero-emissions model due out in 2015.
Together with standard front-wheel drive, Mercedes-Benz has engineered its new MFA platform to support optional four-wheel drive using a central multiplate clutch to channel reserves simultaneously to the front and rear wheels depending on grip levels. It is planned to be offered on the B-Class in selected markets, although Mercedes-Benz refused to provide Edmunds.com with details prior to the car's official unveiling.
Edmunds.com says: The phrase "all-new" certainly applies to the 2012 B-Class, with massive changes making its arrival in the U.S. market a sure thing.