Quick Spin: 2015 Mercedes-Benz B-Class 4MATIC

Bromont, Quebec - Mercedes-Benz Canada invited us to try out its 2015 B-Class recently and while it’s not an all-new version it does offer some updates over the outgoing model.

Described as a “face lift” year by Mercedes, the latest B 250 – with a starting price of $31,300 – is “modernized,” according to Mercedes-Benz Canada, by “reinterpreting the [B 250’s] functional design in the direction of refined sportiness.

Perhaps the most important change for 2015 is the availability of the new 4MATIC all-wheel drive variant for the B 250.

I guess that means they’re trying to make it look less like a tall wagon and more like a sporty hatch, which is fine by me. Frankly, I’ve always found the B-Class looks a bit too tall and too narrow for my taste and presumably somebody at Mercedes agrees. The dimensions of the 2015 model have changed accordingly, the length increasing from 4,359 millimetres to 4,393, the width from 1,786 mm to 1,836, although height is up slightly from 1,557 mm to 1,562. So… longer, wider and just a tad taller does create a more appealing profile and a sportier character from all angles.

Complementing the tweaked dimensions, the B 250 exterior features a new front-end design that has the effect of emphasizing the width, and character lines at the side that also visually add length and soften the edges. It still seems somewhat physically challenged in front of the windshield, though. Could use a little bulking up, although the low-slung fenders and hood are surely good for aerodynamics.

Inside, heated seats and a media interface are added as standard equipment and new upholstery is available. Collision Prevention Assist Plus also becomes standard on all models. It’s a combination of radar-based distance warning, assisted braking and autonomous partial braking that’s designed to intervene if a rear-end collision is imminent (that is, if you are in a situation where you may collide with the car in front). A new multifunction steering wheel, instrument cluster and trim enhancements further refine the interior.

Perhaps the most important change for 2015 is the availability of the new 4MATIC all-wheel drive variant for the B 250. Torque is distributed as required from front-wheel drive to a 50:50 split front/rear on snow and slippery surfaces and in dynamic driving manoeuvers. The 4MATIC system adds $2,000 to the price of the B 250, a no-brainer, I expect, for Canadian B-Class buyers.

Also new this model year, the aforementioned media interface features Mercedes-Benz’s New Telematics Generation 5 (NTG5) Audio 20 system with 7.0-inch full colour display, or optional COMAND Online Navigation system with its superb 8.0-inch display. I can’t emphasize how superior these displays are compared with most of the competition. 

Vehicle “packaging” is simplified for 2015 with a selection of Premium, Versatility and Sport groups featuring options like rear view camera, panoramic sunroof, auto dimming mirrors and Carbon-look trim (I mention those in particular because you have to select all three packages to get them…). That said, and in all fairness to Mercedes-Benz, Keyless Start (new this year) is a stand-alone option, as are the appealing Twin-5-Spoke AMG wheels, satellite radio, Parktronic with Active Parking Assist and an LED headlamp system (late introduction on that).

We drove the B 250 4MATIC and found the all-wheel drive system excellent on slippery surfaces. The engine carries over from 2014, a 2.0L, four-cylinder making 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic (manuals are ancient history).

This is an engine that can get up and go when emphatically asked, but the transmission’s tendency is to counter the lusty torque by shifting as quickly as possible into a higher, more fuel efficient gear. When it does that, your engine speed dives into 1,500 rpm territory and it sometimes feels like the B 250 simply wants to stop.

Not so… power is there, but the vehicle just feels a bit lazy on occasion. Fuel economy from the B 250 4MATIC is very good at 10.0/7.5/8.7 L/100 km city/highway/combined, but typical of German luxury brands, premium fuel is required.

We drove on some pretty challenging roads and found the B 250 4MATIC quiet and smooth-riding. The standard “comfort” suspension may be a bit too cushy for some, perfectly agreeable to others. The car is reasonably roomy in the rear and has the practicality of a hatch with a multi-split folding rear seat. Visibility all-round is good; the rear-view camera is brilliant, pivoting into position from its location tucked under the licence plate surround, and always, therefore, projecting a perfect image on the high-definition display.

Honestly, I think it’s the display that could sell this car. You look at it a lot when you drive, and every time you do it screams QUALITY!

There aren’t many direct competitors of this type on the market now – Mercedes calls the B 250 a Sport Tourer. The yet-to-be-released BMW 2 Active Tourer would be one, plus there are a range of non-luxury tall wagons/hatchbacks like the Subaru Impreza, Kia Rondo, Mazda5, Volkswagen Golf that are practical and more or less sporty. The 2015 Golf’s nice. It’s shorter, but pretty much the same width and height as the B 250. No three-pointed star, though.

Described as a “face lift” year by Mercedes, the latest B 250 – with a starting price of $31,300 – is “modernized,” according to... 2/12/2015 11:28:54 AM