The new, B face of Mercedes
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Not all are fully convinced by the design, especially from the side profile and the back, but the long front nose with its sharp lines and the LED-lit bi-xenon headlights remind one of the beautiful new C-Class. We drove the top-end B180 Sport model (R24.87 lakh), which sports 17-inch alloy wheels and a panoramic sunroof—the entire roof is practically glass. Features include a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifts, dual exhausts and perforated brakes. As far as safety measures are concerned, apart from ABS and ESP, there are seven airbags (including one for the knee), Mercedes' Attention Assist system to check if the driver is tired and Acceleration Skid Control. It is packed with more technology and luxury features than probably even the C-Class or BMW 3-Series. After all, Mercedes is to the auto industry what Nokia means to telecom—it has the most number of technology patents that it licences out.
So, it's all good on paper, but how does it feel out on the road. Well, in city driving, the steering is light and smooth, with the pick-up from the petrol 1.6 litre (120bhp) engine proving just adequate to overtake slower traffic and prying eyes. However, the lower-profile tyres on the B180 Sport do not handle the bumps on the road as well as the C-Class does; in fact, the jarring feeling of potholes travelled well up the spine. One feels that the suspension is tuned more for the track than for city roads. From a car which promises the feel of an SUV/MPV, the low ground clearance is a surprise as well. But, the main problem is when the B-Class is asked to stretch its legs on the highway, and the result is that the pick-up is simply not really fast and smooth enough. In fact, at times, I had to feel my steering wheel to remember I was driving a Mercedes. Maybe I expected a bit too much, or maybe I will have to wait for the diesel model that comes in this summer.
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