Mercedes-Benz May Bring All Five Planned Front-Drivers to U.S.

The Mercedes-Benz A- and B-Class front-wheel-drive compacts, which were again confirmed for the U.S. market this week at the Frankfurt Motor Show, may soon have company, as Automotive News reports that Mercedes might offer all five B-Class-based vehicles in the U.S. In addition to underpinning the subcompact A- and B-Class models, the new front-drive platform will support a compact crossover, station wagon, and CLS-like four-door coupe, named CLC.

Mercedes plans to bring the A- and B-Class to the U.S. to help the company meet rising fuel economy standards, and also hopes to expand sales volume with the addition of the new models. The family of front-drive Mercedes compacts will use several four-cylinder gasoline and diesel engines, with displacement ranging from 1.6- to 2.0-liters. Joerg Prigl, Vice President of front-drive and electric vehicles for Mercedes-Benz and Smart, told Automotive News that the 1.6-liter engine announced for the B-Class could be adapted for the U.S. market, but diesel engines won’t be offered stateside. Also not planned for U.S. consumption is the plug-in hybrid variant of the B-Class, which was recently shown in concept form as the E-Cell Plus.

All-wheel drive is likely to appear on models with the larger 2.0-liter engine -- which, Prigl says, could make more than 300 hp in supercharged guise. This plan is in line with the industry’s current downsizing trend, where six-cylinder engines are quickly being phased out in favor of more fuel-efficient turbocharged or supercharged four-cylinders. Both A- and B-Class models, along with their front-drive platform-mates, will feature technology trickled down from the larger C- and E-Class sedans. Safety features, such as Mercedes’ radar-based Pre-Safe collision warning system, will be available on the B-Class, while lane departure warning systems could also be offered.

In a press conference at the 2011 Frankfurt Motor Show, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche said the first U.S. model will go on sale in 2013. Though U.S. prices weren’t announced, the B-Class in Europe will start at 26,000 euros ($35,000) when it goes on sale later this year. The next-gen A-Class, previewed with the A-Class Concept that bowed at the New York show in April, likely won’t be far behind, as we’ve caught near-production test mules already out and about in Europe.

“We will fire an attack in this segment beginning now and for the next two to three years,” Prigl said. “Every year we will push at least one model onto the market.”

Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)

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