Just a few years back, Mercedes wouldn’t have considered showing the sub-compact A-Class in the United States. We Americans like trucks, not cars small enough to park in the bed of a full-size pickup. That was conventional wisdom for years, at least until gas prices began their current rise into the stratosphere. There aren’t any encouraging signs that they’ll be dropping any time soon, so Mercedes is seizing the opportunity to show off a performance version of their revised A-Class at the upcoming New York Auto Show. Proving how important this car is to Mercedes-Benz in world markets, the Concept A-Class will also be launched concurrently at the Shanghai Auto Show.
The front-wheel-drive Concept A-Class is a stunner in the looks department, and the Mercedes press release uses more than a few references towards “aircraft inspired styling”. The subcompact hatchback gets a turbocharged, 2.0 liter, direct injection engine good for some 210 horsepower, which is plenty to move a car smaller than a Fiat 500. Inside, there’s room for four adults (really, because I’ve driven in the previous generation) plus a moderate amount of luggage space. Hauling three colleagues to a cross-town business meeting is no problem in the A-Class, but hauling three friends plus gear to a ski weekend isn’t going to work out well. As long as your expectations are reasonable, the A-Class is a sensible urban commuter car.
Whether or not we’ll get it on this side of the Atlantic remains to be seen. Mercedes is using the New York Auto Show to judge customer interest, and I suspect there will be lots of customer interest. If I were a betting man, I’d say we can expect to see the new A-Class in U.S. showrooms by early 2012, although Mercedes isn’t admitting that just yet.