The compact front-wheel drive Vision A 93 concept car presented at Frankfurt Motor show in 1993, under the motto “Rethinking the car”, gave birth to a totally new segment for Mercedes-Benz. With few minor changes, the concept car Studie A shown at Geneva Motor show in 1994 previews the future A-Class launched in 1998.
This compact car with front-wheel drive largely opens the gates for new segments for Mercedes-Benz.
The A-Class will remain in the history of Mercedes-Benz for two reasons.
1. The sandwich floor introduced in 1998 in the A-Class (W168) was unique in the car industry and clearly demonstrated the multiple advantages of this solution:
– high safety standards similar to the bigger Mercedes-Benz models
– a high percentage use of the length of the car for the interior space. The distance between the driver seat and the rear passenger seat is 82.5 cm, a figure previously seen only in upper mid-range models. The concept car was only 3.35 m long, meanwhile the first A-Class generation has 3.60 m in length.
– a high seating position
2. The A-Class is the car which generates the introduction of the ESP system as a standard. After the first A-Class rolled over in the so called elch-test in October 1997, Mercedes offered the ESP in standard for the A-Class from February 1998 on. With the ESP on board, the A-Class passed the elch-test with no problems. The restart of the A-Class was very successful and the compact car brought a new category of clients for Mercedes-Benz. From that moment on, all Mercedes got the ESP as standard and the competition was forced to standardize the ESP system.
The concept car had an aluminium body and three engine choises: two 1.2 liter 3-cylinder internal combustion engines – the petrol engine with 75 HP and the diesel engine with 60 HP – and an electric engine with 54 HP which offered a range of 150 km. The thermic engines were combined with the CVT gearbox which brought further benefits for economy.
None of these solutions were used in the series production, but the sandwich structure got the green light for production and the first two A-Class generations used this configuration.