Mercedes-Benz unveiled its fourth-generation A-Class hatchback in Amsterdam, showcasing a new human interface system called MBUX that Mercedes executives equate with turning the subcompact into a “smartphone on wheels.” While Mercedes has no plans to export the hatchback to the U.S. market, it is looking at possible American sales of the sedan version of this entry level model.

In addition to the new interface, the vehicle offers a number of upscale features such as semi-autonomous capability, active lane and braking assist and multibeam LED lighting. The 5-door will be available in Europe with a choice of 4-cylinder gas and diesel engines ranging in output from 116 to 224 horsepower. In addition to a choice of either a 7-speed dual clutch automatic or 6-speed manual, buyers will be able to opt for front- or all-wheel drive.

MBUX: An interface that learns

"With the fourth generation of the A-Class, we are redefining modern luxury in the compact class,” said Britta Seeger, head of Mercedes-Benz car sales. “To do this we have opted for a combination of uncompromisingly dynamic design and an intuitive operating concept. With MBUX–the new Mercedes-Benz User Experience–we are creating a completely new customer experience."

Patterned after smartphone operating systems, MBUX uses large screens that react quickly to touch as well as the ability to respond to natural voice commands that dispenses with a formulaic approach to making requests.  The system learns your preferences over time and can provide suggestions or alternatives when using the navigation system or other communication and concierge apps.

Clean exterior design

The look of the A-Class is stripped down to a basic, pure shape with just a few character lines to add tension. This surface-accentuating design of the new A-Class is part of a design philosophy called Sensual Purity. It incorporates a low hood and flat LED headlamps with chrome elements that flank a bold radiator grille fitted with the Mercedes star.

 The A-Class is visually extended by the longer wheelbase and its muscular character comes from the character lines, larger wheel arches and haunches that carry through the rear of the car.

"The new A-Class embodies the next stage in our design philosophy of Sensual Purity and has the potential to usher in a new design era," says Gorden Wagener, design chief for Daimler AG. "With clear contours and sensual surfaces, we present high-tech that awakens emotions. Form and body are what remain when creases and lines are reduced to the extreme. The interior represents modern luxury at a level previously unattained in this class, and translates intelligent technology into an emotional overall experience."

Advanced interior

In keeping with the introduction of the MBUX interface, the interior also reflects a modern design aesthetic. The large screen that stretches from the driver’s side into the center of the dash eliminates the need for a traditional cowl. This widescreen display is completely free-standing and the futuristic look is underscored by sporty turbine look air vents. The dash is split into two horizontal sections, with the lower portion appearing to float in front of the upper section, an effect enhanced by ambient lighting. The displays also vary in size by trim level. Base models get two 7-inch screens, mid-line models have 7-inch and 10.25-inch screens, while the top models have two 10.25-inch displays.

While the 2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class goes on sale in Europe this March, the company hasn’t yet said when it will show the sedan version or when that car would come to the U.S. However, we may see the sedan as soon as the Geneva Motor Show next month.

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