Icons can be a blessing and a curse, as so many auto manufacturers have learned. From Volkswagen’s rear engine, rear-drive Beetle that was reincarnated as the front-engine, front-drive New Beetle and…

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550 Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Mercedes totally redesigned the G-Class for 2019, but you’d need to be a serious fan to notice the changes between the first-gen model and this 2020 G 550.

Icons can be a blessing and a curse, as so many auto manufacturers have learned. From Volkswagen’s rear engine, rear-drive Beetle that was reincarnated as the front-engine, front-drive New Beetle and saw reasonable short-term success from mostly gender-specific non-enthusiasts, and British Leyland’s Mini that eventually became BMW’s entry-level Mini brand, even incorporating a subcompact SUV and accepted by regular consumers and diehard petrolheads alike, to Ford’s Mustang that, after going through some dark years is once again the quintessential muscle car, and Porsche’s 911 that has quite possibly been the best managed icon of all, gracefully transitioning through the decades with its only blight being the somewhat awkward looking 1998–2005 996 variant.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The new G produces the aerodynamic slipstream of a brick with slightly rounded edges.

That last example shows how important it is not to mess with the secret sauce that makes an icon iconic. In Porsche’s case it came down to replacing the 911’s 34 years of circular headlamps with Boxster/RSK-inspired teardrops, which, along with the demise of the air-cooled flat-six and a totally revamped interior, caused near “New Coke” levels of outrage.

Land Rover’s Defender 90 and 110 fall into iconic territory as well, which is why many have criticized the British brand’s entirely new Defender, that shares no similarities with its predecessor. Like Ford’s Bronco, the Defender has been gone from the market for long enough that enthusiasts may not only allow it to live, but might possibly become its defenders (sorry for the pun). This said, Mercedes doesn’t have to worry about such issues with respect to its new second-generation G-Class, because no one will mistake this SUV for anything but the real deal.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
No one will mistake the redesigned G-Class for anything else, which is a good thing for its many fans.

Like anything, whether you love it or loath it is personal. I happen to love it. I’m more of a classic Geländewagen fan, mind you, but only because it can be had with a fuel-saving, torque-rich diesel, it wouldn’t be worth crying over if scratched when out in the woods, and it falls within the realm of possibilities with respect to my personal budget, but 4×4 capability aside, the recently updated G 550 I’m reviewing here has very little in common with the original civilian 460 or military-spec 461 that arrived in 1979, or for that matter those made in the ‘80s that added a four-door option along with an automatic transmission, plus more comfortable Mercedes sedan seats, air conditioning, power windows, luxury trimmings, and much, much more. In fact, this new W463 is monumentally improved over first-generation examples I tested just a few years back, even if those less familiar with this SUV won’t notice its many visual updates.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s classic circular headlamps gain LED technology.

The new second-gen G-Class launched in 2018 as a 2019 model, in both G 550 and sportier AMG G 63 trims. The more trail-spec’d 2017-2018 G 550 4×4 Squared and the even more performance-oriented 2016-2018 AMG G 65 have yet to appear in this new generation, nor has the outrageous six-wheel variant, so we’ll just have to wait and see if Mercedes wants to take this latest version to similarly extreme levels. Updates include many new body panels, completely fresh lighting designs (that most notably don’t deviate too far from the original), and trim changes all around. The SUV’s boxy, utilitarian shape remains intact, which means its numerous fans remain faithful.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The entire frontal design has changed, but Mercedes was careful to maintain the G-Class’ iconic details.

Unlike the exterior design that only appears different to the trained eye, the renewed G-Class is dramatically redesigned inside. It now incorporates the level of refinement and jewel-like finishings found in Mercedes’ other offerings, not to mention renewed electronic interfaces that completely change the cockpit’s look and usability. On that last note, Mercedes installed its latest MBUX digital instrument cluster/infotainment touchscreen design that houses twin 12.3-inch displays behind one long, cool, sheet of transparent glass-like surfacing.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
These 20-inch alloys and 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zeros are best left to street duty, a shame considering the G’s unparalleled off-road capability.

The left display isn’t touch-capacitive, but amongst other switchgear it’s controlled by a micro-pad on the left steering wheel spoke, just like the infotainment system’s otherwise touch-sensitive screen can be actuated via the usual fingertip-activated palm rest/scrolling wheel combination as well as an identical Blackberry Trackpad-like controller on the right-side steering wheel spoke. It all works brilliantly, making this one of my favourite multi-information/infotainment system setups, which incidentally comes filled with all the functions expected in this class.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Rudimentary details like these unpainted plastic door handles are part of the G-Class’ charm.

Most other buttons and switches are made from satin-finish or knurled aluminum for a truly upscale environment, which as noted earlier is nothing new for Mercedes, but some of these details majorly upgrade the G 550. Knurled metal can be found elsewhere in the cabin, as can plenty of additional satin-finish aluminum, the beautifully drilled Burmester surround sound speaker grilles amongst the nicest I’ve seen, while gorgeous open-pore hardwood envelopes the primary instrument/infotainment binnacle as well as the lower console surface and door armrest trim.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
New LED taillights are wonderfully discreet.

Some harder plastics exist, but I wouldn’t sound an alarm for centre console side panels that don’t quite measure up to pricey expectations, especially when the door panel and seat upholstery leatherwork is so rich, supple and finely detailed. My tester wore a lovely chocolate brown hue that worked well against its electrifying blue exterior paint, the combination doing a great job of pulling off bold and daring while coming across almost conservative, if that’s even possible.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s full-size spare tire hangs on the outside of the side-swinging rear door.

The driver’s seat has excellent side bolsters and most of the adjustments I’d want if purchasing as an everyday commuter, only missing an extendable thigh support. This said the static lower cushion cupped nicely below my knees, which while potentially problematic for shorter drivers was nice and comfortable for me. Mercedes makes no such mistakes with its lumbar support, however, which is four-way powered and therefore should be a perfect fit for most body types. The G’s tilt and telescopic steering column provided more than enough fore and aft adjustability too, leaving me with a great driving position in spite of my shorter-torso, longer-legged body.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G550’s interior is gorgeous and highly refined.

Mercedes has importantly added much more rear legroom behind the G’s front seats, so that even tall rear passengers can stretch out comfortably. In addition, the upgraded back seats are almost as supportive as those up front, with those sitting next to the window ultra-easy on the backside. The centre position is best left for smaller folks, with anyone placed there crowding all three rear passengers. Such is the reality with an SUV designed for negotiating tightly treed trails, or narrow rocky crevices, depending on where you’re tackling the wild. Let’s not forget, especially this time of year, that the G-Class was designed for military and rescue purposes first and foremost, and even put into service by our Canadian armed forces.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s dash is completely updated and modernized, leaving its predecessor far in the past.

Before anyone starts complaining about taxpayer dollars funding six-figure SUVs for our military elite, CAF-spec’d models are utilitarian at best, and don’t cost anywhere near a 2020 G 550’s base price of $147,900 plus freight and fees. On this note, CarCostCanada is currently reporting factory leasing and financing rates from zero-percent, which can certainly go a long way to making a new G-Class affordable. The zero-interest rate deal appears to apply to the $195,900 G 63 AMG too, which is a lot of paper for Mercedes to carry.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G 550’s new driver display is more advanced than anything else in the class.

This is a good time to point out that CarCostCanada also provides Canadian consumers with information about manufacturer rebates, when available, as well as dealer invoice pricing that can give you a significant edge when negotiating on any new vehicle. Find out more about how the CarCostCanada system works so you can take advantage of the savings that could put thousands back into your pocket, and while you’re at it, download their free smartphone app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The G’s new infotainment touchscreen leaves nothing to be desired.

There’s no need to spend all those savings on aftermarket 4×4 gear if you’re at the wheel of a G 550, as this ute is about as capable off-road as anything on the market. I’ve had plenty of fun guiding this tank of an SUV into and out of otherwise unsavoury situations over the decades, including swampy marshes, even swampier mud holes, fast-running creeks, loose rocky embankments, solid rock abutments, and more, and can attest to its unwavering abilities. This said I wasn’t willing to risk damaging my G 550 tester’s stylish set of 14-spoke alloy wheels on hardly off-road spec 275/50 Pirelli Scorpion Zero tires, at least anywhere near my usual 4×4 playgrounds. This one was set up for the street, where most G-Class owners will spend the majority of their driving time.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The jewel-like detailing on the G 550’s centre stack is impressive.

Even with these lower-profile performance tires, the G 550 rides sublimely. Really, those who think truck-based SUVs are less refined than their car-based unibody alternatives need to spend some time in a new G-Class, because its tight body structure, rigid frame and ample suspension travel result in one very comfortable riding utility. I found it ideal for city traffic, its suspension reducing deep ruts, bridge expansion joints and other pavement imperfections to minor intrusions while its towering height allowed for superb visibility all-round.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The main infotainment controller is easy to use and beautifully made.

The G 550 was equally adept on the open highway, and while I never tested its 7,000-pound trailer rating I have no doubt it’s up to the task, especially considering its 2,650-kilo (5,845-lb) curb weight. That heft adds to its ride quality while keeping it planted nicely in its lane at high-speed, not even allowing sharp wind gusts to push its slab-sided body around. It performs well through curves too, those aforementioned Pirellis providing a nice, wide contact patch for what would’ve been surprisingly adept manoeuvrability if I hadn’t already experienced just how capable the G-Class can be on the road. I’d previously experienced an AMG-tuned G 63 on California’s circuitous coastal highway system, not to mention the fabulous Laguna Seca racetrack, so believe me when I tell you that this SUV is much more fun to drive on pavement than its brick-like profile makes one assume, although arriving at the famed downward spiralling Corkscrew turn from such great heights is akin to plunging down the initial drop on Vancouver’s Playland ‘Coaster (or, I can imagine, while riding the even larger classic wooden Wilde Beast at Canada’s Wonderland—or the Toronto-based theme park’s 16 other roller coasters). The G 550 won’t deliver the same handling agility as the AMG version, but it’s more than capable through the corners, while its braking is impressive as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Just one of the Burmester stereo’s stunning speaker grilles.

Stopping power is critical in such a heavy SUV, particularly one that can get up to speed so quickly. While the 416-horsepower G 550 can’t sprint from zero to 100 km/h in the 577-hp G 63’s 4.5-second time frame, it is capable of a relatively quick 5.9 seconds, all thanks to a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 capable of 450 lb-ft of torque and a quick-shifting eight-speed automatic sending power down to all four wheels, not to mention a really reactive Sport mode.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Some of the best seats in SUV industry.

This is where it might even be too jarring for some peoples’ tastes, the G 550’s snap off the line so responsive that the backside of my head met up with the comfortably padded headrest more abruptly than expected, albeit only when slamming right foot to throttle in Sport mode. I tried adjusting this more aggressive driving style by delicately feathering the go-pedal during quick takeoffs, but alternatively found it was easier to maintain a smoother response while still being fast after selecting the SUV’s Eco setting, and trust me it was still plenty quick in this more environmentally sensitive setup.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Even the rear seating compartment’s detailing is exquisite.

Going green in mind, there’s really no way to get past the G 550’s previously mentioned mass and just-noted power, resulting in a Transport Canada fuel economy rating of 18.0 L/100km in the city, 14.1 on the highway, and 16.3 combined. This is no worse than many other full-size, V8-powered SUVs, nor is its thirst for pricier premium fuel, but there’s a reason military-spec models still come with turbo-diesel powertrains.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
Way more rear legroom makes a big difference to G-Class second-row comfort.

Just a side note for diesel-lovers like me, earlier examples came with Rudolf’s highly efficient, torque-rich creation, and while kind of expensive for decades-old 4x4s, they’re reasonable considering their cult-like collector status, ultimately dependable service and off-road capability. This is where I would personally look for a future G wagon, because it’s possible to get into an early ‘80s two-door 230 GE or 280 GE in the mid-$20k range. I’d prefer one of the 5-door LWB station wagons, but take heed even older version will likely sell for more than $30k, with really nice ones sporting the larger 300 GD engine going for more than $40k. Do some searching and you’ll quickly find more advanced V8-powered G’s from the early 2000s for similar prices, even some AMGs, but you’ll need a thick wallet to keep these fancy beasts on the road, as their reliability is not as bulletproof as the earlier diesels, and they require sophisticated diagnostic equipment to source problems.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
The side-swinging door isn’t as convenient to use as a liftgate, but at least it provides curb-side access.

Now that I’m talking practical issues, all G-Class models come up a bit short on cargo space when compared to full-size American alternatives like Cadillac’s Escalade, Lincoln’s Navigator or their less luxurious volume-branded counterparts. G’s fare better when put up against similarly equipped premium Europeans, however, with the 1,079-litre (38.1 cu-ft) luggage area behind my tester’s rear seats a significant 178 litres (6.3 cu ft) more accommodating than the full-size Range Rover’s dedicated gear-toting maximum, and both SUV’s top load-carrying capacity identical at 1,942 litres (68.6 cu ft). I certainly could live with that.

2020 Mercedes-Benz G 550
G-Class cargo space is more than adequate and better than its closest Range Rover rival.

In the end there’s not much I can complain about with Mercedes’ new G-Class update. Sure, I was initially a bit miffed at the smallish powered glass sunroof overhead, at least in these days of expansive panoramic light emitters, but in truth I could care less if there were no sunroof at all, and a larger one would likely weaken the SUV’s body structure and potentially crack under pressure. I would’ve appreciated a wireless phone charger, mind you, and would install one if these were my long-term ride.

I’m also hoping to enjoy future forays into the wild green (and brown) yonder in a modernized gen-2 G 550 4×4², previous examples of which incorporated portal axles like Mercedes’ outrageously capable Unimogs, but in most every other respect I’m over the moon about this impeccably crafted luxury ute, and I’m especially grateful that Mercedes stayed true to its iconic 4×4 roots. This, to me, is the ultimate off-roader, and I’d purchase one today if money were no object.

Story and photos: Trevor Hofmann

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it…

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic Road Test

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Long, low and lean, the new A 220 looks more like a four-door coupe than a traditional luxury sedan.

Just like any Mercedes-Benz, the new A 220 gets a lot of attention for its good looks and prestigious three-pointed star. That iconic emblem is a key reason for purchasing any Mercedes product, as it shows you’re either well on the way up society’s hierarchal ladder or have fully arrived. Only an affluent person can own a Mercedes-Benz after all, right? While that may have mostly been true in the past (2002-2008 C-Class 230/320 Sport Coupe aside—codenamed CL203), once you see the price of this A 220 you might start questioning that premise.

The 2020 A 220 4Matic starts at just $37,300 plus freight and fees, which is a bit of a jump from last year’s all-new model that wowed all comers at a mere $34,990, due to standard all-wheel drive in today’s version, but it’s still well within the majority of middle-class earners’ income brackets. After all, a number of similarly sized mainstream volume-branded compact models top out where the entry-level Mercedes begins, so as long as you don’t mind going without a few highfalutin features available with the A 220’s various packages, you’ll get an inherently better car.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Despite the A 220’s sleek profile, it provides plenty of headroom front to back.

Just one look had me hooked. Yes, the A 220 is gorgeous. It looks too long, lean and low to the ground to be a compact, but indeed its 4,549 mm length, 1,796 mm width, 1,446 mm height and 2,729 mm wheelbase means that it fits within the shadow of mainstream compacts you might know better, such as Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra and Mazda’s 3 to name a handful (it’s actually shorter and taller than all of the above), while competing head-to-head more accurately in size and especially price with premium-branded sedans like Audi’s A3 and BMW’s new 2 Series Gran Coupe (although the latter model more directly targets Mercedes’ even lower, longer and wider CLA-Class), not to mention Acura’s considerably longer (than the A 220) ILX.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
It might cast a small shadow, but the A 220 is big on style.

Mercedes slaughters the premium competition on Canada’s subcompact luxury sales charts, with more than 5,000 collective A-Class (which includes the A 250 hatch as well), CLA-Class and B-Class (yes more than 300 of the now discontinued models sold last year, and another 200-plus during the first quarter of 2020) deliveries in Canada throughout calendar year 2019, compared to the next-best-selling Mini Cooper (which is a collection of body styles as well, and mostly lower priced) at just over 3,700 unit sales, the A3/A3 Cabriolet/S3 at 3,100-plus examples, the ILX at nearly 1,900 units, the 2 Series (before the new four-door model arrived) with a hair over 1,200 down the road, and BMW’s long-in-tooth i3 EV pulling in 300 new buyers. By the way, the A-Class, which was the only model in its class to see positive growth last year at just under 14.5 percent, pulled in 3,632 customers alone last year, putting it just behind the aforementioned Mini that saw its year-over-year sales slide by 17 percent.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Hard to believe, but this classy looking three-pointed star can be yours for less than $40k.

While the A 220’s good looks and attractive pricing have no doubt helped lure in its high volume of Canadian luxury buyers, there’s a lot more to the sleek four-door sport sedan than a pretty face and affordability. First and foremost is an interior that’s oozing with style and generous with cutting edge features, some of which hit high on both marks. For instance, Mercedes’ new all-in-one instrument panel and infotainment display is digital art, not only with respect to the colourful, creatively designed and wholly functional graphics within, but also with the fixed tablet-style frame that surrounds it.

This last point highlights an important differentiator between this entry-level Mercedes and compact models from mainstream volume brands. While the A 220’s lower dash and door panel surfaces aren’t much more upscale than what you’d find in a common compact sedan like Honda’s Civic, Toyota’s Corolla, Hyundai’s Elantra or Mazda’s 3, most everything above is as good as being offered in pricier three-pointed star models, such as the C-Class and even the E-Class. Along with the eye-arresting electronic interfaces are beautifully crafted leather door inserts, rich open-pore textured hardwood on those doors and dash, while brushed aluminum accents can be found everywhere, my favourite application being the stunning jet turbine-like dash vents.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Sharp looking LED headlamps join plenty of other distinctive design elements.

Back to that all-in-one MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) instrument cluster/infotainment display, the former integrates various screen themes such as Modern Classic, Sport, Understated and the ability to create your own themes, plus an alternative gauge cluster that changes the traditional-looking speedometer into a numeric format while using the rest of the screen for other functions such as navigation mapping, fuel consumption info, regenerative braking charge info, Eco drive setting info and more, while the latter allows for at least as much personalization.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
These 18-inch five-spoke alloys are available for just $500.

The usual infotainment features were included in my tester, such as navigation, albeit with the ability to choose an augmented reality function that shows a front camera with upcoming street names and directional indicators; an audio interface with satellite radio; the just-noted drive settings that also include Comfort, Sport and Individual modes (also adjustable via a rocker switch on the lower console); advanced driver assistive systems settings; calls, contacts and messages; a large, clear backup camera with dynamic guidelines; and more, while controlling the centre display is the most versatile in the industry.

You can simply use it like a tablet thanks to full touchscreen capability, or alternatively talk to it via Linguatronic Voice Control, one of the best voice command systems in the industry (although “Mercedes” is a bit too willing, inquisitively responding with “How can I help you?” anytime you mention her name), or provide inputs with the tiny BlackBerry-style optical trackpads on each steering wheel side spoke, or lastly utilize the lower console touchpad surrounded by large easy-to-use quick access buttons. The touchpad itself, which is the best of its kind I’ve ever tested, is ideally sensitive to the usual tap, swipe and pinch inputs, is easily within reach, and never caused me the need to divert too much attention away from the primary role of driving.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
LED taillights come standard.

This in mind, intuitively organized climate controls can be found on a slender interface just underneath the centre display screen, designed with nice readouts and a gorgeous row of knurled aluminum toggles, all sitting above a large rubberized tray for storing your smartphone, complete with inductive charging. All-round the A 220 provides a well-organized cabin that’s filled with most everything you’ll need and some things you probably won’t, but I loved the purple ambient lighting anyway.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The available two-tone interior colour scheme looks rich.

All said I was a bit shocked with the small, delicate size and lack of density of the A 220’s steering wheel stalks, and am wondering if they’re part of the brand’s weight-saving, and therefore fuel economy and performance benefiting philosophy. To be clear, their quality is actually quite good in their detailing wonderful, but they’re so light and hollow feeling that someone who prizes substantive solidity over lightweight efficiency might think Mercedes was cutting quality corners. Truly, these are the lightest and least substantive feelings column stalks I’ve ever tested in any car. That the one on the right-side is needed for putting the transmission in drive, neutral, reverse or park makes its minimalist approach even more obvious, which is why I believe the lightweight design was about reducing mass. Even the paddle shifters feel meatier in the fingers, and then when looking around the cabin at all the ritzy aluminum detailing makes it pretty obvious there was something else at play when deciding to make its column stalks so delicate.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Nothing in this class is as dramatically styled as the A-Class interior.

Even before touching the stalks, I was surprised at how thin the plastic was on the lower door panels, thinking at the time it must be due to weight savings as well. Their construction is excellent, and the detail that went into making them lightweight yet still strong impressive, but they don’t exactly exude a feel of premium quality. Thankfully everything above the waist is top-tier luxury kit as noted earlier, but the hard-plastic centre console could be a bit disappointing for those stepping out some of those volume-branded models mentioned earlier, which cover such areas in padded soft composites.

Overhead is a lovely console with controls for the large glass sunroof, jewel-like LED dome and reading lights, plus more. I was a bit surprised to find only the A pillars were fabric wrapped, with the B and C pillars finished in a hard-shell composite, but again this is not too uncommon in this smallest class of luxury car. What matters is that all of the components fit together well, with the various lids and doors closing with a nice firm German solidity, except for the glove box lid that’s very lightweight as well.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes’ new MBUX digital gauge and infotainment system is in a class of one.

The light grey and black two-tone leather-covered seats are wholly comfortable with excellent side bolstering and include manually-operated lower thigh extensions, a wonderful addition. My tester also used the light grey for the door inserts, making the cabin look decidedly upmarket. Like those up front, the rear outboard seats provide good comfort thanks to nicely sculpted backrests and fairly good room for legs and feet, not to mention headroom. With the front seat set up for my long-legged, short torso five-foot-eight frame, I still had about five inches ahead of my knees and plenty of room for my feet while wearing boots, plus ample space from side-to-side. About three inches remained above my head, so taller teens and adults (just above six-feet) should fit in just fine, while the rear headrests provide excellent support and are blissfully soft as well. The folding centre armrest was slightly low for my height, but would no doubt be perfect for smaller adults or kids, and includes two pop-out cupholders that secure drinks nicely. Mercedes includes netted magazine holders behind each front seatback, plus individual vents can be found on the backside of the front console, and under that a pull-out compartment with a small bin for what-have-you as well as two USB-C charging ports. There were no rear seat heaters in this particular model, but a small panel over each side window includes LED reading lights and a tiny yet strong hook for hanging a jacket or shirt.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s centre stack is ideally laid out for easy use while driving.

The trunk is fairly large for a sedan of the A 220’s compact dimensions, and I love the fact that it can be expanded by a 40/20/40-split rear seatback that allows longer items such as skis to be laid down the middle while rear passengers enjoy the window seats. This is super helpful in a small car like this, because the rear centre position is a bit small compared to what you’d find in a larger car, so you want to save it for storage rather than force one of your rear passengers into the middle. Mercedes provides trunk-mounted levers for folding those seats down, while the finishing is very nice inside.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Four driving modes come standard.

Along with all the niceties mentioned, the 2020 A 220 is packed full of standard goodies like LED headlamps, 17-inch alloy wheels, brushed or pinstriped aluminum interior trim, pushbutton ignition, MBUX infotainment including a 7.0-inch digital gauge cluster and 7.0-inch infotainment display, six-speaker audio with nice deep resonant bass plus good highs and mids, a powered driver’s seat with memory, heatable front seats, a large panoramic sunroof, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, and much more.

Just to be clear, my tester also included $890 Mountain Grey Metallic paint; $500 worth of 18-inch twinned five-spoke alloys; a $3000 Premium package that adds proximity entry, power folding mirrors, larger 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and centre displays with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, voice control, wireless charging, auto dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, ambient lighting, a foot-activated trunk release, vehicle exit warning, and Blind Spot assist; a $1,600 Technology package adding multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and Active Distance Assist; and a $1,000 Navigation package with a navigation system, live traffic, Mercedes’ Navigation Services, the augmented reality feature mentioned earlier, a Connectivity package, and Traffic Sign Assist.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Mercedes offers four ways to connect to its new MBUX infotainment system, this trackpad being amongst the best in the biz.

The extras continued with a $1,900 Intelligent Drive package (new for 2020) featuring Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Active Lane Change Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Map-Based Speed Adaptation (that uses navigation system info to modulate the car’s speed based on upcoming road conditions before even being visible to the driver), Active Lane Keeping Assist, an Advanced Driving Assistance package, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steering Assist, Pre-Safe, and Active Speed Limit Assist; $900 Active Parking Assist; satellite radio for $475; and black open-pore wood trim for $250 (walnut is available for the same price); all of which added $10,515 to the 2020 A 220’s aforementioned $37,300 base price, making for a pretty ritzy little Mercedes for just $47,815 plus freight and fees.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s driver’s seat is superbly crafted, wholly comfortable and seriously supportive.

Believe it or not it was missing a fair bit of extra kit like the $1,500 Sport package or $2,000 Night package, available $500 19-inch alloy wheels, $250 heatable Nappa leather steering wheel, $1,500 head-up display, $650 surround parking camera, $700 12-speaker, 450-watt Burmester surround audio upgrade, $300 universal garage door opener, $450 powered front passenger’s seat with memory, and $1,200 ventilated front seats (this last feature new for 2020).

As good as the A 220’s exterior styling, interior design, execution and feature set is, its Mercedes heritage shines through even more when out on the road. Performance off the line is strong and gets even stronger in Sport mode, where shifts from its seven-speed dual-clutch automated gearbox are quick and precise, and strength from the engine is plenty enjoyable despite only offering up 188 horsepower and 221 lb-ft of torque. The 4Matic in the name means all-wheel drive is standard as noted earlier, so therefore all four of my tester’s 225/45R18 Michelins were able to bite into the tarmac simultaneously for very quick immediate response, while it held to the road wonderfully at speed, even in wet weather.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
This large panoramic sunroof comes standard.

The standard paddle shifters enhance the A 220’s performance edge when pushed hard in Sport mode, but they can also be for short shifting to save fuel. I selected Eco mode for that, where shifts are smooth and relaxed, resulting in a favourable fuel economy rating of 9.6 L/100km in the city, 7.1 on the highway or 8.5 combined. By the way, last year’s front-wheel drive model didn’t save that much more fuel with a claimed rating of 9.7 city, 6.8 highway and 8.4 combined, so the move to standard AWD hardly hurts anyone’s ongoing fuel budget.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
Rear seat roominess is excellent for this class, and refinement in back is just like up front.

Traveling slower with an eye on saving fuel is when I really appreciated the A 220’s comfortable ride, although keep in mind it’s set up with traditional German tautness, so it’s firmer than what you might find in most Japanese luxury cars, but the majority of premium buyers should find it plush enough. So driven, the A 220’s overall quietness adds its luxurious ambiance, making it the ideal compact for hushing inner-city noise and limiting buffeting wind on the highway.

If my personal money were on the line in this class, I’d choose the A 220 over its four-door subcompact luxury peers, as it delivers high marks in every way. It’s fabulous looking both outside and within, provides good tactile quality for the category, is packed full of all the features I want, is really enjoyable to drive no matter the situation, and is wholly practical as far as four-door sedans go.

2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 4Matic
The A 220’s sizeable trunk provides a centre pass-through for optimal passenger/cargo flexibility.

Notably, I haven’t driven BMW’s new 2 Series sedan entry yet, but its four-door coupe profile won’t likely provide the same level of rear seat roominess as the A 220, and the only other two subcompact luxury competitors are Audi’s A3, that’s been with us for over seven years with only a minor facelift, and Acura’s ILX, that’s just as old, albeit with a more dramatic refresh just last year, but the Japanese entry is really a previous-generation Honda Civic with an upgraded powertrain under the heavily modified skin.

No matter which car I decided upon, however, I’d first check for any manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, or other incentives at CarCostCanada, where you can also find out about detailed pricing, build your vehicle, and even access otherwise hard to get dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. At the time of writing the 2020 Mercedes-Benz A 220 was available with up to $750 in additional incentives, whereas any 2019 models still available could be had for up to $2,000 in incentives. Make sure to visit CarCostCanada to learn more, plus download the new CarCostCanada Mobile App at Google’s Android Play Store or Apple’s App Store so you can access this valuable information while at the dealership, where you’ll need it most.

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

If you’re old enough to be called a boomer, or if you fall into the early gen-xer category, you might remember when wagons were the furthest from cool a car could be. Certainly there were exceptions,…

2020 Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon Road Test

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Wagons never went out of style, and this Mercedes-AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon is easily the most appealing in its compact D-segment segment.

If you’re old enough to be called a boomer, or if you fall into the early gen-xer category, you might remember when wagons were the furthest from cool a car could be.

Certainly there were exceptions, like Chevy’s Nomad, the early ‘70s Olds Vista Cruiser my family borrowed to travel from Vancouver to California one summer, some of Volvo’s Turbo Wagons, and Mercedes’ 1979 (W123-body) 500 TE AMG that’s possibly coolest of all, but believe it or not minivans had more street cred than wagons when they arrived in the ‘80s, and when those ultimately useful monobox conveyances stopped stroking our collective ego it was up to crossover SUVs to balance the emotion-driven wants and practical needs of our busy suburban lifestyles. The thing is, to many serious car enthusiasts, the wagon never went out of style.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Good looking C-Class wagon gets plenty of aero upgrades in AMG C 43 trim.

Mercedes understands this better than any manufacturer, proven by satisfying its longstanding wagon faithful with two segment sizes and multiple trim levels that include the compact C-Class Wagon and the mid-size E-Class Wagon, plus various trims including the C 300 4Matic Wagon, the AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon being reviewed here, the E 450 4Matic Wagon, the AMG E 53 4Matic+ Wagon, and lastly the AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ Wagon.

The last one on that list is in a class of one from price to performance, its $124,200 buying a 3.3-second sprint from standstill to 100 km/h via a 603 horsepower 4.0-litre biturbo V8 as well as a whole lot of luxury, while the somewhat more sedate AMG-tuned E variant provides a similar level of luxury for its much more affordable $87,800 base price yet utilizes a turbocharged and electrically compressed 3.0-litre inline-six making 429 horsepower to push it from zero to 100 km/h in a scant 4.5 seconds.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
These optional three-way LED headlights have impressive detailing.

At $60,900 the AMG C 43 4Matic Wagon is the value five-door amongst Mercedes’ go-fast AMG estate line, but despite its much more affordable price point it still delivers the goods. Its 385-horsepower 3.0-litre biturbo V6, complete with rapid-multispark ignition and high-pressure direct injection, propels it from naught to 100 km/h in a very respectable 4.8 seconds, much thanks to a near equal 384 lb-ft of torque, and the sounds its engine and exhaust make doing so are almost as entertaining as the drive itself.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
These optional 19-inch alloys provide extra grip for fast-paced manoeuvres.

To be clear, there’s nothing remotely like the C 43 Wagon on the Canadian market. BMW, which has long offered its 3 and 5 Series Touring wagons, no longer sells any in Canada (at least not since last year that saw the sedan get redesigned and the wagons carryover unchanged—they’re gone for 2020), while Audi only provides its tall crossover wagon lineup consisting of the A4 and A6 Allroad, and with 248 and 335 horsepower apiece they don’t perform anywhere near as well as Mercedes’ AMGs. What about Volvo? The Chinese-owned Swedish carmaker should be commended for providing the regular-height V60 sport wagon and their raised V60 Cross Country wagon with performance from diesel, turbocharged gasoline, turbo and supercharged gasoline, plus turbo, supercharger and hybrid electric gasoline power units and horsepower ratings from 190 with the diesel to a mighty 405 hp for V60 Polestar trim (the mid-size E-segment V90 and V90 Cross Country models have been discontinued in Canada for 2020), but as innovative as it is (and it’s truly impressive) Volvo’s smooth, linear 2.0-litre turbocharged, supercharged, hybrid powertrain isn’t as in-your-face exciting as the C 43 Wagon’s raucous V6, AMG SpeedShift TCT 9-speed, and 4Matic all-wheel drive combination.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
LED taillights come standard across the C-Class lineup.

The C 43 has the requisite menacing look down too. Granted it’s a lot more imposing in Black, my tester’s coat of Polar White almost saintly by comparison, but don’t let the angelic demeanor fool you. All of the matte and glossy black trim gives away its bahn-storming purpose, with highlights being its mesh front grilles, the aggressive lower front fascia with straked corner vents, the side mirror caps, the mostly glass roof and roof rails, the window trim, the deeply sculpted rear diffuser, the quad of tailpipes, and the 19-inch alloys shod with Continental ContiSportContact SSR 225/40 high performance rubber. 

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
There’s nothing subtle about the C 43’s rear diffuser and quad of AMG Performance exhaust pipes.

Eye-arresting LED headlights with three separate elements provide advanced style and a level of brilliance capable of turning dark nighttime side roads into near daylight, their vertical corner lamps particularly unique, while bright metal adorns the top half of each exterior door handle and a large strip spanning the back hatch, not to mention various badges including a subtle front centre grille-mounted “/////AMG” logo, two proudly declaring the “BITURBO 4MATIC” powertrain on each front fender, one boasting a larger and more prominent version of AMG’s logo and another for the car’s “C 43” nameplate on the left and right of the rear liftgate respectively, plus various Mercedes three-pointed stars at each end, on the wheel caps, etcetera.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The C 43 4Matic Wagon’s interior is exquisite.

Of course, proximity-sensing keyless entry gets you inside, where you’ll be greeted by a stunning set of sport seats finished in black perforated leather, red stitching and brushed aluminum four-point harness holes up top, not to mention a small AMG badge on the centre backrest, that is if your eyes aren’t first distracted by the exquisitely detailed doors that get even more brushed and satin-finish aluminum trim, plus drilled aluminum Burmester speaker grilles and red-stitched black leather everywhere else.

Red thread and padded leather continues to surface the dash top, even as far as the most forward portion just under the windshield, plus the instrument panel all the way down each side of the centre stack, the latter finished in gorgeous available gloss carbon fibre as it swoops down into the lower centre console that culminates into a large split centre armrest detailed out in more red-stitched soft leather.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Check out the detailing on the driver’s door panel.

Speaking of large, two oversized moonroofs give the impression of one massive panoramic sunroof without as much loss in torsional rigidity, important in such a long roofed car capable of attaining an imposed 250-km/h (155-mph) top track speed, not to mention shockingly good handling on some of my favourite semi-deserted non-track backroads, a process that, while thrilling to the nth degree, is almost downplayed by the luxuriously appointed C 43’s overall quietness. The roof pillars, finished in the same high quality cloth as the roofliner, can take some credit for calming the wind and hushing the rest of the outside world, but most of the magic is in the ultra-stiff unibody itself, plus all of the seals, insulation, engine and component mounts, etcetera. Thus only slight wind and road noises enter the cabin, allowing for more of the growling engine or alternatively the audio delights of the aforementioned optional Burmester stereo.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
There isn’t a better looking interior in the D-segment, and Mercedes’ quality is superb.

You can control the volume of all 13 speakers from a beautiful knurled metal cylinder button on the right-side steering wheel spoke, this just one of the C 43’s full array of steering wheel switchgear, two of which are tiny Blackberry-style touchpads that let you scroll through the wholly impressive digital gauge cluster or the centre display. The entire wheel is a cut above, the partial Nappa leather-clad rim flattened at each side and the bottom for a really sporty look and feel, while a red top marker lines up the centre and suede-like Dinamica (think Alcantara) adds grip to the sides.

There’s more brushed and satin-finish aluminum in the C 43 than any competitor, but somehow Mercedes pulls it off with a level of retrospective steampunk tastefulness that shouldn’t make sense yet obviously does. The five circular HVAC vents on the instrument panel make the look work, the three at the centre underscored by a stunning row of knurled metal-topped brushed aluminum toggle-type switches, this only upstaged by another cylinder switch for drive mode selection of Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and Slippery settings, and a rotating dial for the infotainment system, both once again detailed out in knurled aluminum and the latter positioned below Mercedes’ trademark palm rest cum touchpad and quick access button infused controller.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
This fabulous 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster is optional.

Mercedes displays are the envy of the auto industry, especially newer models that incorporate dual connected 12.3-inch screens for the primary instruments and infotainment. The current fourth-generation (W205) C-Class (S205 for the wagon), introduced in September 2014 for the 2015 model year and therefore in its seventh year of production, hasn’t been given the brand’s latest dash design yet, but its traditional hooded analogue gauge cluster (and large multi-info display) can be substituted for 12.3 inches of digital instruments when opting for the C 43’s Technology package, at which point it comes filled with all the digital wizardry the brand is now becoming renowned for. It’s as colourful as gauge clusters get, and uniquely customizable with various background designs and loads of multi-information features. It allows for a multitude of function combinations too, and can either take over the entire display with a navigation map, for instance, or just a portion thereof, working wonderfully once figured out.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
AMG makes one of the most impressive sport steering wheel around.

My tester’s optional centre display, which is slightly smaller at 10.25 inches (the base model gets a 7.0-inch screen), is a fixed-tablet design propped atop the centre stack in an all too common layout these days, although its innards are pure Mercedes-Benz and therefore filled with attractive, colourful graphics and easy to scroll through ahead of choosing a function as needed, plus it comes loaded up with myriad features. Unlike many such displays the C’s isn’t a touchscreen, so all tap, pinch or swipe gesture controls need to be done via the previously noted touchpad or scrolling wheel on the lower console, or the little touch-button on the steering wheel, all of which work well enough. I prefer having use of a touchscreen as well as the other controls, mind you, or at least a larger touchpad, which is also showing up in some of Mercedes’ more recent offerings.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The centre stack is well laid out and filled with features, while genuine carbon fibre trim is optional.

That Technology package mentioned a moment ago costs $1,900 and also includes the active Multibeam LED headlights I spoke of before, and adaptive high beam assist, while all the gloss-black exterior trim noted earlier was actually part of a $1,000 AMG Night package.

Likewise, the fabulous AMG Nappa/Dinamica performance steering wheel that I went on about at length earlier is part of the $2,400 AMG Driver’s package that also includes the free-flow, four-pipe AMG performance exhaust system with push-button actuated computer-controlled vanes, the 19-inch AMG five-twin-spoke aero wheels (the base model gets 18s), an increase in top speed to the previously noted 250 km/h (155 mph), and an AMG Track Pace app that allows performance data, such as speed, acceleration, lap and sector times to be stored in the infotainment system while driving on the racetrack.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The upgraded 10.25-inch centre display gets high-definition clarity and great graphics.

For 2020 AMG Driver’s package also includes an AMG Drive Unit that features a set of F1-inspired controls below each steering wheel spoke for quickly adjusting performance settings (with integrated colour displays for confirming the selection). The left pod of switches can be assigned to functions like manual shift mode, the AMG Ride Control system’s damping modes, the three-stage ESP, and the AMG Performance Exhaust system, while the circular switch on the right selects and displays the AMG Dynamic Select driving mode.

As you can see by checking out the photo gallery and smaller images shown on this page, those cool steering wheel controls were not on my tester, which means the car photographed was actually a 2019 model. Other than this, and some small details such as dual rear USB ports as standard equipment across the entire C-Class lineup, the C 43 Wagon you’re looking at is identical to the 2020.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Touch gesture and rotating wheel controls can be executed via this console-mounted interface.

That means the $5,600 Premium package found in my tester would be the same as the one in the 2020 model, with both featuring aforementioned proximity keyless access, a touchpad controller, and the 590-watt Burmester Surround Sound audio system, plus a 360-degree surround camera system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, navigation, voice control, satellite radio, real-time traffic info, wireless phone charging, an integrated garage door opener, Mercedes’ Active Parking Assist semi-autonomous self-parking, rear side window sunshades, and a powered tailgate with foot-activated gesture control.

My tester also included the $2,700 Intelligent Drive package with its Pre-Safe Plus, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross-Traffic Function, Active Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Distronic Distance Assist, Enhanced Stop-and-Go, Traffic Sign Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, and Route-based Speed Adaptation.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
These seats are wonderfully comfortable and wholly supportive.

I could go on and on talking about standard features and options (and the slick $250 designo red seatbelts really deserve mention), but the reality is this little C 43 is well stocked and beautifully finished, and at least as importantly it’s wicked fun to drive. Shifting into reverse to back out of my driveway caused a rearview camera with an overhead view and particularly good dynamic guidelines to pop into view, but oddly this super wagon’s automatic shifter is still on the column, making it either the most anachronistic hot hatch in existence or the smartest, being that it was always the most efficient place to house an auto shifter. It’s a completely modern electronically shifted transmission, mind you, that you pull down and up for drive and reverse as has always being the case, but pressing a button for Park is new. All manual shifts are executed via steering wheel mounted paddles, and believe me you’ll be tempted to scroll through the incredibly impressive nine-speed automatic all the time.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
A two-piece panoramic sunroof provides all the overhead light plus the body rigidity a performance car needs.

AMG specifically programmed Merc’s new nine-speed to prioritize performance, which means the wider range of more closely spaced ratios shift quicker yet still plenty smooth, and the aforementioned AMG Dynamic Select system’s Comfort, Sport and Sport+ modes really make a difference. What’s more, three overdrive ratios and ECO Start/Stop that automatically shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling to reduce fuel consumption and minimize emissions aids efficiency, the C 43 Wagon good for a claimed 12.4 L/100km in the city, 8.9 on the highway and 10.8 combined for both 2019 and 2020.

That’s amazingly good for a vehicle with this kind of performance, not to mention one with all-wheel drive. The AMG 4Matic system has a fixed 31:69 front/rear torque split designed to optimize performance off the line and through the corners, while the latter benefits from a nicely weighted electromechanical power assist rack-and-pinion steering setup with good feel, and a standard AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension featuring three-stage damping that clings to tarmac like you’d expect an AMG-tuned Mercedes would. I even felt comfortable enough to turn the traction/stability control off for a little sideways sliding, and it was perfectly predictable and wonderful fun.

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Rear seat roominess is generous.

If you’ve never driven something like the C 43 you’ll be shocked and awed, as anything with AMG badges is the stuff of legend. Braking is equally heart arresting thanks to a track-ready AMG Performance Braking system with perforated (not cross-drilled) 360 mm rotors and grey-painted four-piston fixed calipers up front, and solid 320 mm discs at the rear. The difference between perforated rotors and other manufacturer’s cross-drilled process begins at the moment of casting, where the AMG discs are cast with the holes in place so as to improve strength and heat resistance. The result is strong braking even when used too much at high speeds on curving, undulating mountainside roads. They’re the next best thing to carbon-ceramic brakes, but offer nicer day-to-day stopping performance that suits the C 43 Wagon’s overall mission ideally. 

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
The C 43 Wagon’s dedicated cargo area is spacious, plus 40/20/40-split seatbacks provide more convenience than average.

Yes, hooliganism aside, this family shuttle is plenty practical. It’s roomy up front with seats that are as comfortable as any in the class, while the second row provides more than enough space for most body types to stretch out. A wonderfully complex folding centre armrest adds to the comfort quotient when three’s a crowd, as it’s filled with pop-out cupholders and a shallow, felt-line bin for storing what-have-you, or alternatively the centre position can be eliminated entirely by dropping the 20-percent section of the 40/20/40-split seatback down for stowing longer cargo like skis without the need to force rear passengers into the less comfortable centre position, the usual result of less convenient 60/40-split rear seats. Those rear seatbacks fold down via two small electronic buttons too, helping to make the C 43 as easy to live with as it’s outrageously fun to drive. The end result is cargo capacity that expands from 460 litres to 1,480, which is subcompact to compact SUV levels of usability (its load capacity fits between the GLA- and new GLB-Class).

2020 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Wagon
Buttons release the rear seatbacks so they drop down automatically.

So folks, if you hadn’t previously figured out that wagons are cool again, despite being a little late to the party it’s certainly not over yet. For me, this is Mercedes’ AMG wagons offer the ultimate balance between performance and practicality, combined with some of he nicest interiors in the auto industry. That they wear one of the most prestigious badges available is merely a bonus, and that Mercedes is now providing up to $5,000 in additional incentives on 2020 models is even more motivation to take a closer look.

To find out more, make sure to visit CarCostCanada’s 2020 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Canada Prices page where you can learn about all C-Class body styles, trims, packages and standalone options, plus you can build the exact model you’re interested in. Even better, a CarCostCanada membership will provide the most important information you could need before even talking to your local Mercedes-Benz retailer, including details on available manufacturer rebates, financing and leasing deals, plus you’ll learn about dealer invoice pricing so you can know exactly how far they may be willing to discount your C 43

Story and photo credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo Editing: Karen Tuggay

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG has announced that it will offer a carbon-neutral model lineup by 2039, only 20 years from today.  The German automaker already provides environmentally-focused buyers…

Mercedes sets goal of “Carbon Neutral” model line by 2039

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC
The upcoming 2020 EQC is Mercedes’ new flagship electric, set to take on the Tesla Model X, Jaguar I-Pace and others. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG has announced that it will offer a carbon-neutral model lineup by 2039, only 20 years from today. 

The German automaker already provides environmentally-focused buyers plenty of green offerings, including 48-volt hybrid EQ-Boost models such as the CLS, E-Class Coupe, E-Class Cabriolet and upcoming GLE 580 4MATIC, as well as plug-in hybrid entries such as the GLC 350e 4MATIC, S560e, etcetera, and will follow these up soon with the mid-sized all-electric EQC crossover SUV, plus a smaller compact battery-electric car based on 2018’s Concept EQA, so they’re well on the way. 

Still, Mercedes’ new plan is amongst the most ambitious in the auto industry, and therefore is appropriately called Ambition2039. The company plans to electrify 50 percent of its new vehicles by 2030, with its fleet comprised of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric models. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLE 580 4MATIC
The GLE 580 4MATIC is gets a 48-volt mild hybrid assist system that adds power and improves fuel economy. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“Let’s be clear what this means for us: a fundamental transformation of our company within less than three product cycles,” stated Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars since the baton was passed over to him by his predecessor, Dieter Zetsche on May 22nd, 2019. “That’s not much time when you consider that fossil fuels have dominated our business since the invention of the car by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler some 130 years ago. But as a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.” 

Daimler made a major commitment to electrify its new vehicle range with an investment of $15.8 billion CAD ($11.7 billion USD) last year, promising to develop more than ten all-electric vehicles ahead of electrifying its entire Mercedes-Benz new car range. 

Mercedes-Benz Concept EQV
The Concept EQV passenger van runs on Mercedes’ all-electric EQ powertrain, and looks ready for production. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

In preparation to achieving this aspiring goal, Källenius committed Mercedes to working with all partners in an effort to minimize EV production costs as well as make improvements in range and performance, while the three-pointed star brand also projects diversifying its lineup of EVs to vans, trucks, and buses. Additionally, Daimler also plans to continue its investments into alternative technologies, including fuel cells, which it uses now in its GLC F-CELL, the world’s first electric vehicle to combine a fuel-cell and a plug-in battery, and expects to use in larger commercial applications like city buses. 

Making its new vehicle lineup carbon-neutral only satisfies part of its agenda, mind you, because Daimler has targets on greening its production facilities too. In fact, it currently uses renewable energy for at its Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, with the result already being CO2 neutrality. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC
The EQC is sized similarly to the GLE mid-size SUV, a popular configuration that should bring it success. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“In ‘Factory 56’, we are consistently implementing innovative technologies and processes across the board according to the key terms ‘digital, flexible, green’,” stated Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain. “We create a modern workspace with more attention to individual requirements of our employees. All in all, in ‘Factory 56’ we are significantly increasing flexibility and efficiency in comparison to our current vehicle assembly halls – and of course without sacrificing our top quality. In this way we are setting a new benchmark in the global automotive industry.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz EQC
The EQ platform can underpin many types of different electric vehicle body types. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The automaker added that each of its European factories would follow suit by 2022, pointing to its engine factory in Jawor, Poland as an example of more environmentally and economically efficient already, due to its use of renewable energies. 

Also notable, the automaker is transitioning from a value chain to a value cycle, being that Mercedes models now incorporate an 85-percent potential-recycling ratio. Also, Daimler will assist its suppliers in reducing their carbon footprints. 

“We prefer doing what our founders have done: They became system architects of a new mobility without horses. Today, our task is individual mobility without emissions,” said Källenius. “As a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.”

Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s…

Mercedes improves 2020 CLA in every way

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The all-new 2020 CLA 250 Coupe shows an altogether more aggressive face, and plenty of other upgrades too. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s ILX, BMW’s 2 Series, and others in a traditional car category that’s now under threat by an ever-burgeoning class of subcompact luxury SUVs. 

Still, while Mercedes-Benz has always offered a bevy of industry segment stalwarts, it’s also become the brand of micro-niches, having invented the four-door coupe body style, so it would be highly unusual behaviour for its leadership to say so long to its plentiful car lineup just because its utilities are currently experiencing more growth. After all, Mercedes has been around longer than most of its competitors, and therefore has endured all the trends the automotive industry has ever weathered. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
With a longer hood and a greenhouse pushed further back in more classic GT style, the new CLA looks plenty potent. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Speaking of endurance, or lack therefore, Lexus said goodbye to the entry-level luxury car market by cancelling its CT, Acura hasn’t bothered to update its ILX in too long to remember, everyone’s still wondering if BMW will ever offer North Americans anything in this class with four doors, and all other premium brands haven’t even bothered showing up at all, but take note that Mercedes has been selling its brand new A-Class Hatchback for two months already, and plans to add the completely new A-Class Sedan that more specifically targets the most popular four-door version of the segment-leading A3 (and will become the most affordable Mercedes model) later this year, while the fall of 2019 will also see the arrival of a fully redesigned CLA-Class four-door coupe that promises a serious move up the desirability ladder, not that the current model is particularly lacking. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA should be an even better performer than its capable predecessor. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales. 

Of those new CLA buyers in Canada, more than two thirds were new to Mercedes-Benz at the height of the model’s popularity, while also important, these new Mercedes owners averaged seven years younger than the brand’s typical customer at the time. Starting this fall, Mercedes will offer Canadian entry-level luxury consumers the choice of three recently redesigned or all-new subcompact car and SUV models (four if you split the A-Class into its hatchback and sedan body styles, and five if you count any potentially remaining stock of B-Class models still around when Mercedes wraps up its tenure at the close of this model year), the CLA being the sportiest, most expressive of the bunch, and many of these customers will likely move up to pricier more profitable models within the automaker’s lineup as their careers and personal finances progress. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Its striking new rear design adds visual width for a more planted look. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” added Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.” 

First shown at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, an apropos venue considering the ultra-advanced MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment interface that together with the integrated digital instrument cluster covers more than half the dash top, the new CLA looks a bit more grown up thanks to a more serious, almost frowning and forward-slanting M-B sport grille which, in its release, Mercedes claims is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA’s forward-sloping grille actually reminds us of classic BMWs, but sophisticated LED headlamps and an intricate latticework of F1-inspired front aero enhancements make it thoroughly modern. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The new grille, found ahead of a longer hood topped with classic Mercedes “powerdomes”, is flanked by sharper, narrower and more complex LED Multibeam headlamps featuring 18 individually-controllable LEDs, all of which is underscored by additional complexity in the lower front fascia, while the updated model sees more muscular lower haunches and its greenhouse moved rearward for a more traditional GT profile. It continues this grand touring tradition with squarer more conventional trunk cutout as part of a revised rear end design featuring narrower, more horizontal LED taillights that sit higher up above the back bumper and therefore add more visual width to the design, its slipperier sheet metal registering a wind-cheating 0.23 coefficient of drag. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
There’s no shortage of LED elements in the new CLA’s front or rear lights. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The outgoing CLA offered up one of the more intriguing interiors for its time, but this new interior immediately makes everything in the class look tired and dated. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Inside, it’s easy to see that Mercedes is targeting the younger market mentioned earlier, thanks to an edgy, sporty look including bright colours, plus those all-in-one digital displays that are large enough to cause screen envy amongst owners of the latest Apple, Microsoft and Samsung tablets. That fixed freestanding gauge cluster and central widescreen display unit eliminates the need for a cowl to shield instruments, with the rest of the completely dash panel including a sporty paddle-shifter-infused leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel ahead of the driver, a very narrow, near retro HVAC interface at centre, and an uncluttered floating-style lower console featuring Mercedes’ exclusive palm rest and new infotainment touchpad controller within easy reach. Only the circular dash-mounted air vents appear carryover, but of course their “avant-garde” turbine-like jet-engine design is entirely new and particularly striking. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new MBUX digital gauge cluster and infotainment combination is as advanced as anything in the industry. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

That MBUX infotainment system, which debuted in the new A-Class a year ago, after a similar system was first integrated into the E-Class, is more than just a very large pretty interface with impressive high-resolution graphics capable of Augmented Reality navigation and fully customizable displays, it also provides serious computing power with integrated software that can even “learn and respond to natural speech,” says Mercedes. 

This will be good news to anyone who has ever been frustrated by the majority of voice recognition systems past and current, which need very precise and often not intuitively thought out commands. Instead, Mercedes’ voice assistant reportedly communicates similarly to Amazon’s Alexa system, only needing an occupant to say “Hey Mercedes” in order to prompt any number of functions via less direct questions, plus it’s smart enough to recognize the person asking the question, rather than others in the car that might be having a separate conversation. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Beautiful high-resolution graphics come standard, but there’s a lot more that the MBUX system offers. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.” 

According to Mercedes, the updated voice assistant is now capable of recognizing and responding to more complicated questions than previous voice recognition systems offered, citing the example, “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops.” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The fully customizable MBUX infotainment system includes Augmented Reality navigation, and we can’t wait to try it out. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

MBUX can also cover a broader range of topics than previous hands-free voice systems, with an example of a sports query being, “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” The question, “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” may be more concerning to Mercedes drivers these days however, stock market information being one of the subjects MBUX is well versed in. Alternatively, maybe you need a simple calculation performed while driving. Mercedes’ example might be a bit rudimentary for anyone old enough to be behind the wheel of the CLA, but possibly a child in the back seat might ask, “What is the square roof of 9?” or for that matter “How big is Texas?” when it comes to a general knowledge question, but it’s fair to expect that plenty of health-conscious Mercedes owners may want to ask, “What is the fat content of avocados?” 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
A new touchpad replaces the old rotating dial, modernizing the MBUX user interface experience. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Also designed make life with a new CLA easier and more accommodating, the upcoming model grows by 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) to 4,688 mm (184.5 in) from nose to tail, and rides on a 30-mm (1.2-in) longer wheelbase that now measures 2,729 mm (107.4 in), while it’s also 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in), not including the side mirrors, and fractionally (2 mm/0.1 in) lower overall at 1,439 mm (56.6 in). 

According to yet more measurements provided, the result of its mostly increased exterior dimensions is a roomier and therefore more comfortable cabin, with front occupants getting 17 mm (0.6 in) more headroom, rear occupants benefiting from a hair’s-width (+3 mm/0.1 in) of additional head space, and width measurements experiencing the greatest improvement thanks to shoulder room up 9 and 22 mm (0.3 and 0.8 in) respectively front to back, and front to rear elbow room increasing by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) apiece. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
An elegantly minimalist HVAC interface is only upstaged by the CLA’s fabulous turbine-look air vents. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Despite the new CLA’s longer wheelbase and greater overall length, front legroom is actually down by a millimetre while rear legroom grows by the same nominal measurement, plus the trunk is also surprisingly smaller, albeit by just 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a nevertheless still commodious 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), but this said the load compartment opening’s width expands by a considerable 262 mm (10.3 in), while the load floor is now 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and 24 mm (0.9 in) deeper. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new CLA is larger in most dimensions, especially from side-to-side. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

Under the opposing deck lid, the updated CLA will once again come standard with Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, currently featuring 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque yet making the same twist and 13 horsepower of additional thrust in the new A-Class, which will more than likely be the go-to powerplant for this future CLA. It will come mated to the premium brand’s in-house developed and produced 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated transmission, while both front- and 4MATIC all-wheel drivetrains will be available. An AMG-powered version is expected after the base CLA 250 debuts, with performance that will likely match or exceed the current model’s 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The sporty seats certainly look comfortable and supportive, making us want to jump inside to test it as soon as possible. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The new CLA’s increased width makes a difference to the chassis’ track too, widening it by a substantive 63-mm (2.5-in) up front and 55-mm (2.1-in) in back, while it also receives a reduced centre of gravity for what should be especially sporty driving dynamics. Suspension specifications include Mercedes’ Direct-Steer system and front hydromounts, plus a decoupled multi-link rear axle that minimizes noise, vibration and harshness levels, while larger stabilizer bars help reduce body lean when pushed hard. The standard tires should measure 225/45R18, with 225/40R19s being optional. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
Is this the Mercedes-Benz that will cause you to step up from mainstream and buy from a luxury brand? If so, you certainly won’t be first to do so. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

As with all new Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, plus most luxury competitors, advanced driver assistance systems play a big part in enhancing ease-of-use and safety, so the CLA will include standard Active Brake Assist automatic braking, and included in the optional Intelligent Drive Package is Active Lane Keep Assist that helps drivers remain centered in their chosen lane while also keeping them from wandering off the road, plus additionally it will include Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and automatic reverse braking. 

The Intelligent Drive Package, pulled from the ultra-advanced Mercedes S-Class, does more than that, mind you, thanks to its ability to drive the CLA autonomously for short distances. This is a semi-autonomous system requiring “cooperative driver support,” says Mercedes, but in certain situations it can drive itself. 

2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 Coupe
The new 2020 CLA should do very well. (Photo: Mercedes-Benz)

The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, which will be built at the Kecskemét assembly plant in Hungary, will arrive this coming fall, at which time it just might reclaim top spot in the subcompact luxury car hierarchy, although Mercedes’ more traditionally sedan-style A-Class will more than likely assume that position. After all, the more upright four-door will start at just $34,990 (see all new A-Class Hatchback and Sedan prices and features on CarCostCanada), about $4k less than the current CLA, so it has a significant advantage in the sales department. Still, with all the big upgrades made to the new CLA it should easily reclaim its loyal following while attracting a fresh set of adventurous newcomers to the Mercedes-Benz brand. 

Until the new model arrives, be sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above and these six Mercedes-Benz-supplied videos below: 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): World Premiere | Trailer (1:21):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES in Las Vegas | Re-Live (18:40):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES | Highlights (1:50):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): The Design (1:06):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) and Jan Frodeno: In the Wind Tunnel (1:41):

 

Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) (1:03):