2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 road test
Refining Mercedes-Benz's revolution
A front-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz? Oh, the purists raged about that one for a while. But the original B-Class was smartly engineered, reasonably reliable, nimble, and a decent little workhorse. But being relatively unchanged since 2006 means it's time for a new one. Giving the 2013 version a passing glance, you'd be forgiven for assuming Benz slapped on some new lights and called it a day, but that's far from the case.
Under the skin, the new B has very little to do with the old car. The original used a very cool "sandwich" floor that added rigidity and improved safety — in a collision, the whole engine was designed to slide under the car rather than intrude into the cabin. The latest uses a more traditional front-wheel-drive platform that's ultimately less expensive to build, but is significantly stronger as well. Although Mercedes-Benz will eventually offer different engines and drive configurations, for now we get the basic B.
Why hello, torque!
One aspect that's greatly improved is that there's only one engine now replacing the two from before. Forgetting the dead-slow base model, the new turbocharged 2.0-litre is significantly more potent than before. While 208 horsepower (up from 193) is adequate, the biggest improvement made for 2013 is in the torque output; the peak figure is now 258 lb.-ft. (up from 206) and is available across most of the powerband.
The only transmission available is a new seven-speed dual-clutch computer-controlled sequential unit — like what is found in many Audis and Volkswagens. It's Mercedes-Benz's first crack at the technology in a mainstream vehicle (the low-volume SLS AMG has a DCT) and isn't the smoothest or fastest shifting example, but it's a huge improvement over the optional continually variable transmission (CVT). The new model will not feature a manual transmission option.
Mercedes-Benz claims a 0-100 km/h acceleration time of 6.8 seconds, and the car managed a still pretty quick 7.2 seconds during official AJAC TestFest performance testing. Even more impressive is the 80-120 km/h "passing" test with a time of only 4.5 seconds, which really highlights the increased torque.
Won't hurt at the gas pump
The B impresses again by offering this increased level of performance without sacrificing fuel economy. In fact, the new B 250 smokes both versions of the old B 200 by returning NRCan-rated efficiency numbers of 7.9 L/100 km in the city and 5.5 on the highway; the previous best was 9.2/6.7 in the non-turbo model.
Our B 250 tester was surprisingly fun to drive too — beyond the improvements made in the model changeover, it was equipped with the optional Sport Package, which included adaptive steering, shift paddles, adjustable suspension and more importantly, larger 18-inch wheels, more aggressive brake pads and stickier performance tires. The latter helped the bitty Benz stop shorter than plenty of more focused 'sports' cars.
Our test vehicle also came with the Driving Assistance Package that bolsters the already long list of standard safety equipment — ABS, ESP, a bazillion airbags, brake assist, hill-start assist, and attention assist — with a system that warns you when another car is sitting in your blindspot and one that will also tell you when you're leaving your lane. It may seem a bit excessive, but isn't a bad value at $800.