The pace of innovation is messing with the natural order of things in the luxury car market.
Our latest addition to the garage is arguably the most technically advanced model in the Mercedes-Benz line-up. It’s also — in base form as the A180 — the cheapest. Go figure.
The technical bent is evident from the moment you open the door of our — admittedly much more expensive, top-of-the-range A250 4MATIC. You’re greeted by twin high-definition 10-inch screens — one in front of the driver in place of analog dials and needles and the other sitting proud on the centre of the dash.
Screen resolution is crystal clear and both can be configured to display information tailored to the driver’s individual tastes. Navigating the various menus takes a bit of getting used to, although small touchpads on the steering wheel mean you have all the information at your fingertips.
At night, the wow factor steps up a level, thanks to ambient lighting that fills the cabin with a subtle glow from LEDs on the dash, doors and footwells. The jet intake-style aircon vents are also backlit in the colour of your choice.
Our A250 costs $54,800 in standard form but that grows to $61,360 and adds a range of driver aids, including a head-up display that combines a speedo with a readout of the prevailing speed limits, handy for keeping the licence.
As we discover on our first road trip up the coast, it’s easy to find the speed limit rapidly, as the 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder provides hot-hatch-quick acceleration. On the open road, it blends effortless in-gear acceleration and mid-range punch with impressive frugality. We returned less than 7.0L/100km on the open road.
The sports seats strike a good balance between hugging you tightly through the bends and providing the padding and support for a comfortable long-distance drive. Often a longer drive in sporty bucket seats will have you twitching and twinging — not so with the A250.
Our A250 shone on the highway at night, thanks to adaptive headlights that illuminate the road ahead like few others can. The multi-beam LED globes identify oncoming traffic and dim the beam around them so as not to dazzle the drivers. At the same time, the rest of the road remains lit up like a Christmas tree.
The A250 has a formidable arsenal of active safety aids to keep you in your lane a safe distance from the car in front, although some that should be standard are optional.
To be picky, we’re not convinced by the lane-keeping tech, which delivers a sharp dab on the brakes to keep you in your lane if you wander. Other brands have less intrusive versions.
You’ll need to pack efficiently for a trip away, because the Benz isn’t overly endowed with boot space or head and legroom. It’s about par for the class but if you’re taking golf bags you’ll need to drop one of the seat backs to accommodate them.
Other than that, it’s so far so good for our new arrival. We’ll test its mettle in the city next.
Mercedes-Benz A250 vitals
Price: $54,800 plus on roads
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 165kW/350Nm
Safety: 5 stars, 9 airbags, lane keep assist, blind spot alert, adaptive high-beam