Last year, I tested out the Mercedes-Benz B180 and I really loved it, but at the end of the day it was still a mommy-van, an old-people’s wagon destined to be plastered with those “My Family” stickers of the kids, grand-kids, and all 17 cats. So when Mercedes-Benz South Africa dropped off a new engine variant, the B250, this past week, I pondered the question, can a mommy-van be built for the young at heart?
These are vehicles designed with space in mind, head height in abundance, and even tables built onto the backs of the front seats so children can eat lunch on the way home from school without being too messy. But with the introduction of a new engine, the B-Class has been jazzed up a bit. This is no more a mere mommy-van, as the 2-litre turbo’ engine puts out 155kW and 350Nm – as it does in the Golf GTI rivalling A250 hot hatch. As such, it can reach 100km/h from standstill in 6.8 seconds, enough to scare misbehaving kids into deathly silence in the back seat.
But I’m far too young to have kids; at the ripe young age of 21, it’s possibly one of the last things on my mind, somewhere next to what I’m planning for my retirement in 44 years time, or whether or not eating McDonalds for lunch is going to give me a heart attack in 30 years. So that 6.8 second figure is rather appealing – and it was even more so when I happened to encounter a snobby GTI driver at a robot and proceeded to teach him a lesson in what it means to drive 150kW+.
But despite having the ability to challenge hot hatches at robots – always a fun task when driving a mommy-van of sorts – when the roads got rough, I was better for it, having the soft, pliant suspension designed to look after hip-replacement patients that would normally own a B Class. The ride comfort differed little from the lower-powered B class models, and despite a slightly sportier interior, the interior comfort levels remained much the same – luxurious as ever. The interior kit was abundant too, as my test unit had the optional Night Package installed.
Standard kit is limited, but does include a 6-disc CD changer, climate control, cruise control, and steering mounted controls. The optional kit in my test vehicle included a panoramic sliding sunroof, 18-icnh sports alloys (part of the night package), heat insulating window tint (also included with night package), automatic headlights, park-distance control, reverse camera (a must with the long body), automatic intelligent headlights, and DISTRONIC Plus, a safety mechanism indicating when you’re following too closely to the vehicle ahead and beeping if you lose concentration and are in danger of crashing into the car ahead in traffic. All the additional extras do however add a rather hefty R69 grand to the price, hiking it up to R475 120, for a B-Class!
Pricing and kit aside, the B250 has all the makings of a decent performance vehicle. The 7G-DCT accelerates quickly and changes gears rapidly with great efficiency, and the steering is direct and sharp. The suspension is a bit soft, and the tall ride height compromises handling somewhat, but the front tyres enjoy gripping the tarmac far more than one would expect. Although gear-changes were rapid, the DCT, designed for comfort rather than performance, was slow on downshifts, pausing mid-corner to ponder the meaning of life before suddenly realising you needed to down-shift, and only then enacting the shift without much hurry.
So, performance was taken care of, providing ample fun for any young-at-heart 20-something year old, but perhaps the best part of the B250 was the mom-ishness of it all. Fold down the back seats, throw in some pillows and blankets, and in a matter of moments, mommy-wagon became fun-wagon, as I drove to Menlyn shopping centre for the rooftop drive-in, reversed into a parking bay, and opened the tailgate to give me full view of the screen. The space afforded with the rear seats down made for the perfect Friday night out watching movies and eating pop-corn with the girlfriend; and the following day it proved to be the perfect place for a mid-morning sleep after the late night out.
In the week that I spent with the B250, I found it to be much more than a mere mommy-wagon, but rather a fun-wagon. Performance, comfort, and spaciousness in abundance, coupled with class and elegance. It was rather easy on the pocket too, with the overall fuel consumption coming in at 8.3l/100Km. The B250 proved that Mercedes-Benz and the B class itself doesn’t have to be for the old and retired, but that there is something for everyone, even the young 20-something year old looking to go out and have a good time. But at the end of the day, even without all the optional extras, the base price of R407 270 just seems a little too much to pay for a B Class.
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155kW @ 5500RPM
350Nm @ 1200-4000RPM
7-G DCT Automatic
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|Price (as tested):||
Author: Roger Biermann