Building A-Class act
Inwood’s at his best when exercising his options. Here’s proof
- Price as tested: $66,640
- This month: 1056km @ 7.8L/100km
Is there a more intoxicating feeling than spending someone else’s money? It’s a sensation that I imagine only bank robbers and slippery-suited hedge fund managers must experience on a regular basis, but a few months ago, I was lucky enough to taste its heady heights.
It all happened so fast. One minute I was talking to the nice PR man from Mercedes about a possible long-term A-Class, then the next I was shouting “YES!” or muttering “Hmmm, no, pass” as he read through the options list of what was to become ‘my’ A250 4Matic.
The temptation to get carried away was strong, though with the level head of a man who agonises over whether 50c for an extra shot of coffee really is worth it, I tried to spec the car as if I was ordering it for myself. Which kind of spoiled my ‘make it rain’ fantasy a little.
So, what have I ended up with? A cracking-looking hatchback, clearly. While I’m one of the few that thinks the old A-Class actually looked sharper (I miss the confident swage line that kicked up into the rear door. Without it, this new shape looks a little amorphous), there’s no denying that 1NB9EC packs a visual punch. Helping the cause is its Jupiter Red (non-metallic) paint which, happily, comes as standard, and larger 19-inch multi-spoke AMG alloys that add $1390 to the base $55,500 sticker price.
A trick of Merc’s product planning strategy means you can’t option the larger alloys (18s are standard) without also ticking the box for the AMG Exclusive Package for $3190. Crucially, this adds adaptive dampers, which is a must as A250 4Matics run on AMG Line suspension that’s 15mm lower. It also brings other goodies like two-tone leather upholstery (I went all out with the red inserts), plus ambient lighting with 64 colours to choose from, and dual-zone climate control with rear vents.
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Slipping inside brings further opportunity to spend up big. As an audiophile, I couldn’t pass up the Communication Package, which for $2490 adds an excellent 12-speaker, 590W Burmester sound system. The fact this pack bundles in a clear and easy-to-read head-up display makes it feel like money well spent. It adds a further sprinkle of luxury to what is a class-leading cabin.
Depending on the intensity and colour of the ambient lighting, it can feel a little ’80s disco in there, especially at night, but dial back the intensity and there’s no escaping the feel-good factor the cabin delivers. The twin 10.25-inch screens are a highlight, and I’m finding the functionality of ‘Hey Mercedes’ and the twin-touchpads on the steering wheel genuinely useful.
My only real interior gripes are the heavy use of piano black on the centre console, which attracts dust and finger prints (you can’t option this out, sadly), and some of the plastics used on the lower doors and the indicator stalks. Normally this wouldn’t be a deal breaker, but as the right stalk acts as your gear selector, you interact with it frequently and its cheap-feeling plastic is at odds with the rest of the cabin.
For just $990 you can also add a panoramic sunroof, so I did, and this is part of the wider Vision Package which bundles multi-beam LED headlights with adaptive high-beam assist and a sensational 360° overhead camera.
The Seat Comfort Package for $1290 gives me fully electric and heated front seats with memory function. And with a view to testing the calibration of Merc’s latest active safety gear, the final option I ticked was the Driver Assistance Package. For $1790 this brings the same semi-autonomous capabilities you get in an S-Class.
So without even trying I’d added $11,140 to the price of ‘my’ A-Class. Sounds quite a lot, when you consider it in percentage terms (20 percent of the purchase price). Do I have any regrets? Not really. My only question mark surrounds the 19-inch alloys, which are a pain to keep clean and look dreadful when dirty. But that’s it. The rest of the package looks and feels special and, as we know from COTY, an A250 4Matic is an absolute hoot when the road gets twisty. More on that next month.