Manufactured by Mercedes Benz, a German car manufacturer, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a compact car that has seen production of several generations since its launch. Launched at the Frankfurt Motor Show in the autumn of 1997, the first generation (W168) was launched as 5-door hatchback while the second generation (W169) that was introduced in the late 2004 as 3-door hatchback. The third generation (W176) was launched in 2012.
The A-Class is the entry level model for Mercedes Benz in all the markets that it is found or has been sold in. the current generation (W176) is 68cm longer than the first generation of B-Class. The W168 A-Class had front wheel drive and had short and tall body that was unusual for the Mercedes Benz. Patent in the name of Mercedes Benz, W168 had a frontal-impact system known as sandwich. In case of violent frontal impact, the innovation would enable the engine and transmission system to slide under the floor underneath the pedals and not into passenger compartment.
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The W168 exterior design was the first complete design done by Steve Mattin from Coventry University for which he was named Autocar magazine’s Designer of the Year. Previously, Mattin had worked on W210 E-Class design in 1991. Same to W168, he designed the exterior of W220 S-Class. In January of 1995, design freeze occurred, 32 months to august 1997 start of production.
During “elk test” that was performed in 1997 by Swedish automobile publication Tenikens varld, W168 became infamous after it flipped over. Reports had indicated that the car tried to maneuver to avoid “elk” when it overturned. Initially, Mercedes refuted the report but later recalled all the W168 units that were sold. Sales were stopped for 3 months until the problem was fixed by adding electrical stability control and modification of suspension. The company had incurred DM 2.5 billion on developing the car and another DM 300 million in fixing it.
1.1 million First generation A-Class had been sold from 1997 to 2004. In 2001, A-Class underwent some minor changes that include front and rear bumper design and addition of new 170mm (6.7”) longer wheelbase version that gave it a new face lift. The launch took place at the Geneva Motor Show.
All A-Class models have 4-cylinder engine, with availability of 1.4L and 1.6L petrol models at launch (M 166 series), then followed by two versions of 1.7L diesel engine. A larger capacity of 1.9L model was introduced in 1999. In 2002, 2.1L engine was the last one of W168 to be added.