Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mercedes B-Class Facelift In Detail

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Occupant protection: extensive safety features enhanced yet further

When it comes to safety, the B-Class sets an example for all other models of these dimensions to follow: in the European NCAP test programme, the Sports Tourer was awarded the highest rating of five stars.

The comprehensive safety specification, comprising two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners for the front and outer rear seats, belt force limiters plus active head restraints in the front, ISOFIX child seat attachment points and head/thorax sidebags, has now been complemented by the addition of crash-responsive emergency lighting in the passenger compartment. Following an accident of a predetermined severity, the lighting comes on automatically to allow the occupants to get their bearings more easily in the dark and expedite the work of the rescue services.

Active safety: flashing brake lights as warning to other motorists

Accident prevention is the overriding priority of the Mercedes safety concept – a concept that is geared towards motoring reality. To help them bring critical situations under control safely and with ease, drivers of the B-Class can count on highly effective, standard-fit technology in the form of systems such as ABS, Brake Assist and ESP®. The Mercedes engineers have gone that little bit further though by seeking to devise a way of offering other motorists added safety too. The result is a simple but highly effective method of avoiding rear-end collisions: flashing brake lights. This safety technology is included as standard on the 2008 model year B-Class.

During testing, Mercedes engineers were able to ascertain that the braking reaction time of motorists is quickened by an average of 0.2 seconds if they see a flashing red warning signal instead of conventional brake lights in an emergency braking situation. This shortens the stopping distance by around 4.40 metres if they are travelling at a speed of 80 km/h, and by a whole 5.50 metres or so when braking from 100 km/h. Brake lights flashing at a high frequency therefore prove to be an effective means of alerting drivers behind to the risk of a rear-end collision.

The flashing brake lights are triggered automatically if the driver initiates emergency braking when travelling at a speed of 50 km/h or more. And if the B Class is braked to a stop from a speed of over 70 km/h, the hazard warning lights will come on too.

Assistance systems: automatic parking with ultrasound and electric steering

The Electronic Stability Program has been expanded to include a new, standard function: the automatic hill-start assist. This prevents the B-Class from rolling backwards as the driver switches from the brake to the accelerator pedal when starting off uphill. In such situations, the ESP® briefly maintains the brake pressure to make pulling away easy.

Reverse parking will also pose less of a challenge for motorists in future. The new active parking assist (optional) searches for an appropriate spot at the side of the road as the B-Class drives by, than takes care of all the steering manoeuvres as the driver reverses into it. How it works: at speeds below 35 km/h, ultrasonic sensors at the sides of the car scan the zones to the immediate left and right of the B-Class, and measure the length and depth of any potential parking spaces. Once a suitable spot has been found, the system flashes up a message in the display to inform the driver. When the driver engages reverse, confirms the display and presses the accelerator, the active parking assist takes over the steering and automatically manoeuvres the B Class into the space. All the driver has to do is operate the accelerator and brake; the PARKTRONIC system's ultrasonic sensors provide further assistance by indicating how much room there is in front of and behind the B-Class.

To be able to use the automatic parking feature, the parking spot only has to be 1.30 metres longer than the B-Class – an indication of the technology's tremendous precision.

The newly developed assistance system comprises a total of ten ultrasonic sensors in the front and rear bumper, as well as an electronic control unit that processes the sensor signals and calculates the best path to take into the parking space. This information is supplied to the electromechanical power steering in the B Class, enabling its electric motor to perform the necessary steering movements.

Infotainment: new systems for digital listening pleasure and Europe-wide navigation

It is not just the spacious interior, the high-grade materials and the standard automatic climate control that make the B-Class such a pleasure to travel in: the new generation of infotainment systems has an important role to play too. There are four different options to choose from: Audio 5, Audio 20, Audio 50 APS and the COMAND APS. All units from the Audio 20 upwards incorporate a radio with dual tuner, colour display, Bluetooth interface for mobile phones, CD player, automatic volume adjustment, plus a connection for external audio devices in the glove compartment.

The Audio 50 APS additionally features a Europe-wide DVD-based navigation system and DVD player, while the top-of-the-range COMAND APS offers even more functions, including the even faster HDD navigation system, the Music Register, a slot for SD memory cards as well as voice control.

To cater for motorists who have their personal music compilations stored on an MP3 player, a USB stick or any other external audio device, Mercedes-Benz has developed an interactive media interface. It can be specified as an option and allows iPod & Co. to be linked up to the Sports Tourer's infotainment system. This has the advantage of allowing the external audio devices to be operated by simply using the buttons on the multifunction steering wheel, while the track titles are shown in both the instrument cluster and the centre console's colour display.

The sophisticated infotainment systems may be optionally combined with the "Logic 7" surround sound system , which transforms the passenger compartment of the B-Class into a concert hall on wheels.

Source: Daimler AG
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