Mercedes-Benz just rewrote the rules of entry-level luxury for next-generation buyers with the ’19 A220 sedan, a 2019 Wards 10 Best Interiors winner.
The A220 is loaded with technology, including the industry’s first application of artificial intelligence, while quality materials throughout the cabin replace the oftentimes cut-rate bits and pieces of trim traditionally seen at the lower end of the luxury segment. It’s relatively roomy, too, with an available driver-assistance package that wraps up to five passengers in the latest advanced-safety technology.
“Mercedes-Benz is the new benchmark for entry-level German luxury interiors,” says Wards 10 Best Interiors judge David E. Zoia. “This car boasts style, character, quality and technology.”
Introduction to the A220 compact begins with the automaker’s first application of MBUX, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience.
The latest infotainment system bound for other Mercedes-Benz products can learn, thanks to AI, and adapt to the individual. It includes a 10.25-in. (26-cm) widescreen cockpit display with touchscreen operation and augmented reality for navigation, where a real-time scene from the front camera is overlain with arrows and house numbers to ease wayfinding.
“Hey, Mercedes,” the keyword for activating the A220’s intelligent voice-activation system, employs AI for natural speech recognition to more accurately interpret commands. It’s more convenient, too. If you’re cold just say as much, and Ask Mercedes will turn up the heat. Ask it for coffee, and the system will navigate you to the nearest shops.
“Voice activation is accurate and super-fast,” says judge Christie Schweinsberg. “Spoken addresses are quickly mapped and the route started in seconds.”
But MBUX only scratches the surface of the A220. Quality materials and attention to design details seemingly are found in every corner, and the car strikes an exquisite balance between sportiness and luxuriousness.
Performance seats hold the driver in position during aggressive maneuvers, while the 8-way power adjustment with heated and cooled options for both front passengers ensures optimum comfort. Selectable kinetic technology adjusts front-passenger seatbacks and cushions ever-so-slightly now and then to improve comfort and reduce back strain during long trips.
A leather-wrapped steering wheel includes suede inserts for added grip for palms sweaty from pushing the corners, while the reconfigurable 10.25-in. instrument cluster can be individualized to the driver’s preferences.
Brushed aluminum HVAC vents resemble turbines in a nod to the fresh and, if desired, scented air they carry. They change color, red or blue, depending upon whether the climate control is being turned up or down. The door grabs are oversized metallic ovals that are easy to find and grasp. Both suggest industrial design and complement the brushed aluminum overlays to the steering-wheel controls and foot pedals.
“Mercedes usually is at, or near, the forefront of attractive, highly functional interiors and the A220 doesn’t disappoint,” judge Jim Irwin says.
Fit, finish and NVH are top-notch and give the A220 a buckled-up quality. Tricky interior sections, such as where the doors meet the instrument panel, are flush, while glovebox seams are consistent and headliner hems are tightly joined.
“Everything looks tight and the ride is solid and quiet,” says judge Bob Gritzinger.
The A220 also may be one of the industry’s most ambitious executions of ambient lighting. There are no fewer than 64 color choices, with light warmly glowing from the doors, dashboard and footwells. Whatever your mood, the A220’s lighting will set the perfect backdrop, as well as back the perfect sales pitch.
“Masterful application of ambient lighting, which can be tailored to be as bright or colorful as anyone would want,” judge Tom Murphy says.
“That makes perfect sense, as the A-Class is well suited for entry-luxury shoppers who will be younger and will be fascinated with the strobe light discotheque effect of the Color Mix and Color Flash settings,” he adds. “Mercedes showrooms should stay open later, so potential shoppers can take in the experience at night.”