There are a lot of BMW fans bemoaning the death of the rear-wheel drive 1 Series, which will make way or a new, front-wheel drive-based model. The switch in driven wheels is causing quite the stir but it’s not hard to understand BMW’s reasoning, especially when you see cars like the new, 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class.
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Personally, I blame the current Audi A3. While the A3 isn’t the first compact premium sedan ever made, at least in the U.S., it became extraordinarily popular. Its sporty good looks, high-quality interior and attractive pricing made it an instant hit in the U.S. and you bet your bottom both BMW and Mercedes-Benz took notice. So the folks in Stuttgart revised their CLA-Class (which apparently will be getting a second generation) and named it the A-Class.
The new Mercedes-Benz A-Class is a handsome, if not much different from the CLA it replaces, little sedan with a surprisingly attractive interior and some fancy tech. It’s exactly the sort of thing that attracts tons of customers. And BMW wants part of that pie.
Under the skin of the new A-Class, you get a revised version of Mercedes’ front-drive architecture, some new suspension tweaks and a new engine. In the U.S., there will only be one engine available, a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-pot, making 188 hp and 221 lb-ft of torque. Those power figures aren’t stellar but we hear it’s plenty for the little Benz. Paired to that engine is a seven-speed dual-clutch that apparently works quite well, which isn’t surprising.
The big selling point of the Mercedes-Benz A-Class won’t be its new engine, though. Instead, customers will come for the interior and sign their names for the technology. Inside the A-Class, you get a very similar cabin to what you’ll find in much more expensive Mercedes’. Two massive high-def screens adorn the dashboard, with three circular air vents underneath and a steering wheel that’s plucked right from more premium Benzes. It also gets touchscreen capability for its COMAND system and a new Siri-like voice control system, dubbed MBUX.
All of this adds up to make a car that customers will love. And when you look at how attractive it is for customers, you see exactly why BMW is making the switch from rear to front-wheel drive in the new 1 Series. It allows BMW to make a less expensive little car with more interior space and that lower cost allows BMW to fill its cabin with more expensive technology. Sure, the driving dynamics will suffer a bit but the target clientele base won’t care. So if you’re mad at BMW for a future front-drive 1er, blame Audi and Mercedes.