Test Drive: 2015 Mercedes-Benz B 250

2015 Mercedes-Benz B 250

“It’s like an airplane!” My daughter has been learning about airplanes in school, and she recognized the dining tray situation immediately. She also asked if she could draw on it. “Sorry, sweetie but no, if you get crayon on the nice press car Mercedes-Benz will be mad at Daddy.” Insert meltdown here.

Of course, people who actually cough up money for these things needn’t worry, their children can draw away to their hearts content, and that’s a very cool bit of kit for Mercedes-Benz to include.

Regular readers of this site will know by now how much I appreciate small, clever and unique nods to human interaction that car makers sometimes manage to add on – like this one.  People who’ve been following Mercedes-Benz and the B-Class for a while might be rolling their eyes at me, wondering when I’ll get around to mentioning the big “4Matic” logo on the tailgate.

Like so many ‘90s sitcom stars the B 250 is beginning to blossom. But not like Blossom, she didn’t.

The B 250 now gets a $2,000 AWD upgrade for those pesky Canadian winters. The system, a slip-and-grip type FWD-based system will send up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels when you get hung up on a snow bank or when you’re overtaxing the fronts. It’s a welcome addition to the tall-wagon thing from Mercedes.

On that front, the Germans have taken a firm hand to the top of the B 250, stretching it into a wider and longer shape that is less “pocket protector” and more “high-maintenance soccer mum” despite being even taller than the previous edition. The slightly more balanced dimensions give this otherwise subtle visual refresh more of an impact. Like so many ‘90s sitcom stars the B 250 is beginning to blossom. But not like Blossom, she didn’t.

This redesign is more than just skin deep too. I had found the B 250 kind of squidgy and mushy in the past. I wasn’t a fan of its roly-poly body movements or limp steering. The newer model is far more pleasant to drive, with better steering feel, better handling and a much less active body mass. This one corners flatter and rides more smoothly than B-Classes I’ve driven in the past.

The suspension is still crashy over large bumps and speed humps, especially at low speed. Those encountered at speed are handled far better, and have no impact on the direction of the car with no bump-steer and a rapid recovery from the many jars and jolts of an early-spring commute – your bum will feel it, though. Medium-sized swells in the road surface are dealt with far more subtly, suggesting the B 250 is tuned for a smoother highway than those we experience.

Before being cycled through the 4Matic system power is generated by the same 2.0L four from the old B-Class. Its 208 hp and 259 lb-ft of grunt make their way through the familiar seven-speed DCT before being distributed among the four round bits on the corners. I say “grunt” with a half-smile. The engine is sufficient, but no hot rod, and the gearbox likes to choke it into submission with ever-taller gears anyway. If you’re demanding with the right foot you can skootch the 1,505-kg B 250 up to passing speed but it does require a firm hand on the tiller, or foot on the pedal, or something.

That results in decent fuel economy, I ended the week on 10.1 L/100 km – a little off the 10.0 L/100 km NRCan’s new five-cycle figure says it will get in the city, and way off the combined rating of 8.9. I did virtually no highway driving though, so spent little time doing the estimated 7.5 L/100 km the B-Class is good for on a long cruise.

According to the provided pricing document from Mercedes-Benz, this tester had the $1,900 Premium Seating package – a package not listed on the website. The seats are gentleman’s-club red, thick leather and extremely comfortable. Out back, headroom is not quite as expansive as the high roof would suggest, but ingress and egress is easy and comfortable with good legroom to boot. A large centre tunnel means the middle rear seat is a penalty position only though. I found the black trim in the rest of the cabin made it feel claustrophobic with only a little mitigation from the two sunroofs to appease me.

Among the packages included here was the $1,800 Versatility package, which added power driver's seat, keyless start, storage package, power lumbar support, folding side mirrors, Easy Vario Plus system, auto dimming driver's side and rear-view mirror. Easy Vario Plus is basically just a split-fold rear seat and a bunch of tie-down hooks for you to store stuff more easily.

The $3,800 Premium package added active parking assist, passive blind-spot assist, panoramic sunroof, COMAND navigation system (with some of the prettiest graphics going around), automatic climate control, and black fabric roof liner.

Dark ash wood trim was added for $250 and keyless proximity entry was a $700 standalone added to this one.

Standard equipment now includes heated seats and a 7.0-inch infotainment interface but more importantly – Collision Prevention Assist Plus. This system not only uses radar to warn you when you are about to assault the vehicle in front, but will also partially brake to help mitigate a collision.

The new steering wheel is well-thought-out with a good number of buttons making navigation through the in-dash TFT screen a breeze, but the main COMAND dial is too close to the driver, too far back and too small. It’s near-on impossible for the passenger to use while the driver is just holding the wheel normally, let alone when they have their arm on the centre console armrest. That and the multitude of stalks remain frustrating from an ergonomic perspective. I keep forgiving it though, because of how pretty the screens look.

Sirius XM is a standalone option that wasn’t fitted to this tester and rings in at the deterrent price of $475 – you’d be better off using your phone’s music storage or streaming internet radio through the Bluetooth system at that price.

I also found the cargo area useful when picking up a new Trail-A-Bike for my daughter. At 488 L there is generous cargo capacity even with all seats in place. Once you fold them flat and extract all 1,547 L out of it, the cargo area is cavernous. I liked the little fold-up shopping box in hidden under the cargo floor too. Handy for storing the myriad of useless junk I accumulate during the week.

The B 250 has no official tow rating here in North America and I couldn’t find a tow package in the Mercedes-Benz website, which is a shame because I’ve seen rigs like this pulling little pop-up caravans (and even a car trailer) in other countries. There is a dealer-installed top box option to expand towing, but you couldn’t use your B 250 to haul your kid’s go-kart trailer for any aspiring Lewis Hamiltons out there.

When it comes to luxurious tall wagons the market has a lot of white space. If you want AWD but don’t want a crossover or SUV, choices are limited – that makes the B-Class something of an odd duck.

Happily the upscale interior, a host of neat little thoughtful touches (like the airplane trays), solid performance, and the availability of all-wheel-drive should keep this one hanging about on this side of the pond for a little while longer.

Warranty:
4 years/80,000 km; 4 years/80,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 4 years/unlimited distance roadside assistance

Competitors:
Audi Q3
BMW X1
Kia Forte5/Rondo
Lexus CT200h
Mazda5
Volkwagen GTI

2015 Mercedes-Benz B 250
articles_PricingType 2015 Mercedes-Benz B 250
Base Price $33,500
Optional Equipment $3,800 Premium package; $1,800 Versatility package; Premium seating package - $1,900, dark ash wood trim - $250, keyless-go - $700
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,495
Price as Tested $44,545
Optional Equipment