2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer
2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer
2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer. Click image to enlarge

Article and photos by Steven Bochenek

This year it seems there’s construction everywhere. The local government helpfully provides an interactive map that doesn’t actually work with Safari or Firefox but a quick search reading “Toronto construction map” displayed an all-dressed pizza of a city with activity nearly everywhere.

Enter the 2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 – an oasis in the urban desert. Its engineers have rethought much of its construction, providing a much better ride. But they’ve done it without jacking up the price, a big win for Johnny Consumer sitting bored in urban traffic stasis.

The improvements begin with things you can’t see but notice, like the new engine. Its four cylinders impressively hammer out 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s with a total curb weight of just 1,475 kg. So there’s plenty of oomph to attain impressive speeds fast – its stats say 0 to 100 km/h in under seven seconds and I experienced superb acceleration on several occasions, but the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission spreads the power to bolster the fuel economy.

Another innovation for better fuel efficiency is the start/stop technology, a sensible feature for city traffic that rarely budges. When you come to a complete stop the engine shuts itself off. When you lift your foot from the brake it instantly restarts. You can’t see it but it’s quite noticeable and you get accustomed to it quickly. Indeed, after you’ve gassed up once – it only takes premium, watch your foot – the dropping-out sensation at traffic lights becomes comforting: it’s the sound of money remaining in your wallet. There’s also an Eco mode if you’re big on economy. It makes the acceleration sluggish out of the gate, like you’re stepping on a sponge. But the B 250 peps up considerably after a couple of seconds.

The real point: if you use the Sport mode, paddle shifters or simply leave off the Eco button, this is a decent rocket, which puts a check mark in the city car column. Then there was the handling.

I’ve never been crazy about the height of the B-Class. It’s still taller than its wobbly sister, the Smart car, but this year’s model boasts a lower carriage of 50 mm, giving it a firmer centre of gravity. Pair that with the precise steering and you get decent agility. It’s great for deking around boneheads and sudden obstacles. I recall a five-minute trip to the liquor store (something we rarely do); it threatened to become a half-hour but for the B-Class’s lateral dexterity. The turning circle is just 11 m, making the experience that much more memorable. This car still feels a bit high for the sports moniker but the B-Class handles well enough to inspire confidence.

2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer
2013 Mercedes-Benz B 250 Sports Tourer. Click image to enlarge

However, if that leads to overconfidence, the 2013 B 250 also has a long list of safety features. We’ll review some of the more impressive.

My favourite is the Passive Lane Keeping Assist (a great option but if ever the marketers needed a jingle for memorability!). Cameras continually observe the yellow and white lines demarcating your lane. Should you meander over either line, the computer sends vibrations into the steering wheel. Unlike the lights and noises of many other safety features, it speaks to you through your sense of touch. Consequently it works well. (GM has a similar, if slightly kinkier feature, which tickles your backside when you stray from the lane.)

The Collision Prevention Assist (CPA) system continually monitors what’s up front and gives you notice when you risk pile-driving the vehicle ahead. At first, the warning is a light – effective enough. However, if then you don’t act, it’s supplemented by a panicky warning noise. Mercedes claims that CPA can help prevent collisions at speeds of up to 250 km/h! Needless to say, the opportunity to test that thankfully didn’t arise.

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