The second-generation Mercedes‑Benz A‑Class, model series 169, was introduced in June 2004, and the market launch followed on 10 September 2004. The new A‑Class was available in two body variants: customers could choose between the versatile five-door model series W 169 and the sporty, youthful three-door model series C 169. Unlike previous models, the new A‑Class was only available with one wheelbase (2568 millimetres). During a seven-year production period, a total of around 1.1 million vehicles in the previous model series W 168 and V 168 had been sold.
The basic principle of the new A‑Class again followed the unique sandwich design which had shaped the technology of its predecessor. The engine and transmission were positioned at an angle of up to 59 degrees partly in front of and partly beneath the passenger cell. In a serious frontal collision, the rigid drive unit slid away beneath the angled pedal floor rather than heading towards the interior. This arrangement of the engine and transmission meant that a larger effective crumple zone was available at the front end of the A‑Class. As a result of the design, the Mercedes‑Benz engineers were able to provide the brand's typical standards of occupant safety, an exemplary economy of space and impressive adaptability. The amount of space on offer inside the vehicle was once again significantly greater than that offered by the previous model.
At the market launch, which was accompanied by the "Follow Your Own Star" campaign with music from Christina Aguilera, six engine variants and three design and equipment lines were available. The newly developed or enhanced four-cylinder engines delivered up to 38 percent more output, while fuel consumption was down by as much as 10 percent.
Model series 169 was launched with three diesel models, the A 160 CDI (60 kW/82 hp), the A 180 CDI (80 kW/109 hp) and the A 200 CDI (103 kW/140 hp), and three petrol variants, the A 150 (70 kW/95 hp), the A 170 (85 kW/115 hp) and the A 200 (100 kW/136 hp). The A 200 TURBO (142 kW/193 hp) was introduced as the new top-of-the-line A‑Class model in 2004, but was only launched on the market in 2005. Mercedes‑Benz celebrated the market launch with the "Star Tour" in September 2004, featuring 400 models of the new Mercedes‑Benz compact car and drivers from 24 countries.
The five-door W 169 and the three-door C 169 shared the same technical basis, but differed in design and feel. In the five-door model, the silhouette of the body was characterised by a dynamic, sweeping line, extending from the front to the rear. The line began with the convex bonnet which flowed into the large windscreen and continued into the curved, coupé-style roof surface. Bringing up the rear was the distinctive slope of the tailgate.
Two prominent lines divided the large side surface and visually limited the vehicle's appearance of height. Starting in front of the mirror triangle, the beltline rose towards the rear and led in a sharp curve to the distinctly angled C-pillar, lending the vehicle a more dynamic look. This impression was reinforced by the wide rear window which, together with the tail lights, protruded in an arrow shape into the side of the vehicle.
The impression of dynamic length was underlined by giving the mirror triangle and the B-pillar the same colour scheme as the window area, producing the appearance of a separate, self-contained zone. In addition, the new, significantly larger side windows created a more spacious feel particularly for the rear passengers. They also enhanced the driver's rear view.
A sharp swage line, which also rose steeply towards the rear, marked the distinctive shoulder, which continued visually as far as the large tail lights for an aesthetic finishing touch. This distinctive character line also emphasised the length of the car and underlined the sporty look of the new Mercedes compact model. The combination of soft curves and sharp edges created a fascinating play of light. The wings were expansive and had more muscular definition. The powerfully drawn edges of the wheel arches helped visually reduce the height of the new A‑Class.
The CLASSIC line featured 15-inch wheels with a new wheel trim, the ELEGANCE models 15-inch seven-hole aluminium wheels and the AVANTGARDE line 16-inch five-spoke aluminium wheels. Sporty 17-inch and 18-inch rims were available as an optional extra. The ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE lines also featured protective side strips.
The rear of the three-door and five-door models shared the same design idiom. Here, the most distinctive feature was the way in which the rear and sides of the vehicle blended into one another, with the rear window surround extending into the sides, emphasising the width and spaciousness of the A‑Class. Large tail lights were harmoniously incorporated into this design feature.
Changes to the body measurements and proportions gave model series 169 a beefier look than its predecessor. The new Mercedes compact car was 232 millimetres longer than model series W 168 (3838 rather than 3606 millimetres) and 45 millimetres wider (1764 rather than 1719 millimetres). The wheelbase had been extended to 2568 millimetres (instead of 2423 millimetres), practically putting it almost on a par with the long-wheelbase A‑Class V 168 (2593 millimetres).
In its second generation, the A‑Class underlined its reputation as a technology trendsetter with numerous pioneering innovations designed to improve handling safety and ride comfort. In addition to the unique sandwich design, the newly developed, high-performance seat belt and airbag system ensured a typical Mercedes‑Benz level of occupant safety. The system included adaptive, two-stage front airbags, belt tensioners on the front and outer rear seats, adaptive belt force limiters and newly developed head/thorax side airbags in place of the previous sidebags. The increased use of higher-strength and ultra-high strength steel alloys, high-strength adhesive bonds and additional structural members in the bodyshell also helped ensure that the occupants were well protected even in the event of a serious accident.
With its fully galvanised body, the new A‑Class also offered exemplary long-term anti-corrosion protection – living up to the high quality standards of the Mercedes‑Benz brand with regard to durability and reliability. The body panels were hot-dip galvanised inside and out for long-term protection against corrosion. Certain areas of the body such as the doors, bonnet, tailgate and longitudinal members were also electrogalvanised on both sides and coated with an organic paint containing rust-inhibiting zinc pigments. The most vulnerable structural areas of the bodywork were also protected with a cavity-fill preserving agent which was used, for example, on the front side members, the upper side member plane, the side skirts and the rear wheel arches.
At the forefront of the chassis technology innovations was the parabolic rear axle which was characterised by precision suspension and good anti-roll characteristics when cornering. The new rear axle therefore played an important part in the exemplary handling safety, the dynamic handling characteristics and the excellent ride comfort of model series 169.
Another special, standard-fit chassis feature was the new damping system, used in this format for the first time in car manufacturing. Based on single-tube gas-pressure shock absorbers with selective damping setting and coil springs, the system was purely hydromechanical and therefore did not require elaborate sensors or electronics. The selective damping worked in the same way as today's shock absorbers where the required damping effect is usually created when the movement of the road wheels causes oil to be squeezed through a valve in the shock absorber piston, with flexible valve discs providing the shock absorber’s resistance characteristics. With the new selective damping system for the A‑C lass, part of the oil flow was now directed through an additional valve housing, positioned above the actual damper piston. Inside this there was a control plunger which divided the valve housing into two areas. When the shock absorber was subjected only to small movements, in other words during normal driving, the control plunger was in a central position and held open a bypass duct which allowed part of the oil flow to pass through the piston journal. This oil flowed past the damper valve, reducing the overall hydraulic resistance of the shock absorber. The result: "softer" shock absorber characteristics for a high level of ride comfort. If the shock absorber was subjected to more abrupt movements – for example when taking bends at speed or during evasive manoeuvres – the oil pushed the control plunger in the valve housing upwards or downwards, automatically closing the bypass duct. The result: full damping effect became available and the A‑C lass was stabilised to the maximum. Thanks to this technology, the shock absorber forces were adjusted according to the driving conditions.
More output, more torque, more driving pleasure and lower fuel consumption – these were the aims when developing the engines for the new Mercedes‑Benz A‑Class. Overall, there was a choice of seven different four-cylinder engines, including three newly developed CDI direct-injection engines and a new 142 kW (193 hp) petrol engine with turbocharging. The output of the petrol and diesel engines was up to 38 percent higher than that of the previous model, while torque had been enhanced by up to 46 percent. Despite the higher output, fuel consumption in the petrol-engine models was up to 10 percent lower. All engines complied with the strict EU4 emissions limits, and a particulate filter system was available for the diesel engines as an option.
With the arrival of the A 200 TURBO, the A‑Class entered a new dimension in terms of output. The four-cylinder engine was among the most powerful engines in its displacement class, and its maximum torque of 280 newton metres remained constant from 1800 rpm until reaching the peak output at 4850 rpm. Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h took 8.0 seconds, and the top speed was 227 km/h.
The three newly developed CDI diesel engines were based on second-generation common rail technology, which operated with double pilot injection and a higher injection pressure (1600 bar). These and other modifications ensured that, compared with the first-generation CDI engines, output and torque were significantly increased while exhaust emissions were reduced and noise levels appreciably lowered. The model series 169 diesel line-up was spearheaded by the A 200 CDI. The direct-injection engine with VNT ("variable nozzle turbine") turbocharger and 180 bar ignition pressure had an output of 103 kW (140 hp) and developed 300 newton metres of torque, available across a broad engine speed range between 1600 and 3000 rpm. The A 200 CDI accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds and achieved a top speed of 201 km/h. Fuel consumption for the CDI models was 4.9 to 5.4 litres (NEDC), matching the very impressive level of model series 168 – despite the higher output. One full tank (54 litres) gave the A 160 CDI a range of 1100 kilometres.
AUTOTRONIC, the newly developed, continuously variable automatic transmission, was available as an option for all models of the new A‑Class. It was the first Mercedes transmission to use the continuously variable transmission (CVT) principle. The transmission ratios were continuously changed by means of a pulley variator and a thrust link belt. Vehicles fitted with AUTOTRONIC accelerated without any interruption in the tractive force, and the engine reached its maximum output faster than with a conventional automatic transmission. AUTOTRONIC also offered impressive ride comfort and operated very quietly.
The subject of noise levels played an important role in the development of model series 169. The Mercedes‑Benz engineers managed to achieve particularly pleasant acoustics without any irritating noise, making the A‑Class significantly quieter than other vehicles in its class. Before the first prototype was built, powerful computers analysed how the individual body components would behave under vibration caused by the engine or movement of the axles. Following optimisation in the virtual environment, the body-in-white was put through structural dynamics testing to demonstrate its vibration characteristics at different critical frequencies. Although the initial results had been good, the acoustics were improved further still. For example, metal plates were bonded to three areas of the main floor and to the spare wheel recess to provide additional reinforcement. The A‑Class was also fitted with a clad sheet steel firewall, which improved noise insulation by 5 decibels.
Compact car on the outside, family car with the space of a mini MPV on the inside – thanks to its unique sandwich design, the A‑Class was able to combine these seemingly contradictory characteristics. Model series 169, however, surpassed its predecessors in all comfort-relevant interior dimensions: shoulder room increased by up to 97 millimetres, the elbow width for passengers by up to 95 millimetres and knee room in the rear by 30 millimetres. The distance between the front and rear seats was 805 millimetres, the same level as could be found in a mid-range saloon.
The choice of interior materials was based on scientific investigations in the Mercedes‑Benz research laboratories, where car drivers were asked to assess various surface materials, switches and control elements from the point of view of haptics and provided valuable feedback. This helped the company to develop interior parts which not only had an attractive look but felt good too. Together, the overall look and feel made an important contribution to the occupants' sense of wellbeing on board. Specialists also carried out ergonomics tests and improved the seat position, viewing angles and controls. In the new A‑Class, the multifunction steering wheel, familiar from other Mercedes‑Benz model series, made it easier to control the telephone, car radio and central display, setting new standards in this vehicle segment in terms of operating comfort.
Climate control helps increase the safety and wellbeing of a car's occupants. Mercedes‑Benz therefore fitted model series 169 with a powerful air conditioning system with automatic temperature control and a humidity sensor as standard. THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control, based on sensors which measured temperature, the angle of the sun, air humidity and pollutants in the outside air, was available as an option.
The load compartment capacity of the new A‑Class exceeded the values of the previous model by up to 15 percent and set new standards in this vehicle segment with an impressive figure of 435 litres. The intelligent adaptability of the previous model was further refined, and the interior could be tailored to the transport task in hand in a few simple steps, without having to remove the rear seats. Folding the cushions and backrests of the 1/3 : 2/3 split-folding rear seat forwards created a continuous, level loading floor. This increased the capacity of the luggage compartment to up to 1370 litres (according to the VDA measuring method). To create even more space for luggage, leisure equipment and sports gear, the 2/3 section of the seat cushion could be removed and stowed beneath the height-adjustable load compartment floor.
In conjunction with the optional EASY-VARIO-PLUS system both rear cushions and the rear seat backrests in the five-door model could be removed. This system also offered the option of folding the backrest of the front passenger seat forward or completely removing the front passenger seat, increasing the load area to 2.75 metres in length and the load capacity to up to 1995 litres.
Model series 169 proved an instant success: 10 weeks after the sales release in western Europe over 50,000 orders had been placed for the new A‑Class. In Germany alone, the largest market for the A‑Class, over 32,000 customers had made an order. One year after the market launch, over 200,000 vehicles had been delivered to customers. The A‑Class was particularly successful in Germany. The most popular variant was the A 180 CDI, which was chosen by over a third of all customers. In second place was the entry-level A 150 model with a buyer share of 25 percent. The most requested optional extras for the A‑Class were the leather steering wheel, the Light and Sight package and the continuously variable automatic transmission. The most popular paintwork colours were the metallic choices polar silver, cosmos black and comet grey. Over half of those who purchased an A‑Class were new Mercedes‑Benz customers.
During the same period, the A‑Class demonstrated its reliability and safety: in 2004, it came out top in the ADAC (German Automobile Club) breakdown statistics in the "lower mid-range" category. In the European NCAP (New Car Assessment Program) crash test in 2005, the A‑Class emerged as best in class and was awarded five stars – the best possible rating.
In 2006 Mercedes‑Benz introduced the special "Polar Star" A‑C lass model. The sporty, elegant model was fitted as standard with attractive accessories from the optional extras list. Depending on the chosen specification, the customer was able to save up to 800 euros compared with the price of a standard model fitted with the same optional extras. In December 2006 the 1.5 millionth A‑Class rolled off the production line at the Mercedes‑Benz plant in Rastatt. By this point – a good two years after the market launch – 371,700 customers had opted for the second-generation A‑Class. The A‑Class had been built at the Rastatt plant since 1997, and Mercedes‑Benz had also been producing the B‑Class there since 2005.
In 2007 the internationally renowned Öko-Trend environmental institute awarded the A 160 CDI and the B 200 CDI its automotive environmental certificate. The two selected Mercedes‑Benz models scored well above the average in all areas of the analysis. According to the institute, they not only demonstrated excellent values when it came to fuel consumption, exhaust emissions and noise levels, but also stood out by virtue of their environmentally friendly production processes, materials, and logistics.
In September 2007, in other words three years after the market launch, the 500,000th model series 169 A‑Class was delivered. In autumn 2007, Mercedes‑Benz also acknowledged the fact that the A‑ Class had now been part of the Stuttgart brand's model range for 10 years by creating the special "Edition 10" model. To mark the anniversary, the special model featured high-quality additional equipment and offered the customer a saving of around 30 percent compared to the list price. Both in visual and practical terms, the "Edition 10" models had been significantly upgraded with distinctive exterior and interior features. Powerful 16-inch 7-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels formed an eye-catching exterior feature, while a distinctive matt silver-painted, perforated radiator grille visually underlined the sporty character of the Edition variant. For open-air driving enjoyment, there was an innovative panoramic louvred sliding sunroof, while an "EDITION" badge in the mirror triangle subtly identified the special model. As a special bonus, Mercedes‑Benz offered buyers of the "Edition 10" a service contract covering all servicing and repair work for only 10 euros per month. This service contract ensured that operating costs were completely transparent and reliably predictable.
In April 2008 at the "Auto Mobil International" in Leipzig Mercedes‑Benz presented the facelifted model series 169, with a modified design and significantly extended standard equipment.