Mercedes A200 CDI: Suspension setups and gearbox gripes

  • We test a new suspension setup for the A-Class
  • Car also came with an excellent auto gearbox
  • We came away with two things we wish our car had

I was given the chance to drive another derivative of A-Class the other day at Silverstone on one of Mercedes-Benz’ AMG driving days.

Now, usually I wouldn’t have been all that interested since I’ve driven most versions of the A-Class, from the fairly pedestrian A180 to the fire-spitting A45 AMG. This one was different though – it was a car incredibly similar to mine, but with an automatic gearbox and an all-new suspension setup.

Reacting to critics of the ‘comfort’ suspension you get on A-Class cars in Sport trim, the firm has produced a model with a lower ride height while retaining the same compliance in the spring and damper combination.

The net effect is impressive. While the A-Class moves around a fair bit on the older Comfort suspension, this body control deficit is wiped out in the new setup. It doesn’t feel any harder, but you really notice the improvement when driving on the terribly bumpy roads around the home of UK motorsport.

It made me re-consider whether my car was the perfect setup. With its harder AMG Sport suspension it does handle well, but you do jolt a little over bumps and potholes in the road. The new Comfort suspension seems a much better balance because it still handles well, yet absorbs from of the features which make mine a little uncomfortable.

The other thing I really liked about the car I drove was the excellent twin-clutch semi-automatic gearbox it had fitted. I’ve found my car, with its six-speed manual ‘box, can suffer with an almost woolly feel to the gear change. It’s something I’ve felt in numerous Mercedes products – its gearboxes always seem to fall behind rivals such as BMW and Volkswagen.

With that in mind it’s no surprise that the majority of Mercs sold have automatic gearboxes. That’s doubly true here because the seven-speed 'box in the A-Class really does work extremely well. It’s very fast to swap cogs, yet is smooth at the same time. Pulling on the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel means you can take full control of the shifts, so if you want to drive the car manually you can.

It makes the A-Class feel like a far more cohesive package. In fact, both the new Comfort suspension and the auto 'box are things I’d quite like my car to have. It just proves that however good I thought my A-Class was, there’s always something out there to make it a little better.

I have to say though, it’s refreshing that Mercedes has taken on criticism of its suspension and actually addressed the issues effectively. Job well done, there.

You may notice my fuel economy has dropped a little since the last update, too. That’s down to shorter journeys and the fact that I’ve not been trying quite so hard to save every drop of fuel.

The lack of gear lever indicates this is an automatic gearbox-equipped car

Current mileage: 6,002

Average mpg: 56.4mpg (ind.)