Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My review of the 2013 Mercedes Benz B250

In a previous blog post, I described the process by which we decided to buy the B250. Now I'll take some time to give this car a proper review, from the perspective of a regular consumer and lover of cars.

There's just something about Mercedes. It's a symbol of class and refinement. I've had close encounters with them throughout my life, but I've never owned one. I had originally seen the old B200 at a car show, but was only mildly impressed, as the model seemed to lack the luxury and refinement that I'd seen in other Mercs. The new B250 takes care of most of those shortcomings in style.

It's kind of hard to classify the B250. It's not an SUV. It's wagon-esque, although it stands slightly taller than a usual wagon. Some people have compared it to the Toyota Matrix. Sorry - that's like comparing a Mazda Miata to a BMW Z4. They're not in the same league. Its taller stature makes it easy to get in and out. As I've mentioned before, the seats are comfortable and adjust in every manner you could imagine, which Darlene loves due to her fybromyalgia. Most people I've invited to sit in the car have said that the exterior dimensions mask the interior size. As my friend put it, it has that 'Tardis effect'.

The B250 only has a 2.0L 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, but those crazy Germans have managed to eke out 208 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. So, it's got some pep. The engine is mated to a 7 speed, dual clutch automatic transmission with manual shift mode and paddle shifters. How much pep does it have? It'll do 0-100km/h in 6.8 seconds, not bad for a little hatch.

The B250 is loaded with safety features. I think something like 11 air bags. Traction control. Stability control. ABS. Brake assist (primes brake pressure in preparation for emergency braking). Blind spot assist (tells you when cars are in your blind spot). Lane keeping assist (vibrates the steering wheel if you drift out of your lane). Attention assist (vibrates the steering wheel if you show signs of fatigue).

The B250 is loaded with fuel saving features. ECO start/stop (turns engine off at lights like a hybrid). A default (but not permanent) ECO throttle and transmission behaviour that delays rapid starts and up-shifts fast. An ECO display that rates your driving style for economy. So what does all that result in? Supposedly 7.9L/100km city and 5.5L/100km highway. My first drive to work, mostly highway, averaged 7.1L/100km. That should improve post-break in. If you don't want the economical personality, you can switch to Sport mode, which removes the throttle delay and allows the engine to rev much higher before shifting. Then there's full on manual mode, where you shift with the paddle shifters.

It's chock full of luxury features. Panoramic sunroof. Heated seats. Dual zone climate control. Leather - real * or fake. A decent stereo, but a better one is available. Parktronic * - it parks itself with sensors to detect how close you are to obstacles. Rain sensing wipers. Bi-Xenon lights *. LED running and fog lights. Memory (14 way) electric seats *. Ambient cabin lighting. Headlamp washers. Heated windshield washer fluid nozzles. The passenger mirror tilts down in reverse. The mirrors fold in when you shut down the car (if you want). The mirrors are heated. Rear view camera *. [* = options]

The rear seat is a 60/40 split, which forced me to relocate my grand-daughter's child car seat to behind the driver so I could fold down the 40 part without the child's car seat interfering. This isn't an issue as I can see her very well in the rear-view mirror. The (non-power) hatch is not entirely effortless to open and close and I found it odd that the FOB doesn't pop the hatch. But this isn't a big deal for me. The car is equipped with run-flat tires (not something I'm positive I want to use again), so the spot left for the emergency spare is empty and available for extra small item storage. There are convenient grocery bag hooks on either side of the cargo area, a nice touch. Unlike many luxury cars, the tonneau cover is standard.

This car looks like a Mercedes. We opted for a car optioned with chestnut brown real leather and Calcite White exterior. My wife swore she would never own a white car, but even she admitted that this colour combination was classic Mercedes in the tradition of 1960s and 1970s vintage Merc sedans. It looks great on the B250. The combination of Bi-Xenon and LED running and fog lights look spectacular at night and the interior ambient lighting reminded my wife of a 5 star luxury hotel.

But what is it like to drive? Before I get to that, let me tell you how it parallel parks. Automatically, if you like. It does so brilliantly too. I managed to get into what for me would be a tight spot and the car's computer and sensors handled it perfectly. On leaving the spot, I drove, but let the sensors guide me as to whether I was getting too close for comfort. Now on to the driving. The view is fantastic. I've never owned a car with such great visibility all around. It almost makes the blind spot assist unnecessary. The default throttle delay takes a little getting used to, but once the delay expires, it goes. If I need a more sporting behaviour, I can always switch to Sport mode. It's been a while since stepping on the gas really pushed me back into my seat. And it feels good.

[Darlene's input] "Normally I never care about what we purchase as a vehicle. That's been true for over 25 years. I always looked upon our car as something to get us from point A to B, with total disinterest in what kind of car it is. For the first time I'm enjoying the ride and feel like I'm in the lap of luxury. The 14-way seat adjustments on the passenger seat now allow me to travel without agony from painful pressure points on long trips where I never could before. I highly recommend this car!"

[Update 6 April 2013] Now that the car has over 5000km on it, I thought it was time to update the situation. The mileage, good as it was, keeps getting better. The lifetime average now sits at 7.5L/100km and on some trips to work, on mild days, I'm getting 6.7L/100km for a 40km trip that is mostly highway on many hills. I imagine that on a long highway trip I could do much better, which is amazing for a non-hybrid car. The 7 speed transmission makes all the difference. One thing I can tell you is that you'll never really feel the power that this car has if you keep the driving mode in ECO. It upshifts too fast to give the engine any kind of workout. I find myself using the paddle shifters when I accelerate onto highways just so I can feel what the engine can do at higher revs. I like the feeling. My grand-daughter loves the car because she has 2 sunroofs to look out of and she sits a bit higher on the back seat than a typical car which means that she gets to see out the windows. I love the panoramic (dual) sunroof too. I haven't closed the blinds on them since I got the car. My iPhone paired with the B250 via Bluetooth like a dream. It's so nice to be able to answer the phone without touching it. The rain-sensing wipers work great. What an awesome feature that is. I've been asking people I know to estimate the value of the B250 and they're guessing in the $55,000-$60,000 range. That makes me smile. Not even close. Not even $45,000. That's right.

[Dislikes] Not many. I have had an issue a couple of times where the engine oil low sensor is triggered when in fact the oil level is fine. Always at highway speed. When you drive in bad winter weather and ice builds up on the front, it interferes with the sensors that detect oncoming obstacles. No biggy. I really wish they had made remote hatch release available on the FOB.
[Update to engine oil low indication: It turns out that I was experiencing RFI (radio frequency interference). After experiencing the indication enough times, I noticed a pattern. It always happened within a few feet of a truck height sensor on the highway before a weigh station. I'm not the only person who had the problem and a computer update fixed the problem.

[Things I didn't know this car could do until I read the manual] If you press further down on the brake at a stop, 'HOLD' appears in the display and you can let your foot off the brake pedal. Stepping on the gas instantly releases the brakes. There is a 'REST' button in the climate control cluster. If you shut off the car and remove the key, pressing REST will keep the heat and fan going until either the battery gets to a certain threshold or the engine has no residual heat left.


Retro Blog said...

I LOVE it when you talk all "Top Gear" and stuff, you go,Stig.

WorldlyCanuck said...

Thanks for the review. We have a B250 on order and it sounds like it will be a pretty good ride.

Anonymous said...

Good to read a review from another B250 owner, as this model is still very new and there aren't many reviews out there yet. We bought a white B250 also, and we love it so far!

Karl Plesz said...

Thanks for the feedback. I enjoyed writing it and will keep updating it as things change.

Anonymous said...

Beware of the runflat tires of the sport package. Lots of strange vibrations that will bore you and your passengers.
Better to AVOID the sport package.
My SLK55 AMG with performance package ride smoother and with no vibrations. NO RUN FLAT TIRES!

Karl Plesz said...

The run flat tires aren't just part of the sport package. I got them too - no sport package. I've never dealt with them before, but all I hear is bad things about them. I'll be happy to move on to regular tires once these wear out. Even my tire salesperson wouldn't sell me run flats, even though they cost more money.

James Tee said...

This is the best 'live' review that I haven't seen from anyone to review and report back to the reader about this interesting B250 model.

However, I am interested with this particular model and wanting to ask your driving experience with this car.

Have you come across with tyre noises if you drive for longer distance? Will the 17 inches tyre resolved this issue?

Karl Plesz said...

James: I've been reading about this tire vibration on the Benzworld forum, but I haven't experienced it. I have the 17" run-flat tires, so they're harsh, but I don't notice any unexpected vibration. It's possible that the phenomenon is common with the sport edition (18" wheels), but I don't know for sure. I do know that some said the problem disappeared when they got rid of their run-flat tires. Others have said the vibration wasn't tire related.

JP said...

My wife and I have been looking for our 1st car in Canada for the last couple of weeks, mostly focused on hatchbacks but never thought about the B Class. I have to admit I might have been one of those people guessing a selling price around the mid 40K or higher, what a surprise seeing it in the low 30's (starting price); a Merc at this price range, with all those standard features... is now seriously competing against VW/Mazda/Toyota/Ford.

Karl, after all these months owning the B250... any special advice on what options/packages to get and not to get? How was your buying experience here in Calgary?

Karl Plesz said...

@JP: I took a model off the lot, as it had all the options I wanted (except for Distronic - which I was willing to live without). So that came with these packages: Bi-Xenon Headlamps; Driving Assistance; Premium Package; Memory Seats; Hazelnut leather; Burl walnet wood trim; Parktronic; rear view camera. I didn't want Sport because 18" rubber is expensive. I didn't care about not getting superior stereo or Nav. But all the packages I did get raised the cost of the car to around $42k. I added 3M film and extra warranty because I put 80km+ per day.

Karl Plesz said...

@JP part 2: The buying experience was OK. I knew going in that Mercedes doesn't discount much when cars are flying out of the showroom. I wasn't in the mood to haggle either. I wanted the car, plain and simple and I wasn't ready to let someone else have it because all the other models didn't have close to the package combination I wanted. Been having a ball with this car though. Everyone drools over it and asks for rides. I don't mind - any excuse to put that thing in Sport mode and tromp the accelerator is good enough for me. If you want to meet and get a demo of the car, just ask. I won't be trying to sell you a car, just show you how much fun I have with it. email: kplesz at hotmail.

Anonymous said...

I have actually had my 2013 B250 for a year now. Although there are some very nice points about it there are also a few points that I find disappointing.

There is tons of room in the car which is surprising given how it looks small from the outside. As indicated in the review, it comes standard with a huge list of safety features (one of the main reasons for me getting it with my daughter learning to drive).

It definitely is a nice car but has some points that I really find disappointing.

1. Street noise I find to be quite loud. I mean, come on, its a Mercedes. I purchased the Sport model with the 18" wheels and run flat tires and the road noise was very bad. I bought a set of 17" rims and tires, which improved things greatly but I still find the car noisy.

2. Acceleration almost always seems to be an issue for me. Don't get me wrong, this car will fly, it has incredible acceleration if you want it. My concern is when you are looking for some quick moderate acceleration. In ECO mode (which is the default and can't be changed) it always seems to leave you wanting for power when you need it, like when doing a quick lane change in heavy traffic. I find the car noticeably hesitates when trying to provide a bit of gas, and then comes on WAY too strong as you try to compensate ... and all the time you are hoping the guy coming up in the other lane doesn't hit you. Even in sport mode I experience this lag, although not as often.

3. Gas mileage is no where near the advertised level, with my average being 10km/l. This is of course largely dependent on driving style but just to make you aware that unless you want to drive like an old lady you will not get the mileage they indicate.

Karl Plesz said...

Yeah, I hear ya.

I agree about the noise, but every car I've owned was this noisy, so I'm used to it.

I get the same acceleration issue as well, but I find I can mitigate it if I'm using cruise control. When I am ready to pass, I just indicate, double-tap the cruise control wand up past the limit (which changes your set speed to +20km/h), then let it fly.

As far as your mileage goes, I guess I'm driving like an old lady, because I'm averaging 7l/100km.

robby van B said...

Thanks all for the B250 info ,added to this the run flat tires are extremely noisy on smooth surface, sounds like a bad wheel bearing ( humming loud) just hate it .
Also my left turn signal is still acting up ones and a while , even after a recall !
frt turn signal does not come on when left turn selected.
Next is 1960 North America turn signals, what flop !
Next is were are the fog lights ?
Next is the monitor does not retract, blunder to install on top of dash and ugly!
Would not buy a MB 250 again !

Thanks. Robby. 2013 MB owner !