Mercedes-Benz Concept A-Class Revealed Ahead of New York and Shanghai [Big picture]

The latest Concept A-Class from Mercedes is the clearest indication yet as to what the automaker’s next-gen A-Class will look like, and the good news is that the production version of this one is likely to hit U.S. shores.

Mercedes-Benz looks set to go head-to-head with Audi in the young, urban market, revealing a dramatic redesign concept of its A-Class series. However, nearly four years ago, we heard rumors that Mercedes-Benz was considering dropping the diminutive A-class from its line-up. Oh, how times have changed.

Revealed ahead of its world debut at the 2011 Shanghai Auto Show later this month, and then again at the 2011 New York Auto Show just a few days later, the Concept A-Class precedes the production version expected to go on sale in Europe towards the end of next year.

Importantly, the concept’s unveiling in New York hints strongly at a possible local launch. Images released by the automaker show a far lower, swept design with pronounced nose which hints strongly that Mercedes is targeting the Audi A1, which has proved very popular since its launch at the Geneva Motor Show last year, and the BMW 1 Series.

Instead of a traditional grille, the front end of the Concept A-Class features numerous metallic silver hexagons on black stems, a theme which is continued with the wheel design and LED headlamps that the automaker says are designed to resemble a “starry sky.”

Inside, the Concept A-Class uses a 2.0 liter four-cylinder turbocharged engine, which Mercedes-Benz says will deliver 210 hp with minimal emissions and fuel consumption, although no specific figures were released. It also offers a radar-based collision warning system, which Mercedes-Benz claims is a world-first in the compact class, along with an interior reminiscent of a jet aircraft.

The cars will be built on a new front-wheel drive platform codenamed MFA (Mercedes Frontwheel Architecture), which drops the former sandwich construction for a more conventional car-like design. The main reason Mercedes-Benz is increasing the number of fuel-efficient compact models it sells is not only to help its bottom line but also to reduce its fleet-average emissions.

The new concept is believed to hint heavily at a new production version of the A-Class which could be in European showrooms as early as next year, although it’s unlikely to be sold in the US according to Detroit-based Automotive News. [via AutoBlog]

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