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Mercedes-Benz A-class concept previews luxury compact (photos)

Mercedes-Benz has never marketed its compact A-class car in the U.S., but it used the New York auto show to debut this new A-class concept. This move seems to indicate Mercedes-Benz's interest in bringing the next generation of its A-class to the U.S.

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Wayne Cunningham
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 6 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
Mercedes-Benz showed off an uncharacteristically wild design for its A-class concept at the 2011 New York auto show. The concept signals a new generation for the A-class compact car the company sells in Europe. The venue for the unveiling also suggests Mercedes-Benz is considering marketing its A-class in the U.S.

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2 of 6 Wayne Cunningham/CNET
The design mixes classic Mercedes-Benz elements, such as the large badge on the grille, and more outlandish features. For example, the grille is formed from an array of black stems topped with silver. The headlights use fiber-optic strands for the parking lights.

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3 of 6 Sarah Tew/CNET
The design looks far cooler than the production A-class, using a hot hatchback format. Mercedes-Benz designer Gorden Wagener uses the term "Captured Energy" to describe the design language. The car is intended to look like it was shaped by the wind, so uses wheels that look like turbines.

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4 of 6 Sarah Tew/CNET
A more realistic aspect of this concept is the power train, a direct-injection turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder making 210 horsepower. The transmission is a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, helping to maximize fuel economy.

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5 of 6 Mercedes-Benz
Interior designers brought an aircraft-inspired look to the cabin. Gauges and air vents are intended to resemble jet afterburners, and the drive selector mimics a jet's thrust control. The electronics include smartphone integration, with apps such as Facebook available on the car's main screen.

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6 of 6 Mercedes-Benz
The concept's two-door, four-seat format allows a reasonably sized cargo area in back.

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