GRAN TURISMO CAR REVIEWS

Mercedes Benz A160 Avantgarde

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STATS
Year: 1997-1998
 Country: Germany
 
Class: Subcompact MPV
Type: 5-door hatchback
Host: GT2, GT4, & GT5

Price: $27,000 (GT2), $18,087 (GT4 used lot) $23,786 (GT5 used lo)
 
Length: 140.7" // Width: 67.7" // Height: 62.0"
Wheelbase: 95.4"
Overhang: @3 feet 9 inches
Track: 59.2" [F] 57.2" [R]
Ground Clearance: 5.9"
Weight: 2,458 lbs.
Layout: Front Engine / Front Drive
Steering: power-assisted rack & pinion
Tires: ?
F. Suspension: MacPherson strut / coils / anti-roll bar
R. Suspension: trailing arms / coils / anti-roll bar
Brakes: vented discs / drums
 
Engine: 1.6 liter SOHC or DOHC? inline 4
Aspiration: normal
Fuel system: multi point fuel inj.
Valves / Cyl: 2
Bore x stroke: 3.15 x 2.74"
Compression: 11.0:1

GT2 Redline: 6,000 // RPM Limit: 7,000

GT4 & 5 Idle: 750 // Redline: 6,000 // RPM Limit: 6,500
Tested Hp:
GT2: 102 @ 5,500 rpm        
GT4: 100 @ 5,250 rpm
GT5: 104 @ 5,500 rpm
 
Tsd Torque:
GT2: 110 @ 3,800 rpm       
GT4: 110 @ 4,000 rpm
GT5: 114 @ 4,000 rpm
 
Lbs. per HP
GT2: 24.10                              
GT4: 24.58
GT5: 23.63

Hp per Liter:
GT2: 65.0
GT4:
GT5: 65.1
Credits per HP:
GT2: $264.70                    
GT4: $214.62
GT5: $228.71 
 
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Differential: open type
 
0-60 mph:
GT2: 11.767 seconds           
GT4: 12.883 seconds
GT5: 11.966 seconds

0-100 mph:
GT2: 42.408 seconds          
GT4: 40.266 seconds
GT5: 39.850 seconds
 
400 M:   
GT2: 18.414 @ 74 mph
GT4: 19.290 @ 76 mph
GT5: 19.076 @ 76 mph
 

1 Kilom:
GT2: 34.088 @ 93 mph          
GT4: 34.935 @ 95 mph
GT5: 34.943 @ 96 mph
 
Test Track:
GT2: 2:21.998                          
GT4: no test
GT5: 1:20.806 (Daytona)

100-zero mph
GT2: no test                       
GT4: 4.15 seconds
GT5: 5.900 seconds 
 
GT2 Top Speed @ Redline
1st: 29 mph
2nd: 51 mph
3rd: 78 mph
4th; 112 mph
5th: 114.46 mph @ 4,900 rpm
 
GT4 Top Speed @ Redline
1st: 27 mph
2nd: 50 mph
3rd: 78 mph
4th: 112 mph
5th: 112.01 mph @ 4,800 rpm
        112.1 mph @ 4,900 rpm (GT5)
 

 

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----------------------EXTERIOR---------------------

Man, check out this goofball. Here's one of those autos that quietly sits, collecting dust while waiting for its turn on the tracks. It waits and it waits. Like the weakling kid in gym class, the Mercedes Benz A160 'Avantgarde' rarely gets picked to play for the team, but gets picked on plenty if anyone ever happens to even notice it. 
 
The Avantgarde doesn't appear in any races as a sim car in GT2, though it does in GT4's Pro-level Compact Car races, and perhaps a couple others in 5, like that game's European Hot Hatch series. In any event, this car seems completely out of place amongst the other Mercs, and (judging by the lack of discussion on websites) doesn't get purchased, driven, or raced often. It is, however, an unusual auto, and quite frankly it surprised me when I raced it. After over a year of hardcore gaming in GT2, I finally bought an Avantgarde, a car I've been meaning to get ever since I discovered it. All you gearheads can go pine for your Escudos, your Lancers, your Daisun Silvias,..I've got my priorities and Polyphony Digital is here to cater to ME!
 
Not a typical Mercedes, is it? Within the last 10 years, MB has jumped on the family car bandwagon, and produces SUVs and econoboxes right alongside their famous luxury sedans, coupes, and traditional roadsters. The A160 is PD's sole choice from Mercedes Benz's A-class. There isn't really much to say about it. Speaking of econoboxes, gotta say I was surprised by the $27,000 price tag (GT2), and in GT4 and 5 (where the Avantgarde is now a used car), it's even less. I just assumed all Mercedes cost over 40 grand. How did they do it and why? Must Mercedes conquer every field of automotive reality, even producing something for the middle class? Well, yes, it seems so, doesn't it?
 
I don't actually know much about this car, nor do I really care to learn about it, do you? Good. Glad we both agree. Well, there is one thing. There are stories on the 'net about how the A160 failed some sort of driving test in a Scandanavian country; actually rolling on its side when presented with an obstacle in the road. I think the obstacle was a moose or something. Moose test. Anyways, after failing the test, Mercedes quickly denied any problem with their brand-new compact-sized hatches, yet also quietly recalled several thousand of them to install electronic stability control.
 
Another website I found happens to mention that Mercedes stiffened up this MPV's suspension quite a bit (harshening its ride) which is interesting because it explains why the Avantgarde has rather stiff coils all around. In GT5 this adds up to 4.3 kg/mm up front and 3.8 in the rear. These numbers are where a lot of sports suspensions are in their prime.  

What else is there to learn? Not much, to be honest. But I'll give some speculations in a few minutes. Not facts, speculations. The Avantgarde isn't something imported into my country, you see, which is possibly for two reasons: one of which could be that Mercedes doesn't want to ruin their marketing strategy for America. What I mean is, um...they don't want to have something affordable for sale here lest their richer customers see their $120,000 AMG sharing the same road space with a lesser product from the same company. After all, snobs don't like people they consider to be ordinary at their party, get what I'm saying? But in Europe, people tend to be more sensible; at least stereotypically. Everyone has to at some point go day-shopping, right? And who's to say they can't do it in a Mercedes? And what about those Krauts who fear the Autobahn, and simply want to get around town, cruising die straße while getting decent fuel mileage? Are all these sensibles limited to driving Volks and Opels? Let the Benz deliver.
 
The Avantgarde is specifically in competition with the Fords, the VWs, the Renaults of the world ...it is basically the nephew of richer kids that has been adopted into a lower class; and it wants to have a go at living with these inexpensive vehicles.
 
But as I said, I'm just speculating here. ;-) I could be totally wrong. ;-)
 
So let's move on back into the game. As far as weight goes, the A160 is average. You can lighten it, but try and buy a racing kit in GT2 and it'll give you that generic phrase: “Parts / Modifications not Available". Wing kits can be had in GT4 or 5, though, not that most of us care.
 
To fully convert this one from pedestrian people-mover into a race car, tweaking is in order. Big surprise, huh?  The real surprise is that you can tweak such a car!
 
 

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-------------ENGINE / DRIVETRAIN---------------

Firstly, if you're a proud A160 owner, I congratulate you. You are brave, you actually bought this thing even though it looks like a loser. Let me say I'm proud. But let's get into it. How the hell could such a vehicle have made it into our games in the first place?

The real-life A-class features a surprisingly large variety of 4-cylinder engines ranging from 1.4 to 2.1 liters in size. Since we've got a 1.6 in our games, it means we don't even get the strongest of the strong. What the hell, man? GT2 and real-life has this 1.6 as a single-overhead cam, but oddly, GT4's specs say it's a dual-cam. *sigh*
 
Starting off with just over 100 hp, we've got a problem here. This weakling isn't "weak enough" to enter a couple of the Kei Car Challenges in GT2. It will compete in plenty of others though: the Sunday Cup, Clubman, FF Challenge (GT2 or GT4), Compact Car races, Trail Mountain Enduro, and most of the B & A license GT races of GT2. You can try racing it in some other specialty races of GT2 (Luxury Sedan, Historic Cup, Station Wagon Series, etc.) but after awhile the Avantgarde will either be outclassed or outpaced. Still, that's a nice assortment of races to conquer, ain't it? GT4 Avantgardes can't tackle any high-paying events beyond the typical Compact Car races, with the Easy-level Special Condition events at Costa di Amalfi being an exception for those that are skilled, but I'm just speculating again. I haven't actually tried to take an A160 to the Capri Rally. :-/ 
 
GT5: Since this game's so damn easy during A-spec, there are plenty of places an Avantgarde can potentially see action: Sunday Cup, Clubman Cup, FF Challenge, World Compact Car Cup, Euro Hot Hatch Championship, and the Expert-level Schwarzwald Liga A. It shouldn't take much (or any) tweaking in most of these circumstances.  
 
But just in case you do need to mess with this one, the first place to tackle is this German MPV's meager power. We've got a couple turbos to choose from in GT2 + the usual assortment of other upgrades...no intercoolers, tho. Alrite, we can live without them. GT5 includes a full assortment of engine builds and three turbos to stack on top of these, amazingly.  

So there are some good things and some bad.
 
The good--those upgrades do make a difference. You didn't just waste your money, is what I'm trying to say since a total of 251 hp is for you in GT2. But of course, don't get too ambitious here! Don't enter this ridiculous, funky car in the GT500. It won't win! GT4 has an assortment of three NA power-ups and (again) two turbos, none of which even comes close to GT2 power, oddly. At best, there is 202 horsepower (206 foot-pounds) with the Stage 3 NA kit, or 212 hp (207 ft-lbs.) with the Stage 2 turbo in GT4. Not terrible, but certainly not Integra or Fiat Coupe-country, and far below Gran Turismo 2 numbers.
 
Now the bad stuff (or rather, I should say it's unexpected). Our redline area, which never tops 6,000 rpm. Even if you use a manual transmission, which I didn't 'cause I was pretending a sensible yuppie was driving this Merc (don't ask), the lowish redline just seems too skimpy for a 4-banging powerplant. Peak power shows up somewhere in the lower 5,000s (depends which game you've got). This is no high-revving firecracker, guys & gals. Thankfully, there's some decent torque (for a 4-banger) which keeps the A160 revving as best it can. There actually is some life here. 

Gearing is rather tall, unfortunately, considering the meager power these boxes start with. 3rd and 4th especially really tend to kill any sort of speed being gathered. Before you know it, you're back in the Territory of the Slub. I mean Slug. Gearbox recommendations: stock or sports (close) will do 90% of the time, in any of the three games the A160 appears in. I just did one of GT2's Expert Event Generators, for instance, and the only race I lost was at the Test Track. I didn't have full-custom gears, so the A160 ran out of steam. But ultimately, full-custom gears are best.
 
The real question will be: who wants to spend this kind of money on such expensive devices? And is it worth it to do so?
 

----------------CHASSIS / HANDLING--------------------

Take a look at this car, gaze at its spec sheet and high center of gravity, and the first thing that comes to mind is: oh my god, what the hell did I just buy? Can I actually expect to win?
 
Ha haaaa, well don't worry, 'cause like I said before, the answer is yes, but let's be realistic. Champion of "Gran Turimso All Stars" isn't in this car's future. You will never be showered with Moët after pillaging the Special Stage Route 5 All Night Enduro in an Avantgarde. More likely you'll share a 6 pack of Hamms with your pit crew at Autumn Ring's Compact Car series. :) mmmm...beer....


GT2
In truth, you'll spend more time and credits on the engine than you will on suspension parts. In most cases, a sports suspension and tires is all you'll really need for this go-getter, anything more sophisticated is overkill. But it's your money, of course. There isn't much back end to this car, so it will never oversteer. It is tall, but the A160 is also very squat, its front-wheel drive very effective. Understeer is present, but since the car isn't very powerful, plowing never becomes a serious issue.

...Ignore all of the above if the driver isn't very skilled, throwing the Avantgarde around, expecting it to handle like an SLK or something. This is NOT an SLK.


GT4
Pretty much the same issues here as in GT2, although understeer and wheelspin become a hell of alot more present, especially with upgrades of power over 140 horses. Oversteer/rear-swaying also occasionally makes a small difference here and there. Lusciously long burnouts that could make a muscle-car fan jealous can be attained if the Avantgarde driver hasn't got the right tuning installed. The A160 also gets very prone to leaning in this game. If the front drivetrain hasn't got at least a 1-way differential in place, it'll start losing all sorts of speed out of those tighter corners, sometimes even while power is near-stock.

On the other hand, the front-end is very grippy at times; throttle-steers like an Integra, just not as aggressively. Steering also feels quite accurate when there's no wheelspin involved, and the driver is carefully choosing his or her lines without throwing the car around. This 5-door is also very responsive to on-the-fly changes in throttle position, steering inputs, and lifts-off with small amounts of helpful oversteer occasionally at higher speeds. There are some merits to the A160's behavior, see...it's not all bad stuff. It mostly depends on tuning and driving style. But let's talk about more issues. There are still a few to discuss.

Flying into high-speed corners like at Mid-Field Raceway can present odd 4-wheel understeer moments where the entire car is sliding off-kilter, losing small amounts of speed. Not truely oversteering, but not 100% understeering either. To top it all off, this car's brakes kinda suck in this game. Most front-drives have superior braking ability in GT4, not the Avantgarde. More time must be given to slow this thing down, which means we can't always assume we'll be able to outwit others by out-braking them like we could in a zillion other FWDs. The Avantgarde also has a weird habit of following the line you've chosen into corners, then suddenly changing its mind (out of nowhere), grabbing the track like a leech, and getting a little sideways in the process. Sometimes, it'll 'get a little sideways' quite violently. See what I mean? A humdrum socialite this vehicle is not always going to be...there are some surprises in store.
 
GT5
There aren't many surprises in this game, although at this writing it's hard to say because I haven't raced my Avantgarde too much yet. During the Compact Car race at London for instance, this one only requires 92 horsepower by my calculations, and since I managed to get to 1st place about halfway through Lap 2, it turned out 92 was actually too much.
 
The Avantgarde rolls around slowly at this track. Like a front-wheel drive tank, it keeps its traction most of the time. If we step off a curve without thinking, this is the only time the inner wheel will start to squeal a bit with spin-action (just as it did in GT4) but with 92 horses at the helm, there isn't too much consequence to be wary of.
 
The race at Madrid required 108 horses, which I dumbed down to 103. At both races so far, this car's stock medium radial tires were in place, yet understeer was only displayed as a hint here, a flavor there. Nothing like what was seen in earlier games. When understeer shows up, basically the car starts taking a wider front-end path than we'd like, but as long as this is known beforehand, this Merc will do fine. Turns out the Madrid race was a lot closer; a Honda Civic and the A160 traded places several times, but in the end the A160 emerged victorious. No problem, really.  
 
Other issues seen in earlier games? Every race tackled so far in GT5 is too slow to see body-swaying from the rear become a problem as well, and braking distances don't seem as drastic as they did in GT4 (when comparing the Avantgarde to other practical-type cars. This goofy 5-door trail-brakes when called to do so, and doesn't show a hint of torque-steer, not on my watch so far. 
 
When entering the A160 in the European Hot Hatch races though, things start to change. It's not really that more power is needed (although it is), it's more that one track features a lot of ultra-twisty driving (Eiger Norwand) requiring some heavy braking and traction-losses, and the other (Rome) has us spending long amounts of time waiting to get down those straights, where all the magic can be done. This is still a tricky car to dive into higher-speed turns with, with front-end pushing becoming a serious problem. At Eiger, the E-brake works wonders to get this car around those hairpins and loops, avoiding understeer, but at Rome using this device can be more dangerous.
 
A limited-slip becomes damn-near mandatory to avoid those muscle-car burnouts at either (or any) track once some power is past 120. Again, the rear doesn't cause too much trouble, like I thought it would in this game. There's something about the squat structure of this vehicle that keeps its rear from getting too messy. Overall (again) it's quite a surprise that this car can compete in GT5 at all. Its career is longer than I would have thought.     
   
Summary
Quite a sleeper, basically, and one that hides under sensibly contemporary skin. Overall, any problems you have with a Mercedes-Benz A160 Avantgarde can eventually be tuned away, carefully avoided, or overcome. You'll probly have more problems trying to ‘laugh with’ your friends after they discover you bought an Avantgarde, then tried to hide it where none of them would see between the Silvia K's and your trusty Civic...
 

  

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PROS------------------------------------------

1). Two turbo upgrades can be bought in GT2. Add three NA kits in GT4, and a third turbo in 5.  
 
2). Suprisingly agile handling with some light supension & brake tuning, assuming the driver doesn't push this silly vehicle past its limits.
 
3). Nice price, especially in GT4 or 5 where it's a used vehicle.
 
4). Great beginner's vehicle. Intermediate / advanced players should be able to win most lower-level races (as well as some more advanced stuff) with this ‘bean counter’ Benz. It's totally possible.

5). Fuel-economical (GT4/5).
 
6). GT5: Lots of visibility, mirror space, and windows to see through if the in-car view is used.

7). A stylish vehicle. Certainly somewhat unique. Not that 99% of Gran Turismo-heads care. lol.
 

CONS---------------------------------------

1). Poor acceleration. Mediocre speed. All the time.
 
2). Engine displays poor torque even after upgrades.
 
3). The Avantgarde is limited mostly to lower-level races in the hands of an amateur, who might still struggle with winning. Good thing it's not an expensive car.
 
4). Understeer and leaning. Gets worse in GT4, where massive amounts of front-end wheelspin kill any sort of prowess the A160 can gain.

5). Somewhat aerodynamic shape, yet there's a massive drag coefficient (especially in GT4 and 5) that limits top speed severely.

6). Can't accept a racing kit (GT2).

7). Ugly? Some would say so. Actually MOST would say so!

8). Tall gearing...too tall for most racing situations.

9). Poor brakes for a front-drive, especially in GT4.
 
10). Really, why IS this car in the game and not the friggin' CLK GT1?
 
 

Published: September 3rd, 2005
GT5 Content: January 14th, 2014
 

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