Mercedes-Benz is best known for its big sedans, but lately the German automaker has been looking into smaller and more efficient vehicles.

That lineup is expected to increase over the next few years, reports Automotive News.

Mercedes will expand its roster of front-wheel drive models when a new platform, announced by Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, debuts in 2018.

This follows the launch of the CLA-Class recently introduced in the U.S. While the CLA takes Mercedes into previously unexplored territory in the U.S, the marque's next front-drive model will be even further from home--the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive.

The company had already confirmed the model for the U.S, but the Electric Drive has kept a fairly low profile outside of auto show appearances. We now know it should hit the U.S. in Spring 2014, a revision from the previous estimates of "early" 2014.

Based on the gasoline and diesel B-Class models sold in Europe and elsewhere, the Electric Drive features a 100-kilowatt (134 horsepower) and 228 lb-ft electric motor, which Mercedes says should match the torque of a 3-liter gasoline engine.

A 0-60 mph sprint of "considerably less than 10 seconds" is on the cards, as is a limited top speed of 100 mph. Range should be around 115 miles.

What we're most intrigued about is what the B-Class may cost. Mercedes hasn't revealed any estimates, but with BMW's i3 electric car now priced at $42,275, competition has just become a little tougher for the B-Class.

The next front-drive Mercedes model will be the next-generation GLK crossover, debuting in September 2014. From 2018, a whole new front-drive platform will debut, with both a CLA-based convertible and a two-door roadster mooted.

The compact A-Class, on which the CLA sedan is based, is still not planned for U.S. sales.


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