2.0L I4 Turbo - 7G-DCT Auto
208 HP @ 5,500 rpm
258 lb-ft @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
Built to tackle urban jungles, the GLA is Mercedes-Benz’s answer to the rapidly growing segment of compact crossover. Derived from the A-Class, which we unfortunately don’t get here in Canada, the GLA is longer, taller and sits further away from the ground.
It’s a cute little thing, with design cues from the A-Class and the CLA. Dynamic, elegant and kind of sexy looking, especially on those 19” AMG rims, it is luring-in buyers quicker than expected. Even in Europe it is selling like hot cakes, with obvious advantages over the regular A-Class; a bigger trunk with a wider opening being the most important one.
Prices start at $37,200 for the GLA 250 4MATIC and the only other edition available is the insane city racer, the GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC that growls and snorts all the freaking time. Our test vehicle came fully loaded, with a sticker price of $45,175. Fitted with the Sport Package ($1,700), Premium Package ($3,800), Premium Plus Package ($2,000) and SIRIUS Satellite Radio ($475), there is little to nothing really missing in terms of gear. Highlights from the long list of features are the Media Interface, Command Online Navigation with Apps, Panoramic Sunroof, THERMOTRONIC Climate Control, Auto Dimming Power Fold Mirrors, Power Tailgate, Illuminated Door Sill Panels, Memory Seats, Power Adjustable Seats with Lumbar, Enchanced On/Off-Road Package, Auto Headlights, 11 Airbags, rear view camera, auto wipers, Stability Control, Blind Spot Monitors, Collision Prevention Assist, Attention Assist, adaptive brake with hold function, BI-Xenon headlights, ECO Start/Stop system, leather steering wheel with paddle shifters, leather seats, cruise control and the 7-speed 7G-DCT automatic transmission.
Inside the cabin, squishy soft materials have been used for the door panels and upper dash, so the quality feel of the interior is overall good, despite the extensive use of hard plastics as well. The accent aluminum trim and round air-vents, have created a very youthful environment, that is sporty, modern and functional. The infotainment screen is stuck on the dashboard and is controlled by an intuitive controller found in front of the centre arm rest. It is easy to use once you understand the “how-to” and with the screen high up, your eyes will never go totally off the road. The gear selector is column mounted freeing up space for three cup holders in the middle but at the same time complicated the indicator stalk a bit. The seats are comfortable and have all the necessary adjustments and the driving position is more car-like than SUV. You don’t sit very high, but visibility is excellent despite the thick B-pillars and narrow rear windows. The blind spot indicators are bright and clearly visible even under direct sunlight, boosting your confidence while switching lanes. Parking in tight spots is easy, thanks to the light steering, compact dimensions, clear rear view camera and parking censors found on all four corners of the vehicle.
Despite the compact size, the interior is not as cramped as it will have you believe. Driver and passenger have good shoulder and headroom and both attributes are equally good for passengers in the back. Legroom can quickly get tight if the front seats are pushed back too far and due to the limited width, a third passenger won’t really be comfortable. The trunk is an impressive 470 L and is shaped really well, making its capacity totally useful.
One thing Mercedes could really brag about is that sweet engine they have in place, powering the wheels via the snappy 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. It is a turbo charged 2.0L 4-cylinder that outputs 208 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque and it is powerful enough to hit 100km/h in a claimed 7.1 seconds; a number that nearly classifies it as a hot hatch. However, due to a slight hesitation off the line, we measured it a full second slower than the claimed number. It is very strong and spirited, and the fact that you can hear the blow-off valve makes the drive very addictive and exciting. Pulling power is superb and the only thing you need to adjust to is the amount of throttle input required when driven in Economy mode. If you can refrain from switching it to sport mode more often than required, you’ll observe an average fuel consumption of around 9.1lt/100km, which makes the GLA quite cheap to run.
The odd thing about it is the ride comfort. I do realize that our test vehicle was equipped with the sports package and those 19” AMG rims, but I bet my right arm they could’ve done a better job in tuning that suspension. Over bumps and pot holes, it seems to struggle to soak up the impacts, producing loud thumps that just don’t suit a vehicle that is supposed to be a premium crossover. Not that it is uncomfortable, but the way it should ride is the way it does without the sport package. So unless you really need the extra body control the firm ride provides, stick with the comfort suspension and add the rims as a stand alone option if you like.
Of course, having a firm ride does improve driving dynamics, and in that sense, the GLA does quite well. There is little lean in the corners and the steering is great to hold and point, making corner tackling an involving and enjoyable procedure. Turn-in is sharp, the grip limits are high and if you push too hard, the nose progressively widens its course but can be brought back with the excellent steering. If the rear was a bit more playful, I would definitely say that it drives like a hot hatch. The brake pedal feels good and the performance of the brakes is outstanding, as from 100km/h it came to a complete stop in just 40m.
The GLA will grab lots of customers that are currently looking at the VW Tiguan, BMW X1, Nissan Juke and Buick Encore as it’s superb looks and great driving characteristics are superior. Also, being premium, stylish, all-wheel-drive and very well equipped, it should hold its value well too.