A German entry in a growing segment Just like BMW, Audi and Porsche, Mercedes-Benz is rounding out their SUV fleet with a smaller option for its customers.
Story by David Miller
Granada, Spain – Just like BMW, Audi and Porsche, Mercedes-Benz is rounding out their SUV fleet with a smaller option for its customers. As most of you know after its unveiling at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show – it’s the GLA-Class. Mercedes is hoping to appeal to new consumers who couldn’t afford a luxury SUV in the past, as well as creative a smaller alternative for their existing clientele. A select few Canadian journalists were sent out for its long-lead launch as the GLA-Class is not hitting the showroom until September. Therefore, we won’t have all the details such as price, options, etc. but we can at least tell you about the vehicle.
There will be two types of GLAs coming to Canada: the main focus being the 250 4MATIC (Mercedes’ all-wheel-drive version) and the 45 AMG. Europe will receive plenty of other options including a diesel, as well as front-wheel-drive being standard in the 250, but as of now, it’s just nice to see it coming to the great white north.
The GLA 250 takes on many characteristics of the CLA-Class, as well as the A-Class that’s available in other regions. One thing that stays consistent with those cars is the same 2.0-litre turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that churns out 211 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That engine is mated to Mercedes’ seven-speed double clutch transmission.
On the other side of the spectrum, the GLA 45 AMG is the option when you’re looking for something truly frisky. It uses the AMG 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbocharger that’s as powerful as anything in its class with 360 horsepower and 311 lb-ft. of torque. We won’t be focusing on this one for the review, but I can tell you that the standout feature in it is the optional automatically controlled exhaust flap that looks, performs and sounds similar to a race car. Just to provide you a glimpse of its power – the 45 AMG can go from 0-100 km/h in 4.8 seconds compared to the 7.1 seconds the 250 can achieve.
Going back to the GLA250, at first glimpse it doesn’t appear to be an SUV and if you thought that, you wouldn’t be so wrong. It actually resembles a hatch with its height only elevating 58.8-inches off the ground and its length only at 173.9-inches. If you think that sounds crazy for an SUV – it’s only reactionary to the demand of consumers who are after smaller and more fuel efficient transports as is common in Quebec and Europe.
What might just separate the GLA from the rest of its competitors, mainly the BMW X1 and the Audi Q3, is its style. It stands short, but strong and curvaceous similar to a physically-fit short athlete– think tennis player Dominika Cibulkova (now you will want to look her up). Getting back on track, the GLA’s jewel-like headlights immediately provide a sense of modernized style. Sharp-edged lines run through its body giving it a sporty look that’s completed with its striking rear spoiler.
Even though the GLA 250 will be at an entry-level price, the interior doesn’t reflect that in the slightest. The high-grade wooden materials with matte satin finish that filled the dash of our tester are optional, but well worth the extra coin. If styling isn’t a priority – you’re still treated to a soft-black leather dash that comes standard.
The rear is where the more hatch-like thoughts become a bit of reality. There’s a lack of rear legroom that could be desperately used for some taller individuals. If the driver or passenger sits comfortably back – I wish those back seat drivers the best of luck. With that being said, the GLA-Class is not for large families – Mercedes is hoping to attract smaller families or those individuals who are looking for a little bit more room. If the size of your vehicle is of most importance – stop reading now and move on to a review about the GLK, GL, or ML.
For those who have stayed reading, you will be happy to know that technology assistance comes standard including Attention Assist and a radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive brake assist. If you want to add some more safe technological packages, Mercedes has come up with their own form of Collision Prevention Assist Plus that can autonomously brake, even at speeds up to 200 km/h. If the vehicle you’re about to hit is stationary – the autonomous braking kicks in at speeds up to 30 km/h. Other technology options include Active Park Assist and Lane Tracking package that includes Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.
Our drive for the GLA-Class had us start in Malaga, Spain and head to the Sierra Nevada in Granada. It’s a route filled with thin curvy roads and picturesque mountains helping you understand why Mercedes sent us there in the first place. The GLA 250 performed admirably through those windy roads mainly due to its exceptional handling. The electric steering was efficient and quick, but it was hard to tell how much of a difference it created. It has a very lightweight feel to it and that’s not without reason – it is 25 per cent lighter than any of its competitors, achieving class-leading aerodynamics with a coefficient drag of 0.29. Fuel economy numbers haven’t been confirmed yet, but its lighter load will most likely help it achieve a fuel economy rating of around 7.1L/100 km.
One negative that seemed to creep up throughout the drive was the initial acceleration lag. This was even more evidenced when switching from reverse to drive (and if you’re thinking I took a wrong turn – you would be right, but it was mostly noticed when setting-up for pictures). Off-roading capabilities are usually a feature that helps sell cars, but are rarely used. This will most likely be the case for 95 per cent of GLA customers, but lucky for us, we were able to still test it out through a course set-up by Mercedes. Granada wasn’t too tough of a locale to set-up a make-shift off-road course – all you needed to do was look out the window.
In order to get it ready for your off-road adventures, simply find the special off-road driving mode on the LCD screen situated on its own at the centre of the dash. This will change the shifting points and adjusts throttle based on how and where you’re driving. If you need to go down a steep hill, just press the descent button below the radio knobs and adjust your speed setting by pushing down on the lower lever to the right of the steering wheel and you’re set. The GLA will take over acceleration and braking – all you will need to do is turn the wheel accordingly.
I can talk all I want about the car, but price will be the most important factor that will motivate consumers to head to Mercedes-Benz. As mentioned previously, the numbers weren’t released yet for Canada, but from what I picked up in Spain, we’re looking most likely at a starting MSRP below $40K. As for the 45 AMG – it should fall somewhere in between $52-56,000. Canada’s prices are expected to be released in the summer time with an on-sale date to be at the start of the fall season in September.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic Gallery