Buyers looking for entry into the AMG lineup and requiring a crossover will be overjoyed.
It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted a legitimate AMG vehicle, you would need to spend a good amount of money to join this exclusive club. In addition, this was only available on a select number of models, but this has changed over the years. This 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ has been blessed with a legitimate hand built engine that pushes this vehicle beyond its lesser priced siblings.
Is the 2021 GLA 45 an attractive sport utility vehicle? To a certain degree, yes. The front bumper and grill are all Mercedes-Benz and that is a very good thing because the rest of the exterior is generally derivative and not as original as the first-generation GLA was. This is a tall riding vehicle and a colleague had mentioned that this GLA bears some similarity to a Toyota Matrix. I wouldn’t go that far but yes, it doesn’t scream “performance vehicle” at first glance, not nearly as much as the outgoing model with its wild wing and aero.
The GLA comes in three flavors depending on your level of spice. Grab the mainstream GLA 250 if you are looking for something not too spicy and need to get from point A to B without much fanfare. Those looking to warm their tongue a smidge should consider the AMG GLA 35 that pumps up the boost for a good time. At the top with its spice level set to ten lies the AMG GLA 45 with this hand crafted engine and maximum performance.
This is where the magic happens. Under the hood lies a small 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder that pushes out 382 horsepower at 6,500RPM and 354 lb-ft of torque between 3,000 and 4,000RPM. Matched to the 4MATIC+ all-wheel-drive system and and AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, this small crossover scurries from 0-100km/h in under 4.4 seconds, an impressive feat.
A small amount of turbo lag is evident when you mash the throttle but when things get to a boil, hold on tight. The standard-fare paddle shifters behind the wheel react quickly, aggressively and with authority. The exhaust also pops and bangs while in Sport+ mode, an artificial touch which actually suits the GLA 45’s character. Grip the optional Alcantara steering wheel while your smile goes from ear to ear; a stout 191 horsepower per liter of displacement does have that effect.
The ride can be considered stiff even in “Comfort” mode, and is more evident on uneven surfaces or faced with potholes. It’s not nearly as bad as the previous generation, which was downright jarring, but put the GLA 45 in Sport or Sport+ modes and drivers will observe a notably firmer experience. We do consider this a fair trade-off considering the sharp handling and excellent chassis feel the GLA provides. Large six-piston brakes up front help stop this pocket rocket, and brake pedal feel is fantastic. They grab when needed and provide a level of confidence that is missing in many other performance vehicles.
With the Mercedes-AMG massaged suspension, drivers can expect handling that elevates this GLA 45 above its lesser brethren. With quick and direct steering, this sport utility vehicle will embarrass ,any sport sedans and coupes currently on sale when encountering twists and turns. This combination of performance and handling will put a smile on any enthusiast’s face.
Mercedes-Benz currently builds some of the best interiors in the market today and the 2021 GLA 45 is no exception. Fit is top notch throughout however, there are some low grade materials used for the window switches and other bits; the faux leather seats also lack lateral support. We strongly recommend the upgrade to the AMG Performance seats which are available. The level of technology has the ability to overwhelm some consumers, with two large 10.25-inch screens. One operates as the gauge cluster and the second for the MBUX infotainment system.
The infotainment screen can be operated via touch, the touchpad on the center console and the touch sensitive pads on the steering wheel. The latter are rather frustrating to use on uneven surfaces, which resulted in scrolling past or even accidentally selecting menu options. The Alcantara-trimmed flat bottom steering wheel’s controls otherwise are simple to use and fall right into your hands when needed. Personally, I’d prefer a full leather trimmed steering wheel as from past experience, Alcantara doesn’t exactly wear gracefully.
Unfortunately, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not standard, requiring selection of the Premium Package which most Canadian vehicles will be ordered with regardless. Those needing a native navigation interface will also be required to select the Navigation Package. For treks to the cottage or to the grocery store, the GLA 45 provides an ample 435-liters of cargo space behind the rear seats. Drop the seats and this grows to 1,430 liters. With the rather large opening and height available, getting larger items inside is a breeze.
With a high performance engine under the hood, 91-octane premium grade fuel is required. During a week’s worth of testing, we achieved a combined fuel rating of 11.0L/100km which was slightly worse than the 10.4L/100km rating by Natural Resources Canada. The official rating is 11.6L/100km city and 8.8L/100km highway. With mostly city driving and a rather aggressive right foot, these numbers are about what we expected.
Buyers looking for entry into the AMG lineup and requiring a crossover will be overjoyed to hear that the cost to join this exclusive club starts at $60,500. Adding various items such as black and red seating ($1,990), black cross-spoke wheels ($1,750), blacked out trim ($1,000), AMG Track Pack ($2,500) and other packages ballooned our test car to an eye watering $76,430. It’s still a performance bargain in the scheme of things, because the Audi RS Q3 isn’t sold on these shores, and the BMW X2 M35i isn’t exactly a performance car.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ slips by as a sleeper with its exterior styling and in my opinion, that’s what makes this sport utility vehicle even more interesting. It can slip through traffic invisibly but when the need hits, flick the drive mode selector and this vehicle comes alive. Drivers of more expensive cars can be left slack jawed in the dust all while loaded with a week’s worth of groceries and the family in tow.