Mercedes-Benz has tried for years to project a more youthful image and appear more in tune with the wants and needs of a younger market segment. The GLA, along with the $30,000 CLA provide an affordable entry point into the world of Mercedes-Benz SUVs.
The fifth and smallest member of M-B's prolific SUV/crossover clan, the new GLA-Class matches style with capability and is based on the same "MFA" modular architecture that underpins the automaker's A-Class/B-Class in Europe as well as the new 2014 M-B CLA-Class sedan that goes on sale here later this year.
The prominent and self-assured, upright front end with a central star lends a muscular and superior impression to the GLA. Powerdomes grace the hood as sporty highlights, and the twin-louver grille accentuates the vehicle's width.
An impressive front face has optional Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights. This iconic Mercedes-Benz design feature was developed further using tri-functional fiber-optics, and gives the vehicle its characteristic light signature. The standard fog lamps are integrated into the front bumper. A simulated skid plate and contrasting dark-grey sill panels all-around emphasize the SUV characteristics of the GLA. The panels begin low down at the front bumper and provide protection against stone impact.
To the typical crossover customer, style matters a lot, and the GLA-class with its curvaceous body is sure turn heads. At 173.9 inches long, 71.0 inches wide, and 58.8 inches tall, the 5-occupant GLA-class has ideal dimensions for a city car. Rear-passenger room is sufficient for two adults and short trips. Three children might be comfortable there. The interior treatment looks much the same as that of the CLA, but it does feature distinct color combinations and decorative trim.
Benz’s MB-Tex synthetic leather is the standard upholstery, while the genuine article is available as an option. The dash panel can be specified in aluminum, or a choice in wood finishes: high-gloss or an exquisite matte. Galvanized switchgear is abundant and generates a premium look that’s reminiscent of more-upmarket vehicles.
The GLA uses a strut-type front suspension and a multilink rear setup, as well as electric power steering. The only engine available in the U.S. is the same 2.0-liter turbo four that’s found in the CLA250. It’s a smooth and quiet powerplant, which produces 208 horsepower at 5500 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1200 revs.
Power goes to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. The 2015 GLA is the first Mercedes-Benz SUV to be available with the new- generation all-wheel drive system 4MATIC, with fully variable torque distribution.
Mercedes says that the all-wheel drive GLA accelerates to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, and tops out at 145 mph. Fuel-economy estimates have not been releasd, but in the European cycle, the GLA250 4MATIC was rated at 33.1 mpg.
Living up to expectations Mercedes has loaded the GLA with a full complement of the latest telematics and assistance systems. M-B’s latest-generation telematics platform, mbrace2, offers connectivity and the infotainment features we’ve come to expect in any upscale car, even if it sits atop the dash.
Mercedes’ Collision Prevention Assist provides autonomous braking from speeds of up to 124 mph if the system detects an imminent collision—the system works only at speeds up to 18 mph if the object you’re about to collide with is stationary. The standard Benz offerings of blind-spot detection, lane-keeping, park assist, and adaptive cruise control all are available, too.
The GLA250 4MATIC will appear at dealerships in the fall of 2014, and the front-drive GLA250 will follow in early 2015. Pricing information hasn’t been made available yet, but we expect to see base prices in the low- to mid-$30,000