The Mercedes-Benz GLA concept debuts at the Shanghai auto show, previewing the automaker's newest crossover. Based on the same platform as the upcoming CLA250, the GLA concept contains much of the hardware and design cues we've seen in recent models based on the Mercedes Front-wheel Architecture (MFA) as well as the requisite flashy bits expected in a show car.
The GLA concept's headlights are fitted with laser-beam projectors, which light up the road and project directional cues from the navigation system. An upcoming right turn, for example, would result in the usual visual and audio prompts from the COMAND infotainment system as well as a laser-projected right arrow on the road.
Additionally, the laser system can project various items from COMAND including movies and pictures, essentially turning the GLA into a portable outdoor home entertainment system (media can be viewed on the in-dash screen as well). The Concept is also fitted with two HD cameras housed within the front roof rails that can be used to record the scenic drive.
The GLA concept's powertrain mimics that of the CLA250. A 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 produces 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sending power to all four wheels. The production version will likely be offered with additionally powertrains depending on the market. Current MFA-based cars in Europe, for example, have gas and diesel options. And for now, the U.S. is slated to get high-performance 355-hp 2.0-liter turbo-four (in the CLA45 AMG) and a zero-emissions EV powertrain in the B-Class Electric Drive.
Styling is also similar to the CLA- and B-Class. The compact crossover's front fascia features a hood with powerdomes, an oversized three-pointed star badge on the grille, and large D-shaped headlights to house the aforementioned laser projectors (turn indicators are LEDs). The GLA concept's side view has two prominent character lines that mimic the CLA's: the first begins above the front rocker panel and rises slightly toward the rear wheel arch, and the second starts at the front fender and drops slightly before ending below the rear door handle. The handles, by the way, are flush-mounted and pop up at the touch of a button. We don't expect the fancy handles or the massive metal diffuser in the back to make it to production. The GLA's taillight treatment is similar to the A-Class, with a simple trapezoidal design with a bar intersecting the center.
The interior is dominated by saddle-toned leather with thick cream-colored stitching, giving the effect of a futuristic baseball glove. The seat inlays are made of canvas and trim accents are made of aluminum and Plexiglas. Benz says the air vents change color depending on the selected temperature and ambient illumination is used throughout the cabin, including fiber-optic lighting in the center console and rear compartment area.
The four-passenger GLA concept has an overall length of 172.5 inches, making it almost identical in length to the Audi Q3, but 4 inches shorter than a BMW X1 xDrive28i. The Q3 and X1 both feature a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and will be the GLA's prime competitors.
The GLA, which will be built alongside the A-Class at Benz's plant in Rastatt, Germany, is not officially slated to arrive in the U.S. Benz will likely base its decision on the X1's sales performance as well that of the CLA-Class. Bringing the CLA to our shores seems like a no-brainer to us, considering America's preference for crossovers.