With all of the compact luxury crossovers we've tested lately, you'd think we've driven them all. Well not quite yet. There's been one glaring omission from our test regime, now addressed by the Mercedes-Benz GLA. So, let's get rolling and fill in the blanks.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA may have arrived late to the compact luxury crossover party, but everyone will certainly notice it's now here. It's based on Mercedes' entry-level front and all-wheel drive CLA sedan, and though wheelbase is the same at 106.3-inches, overall length is actually less. Yet even with those compact dimensions, it still feels very Mercedes-Benz-like, which is where many felt the CLA actually fell short.
Power is very CLA however, with the GLA250 sporting a direct-injected 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 208-horsepower and a healthy 258 lb-ft. of torque. A smooth-shifting front drive 7-speed DCT handles transmission duties, with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive available.
While the interior has the appearance of being a nice step up from the CLA, the front seat bottoms are still uncomfortably flat. There's more rear seat headroom than in the CLA of course, but legroom is still tight; and with high sills and small door openings, ingress remains less than ideal. Cargo space sees a nice increase to 17.2 cubic-ft. behind the rear seats, 43.6 with the seatbacks folded.
The GLA250 proved to a lot of fun to drive, but if assaulting corners and battering apexes is more your thing; the GLA45 AMG is downright naughty and ready to get you into all sorts of trouble. Primed for misconduct is the same 2.0-liter I4 engine, only it's done some hard time over at the AMG shop, where it came out beefed up. Power jumps to 355-horsepower and 332 lb-ft. of torque.
Its crimes of aggression start with a 0-60 of just 4.9-seconds. That's just a hair slower than the more powerful Porsche Macan Turbo. Even with Race Start engaged, the GLA slightly hesitates off the line. But, once you're on your way, the power comes on in a hurry.
Shifts from the DCT are almost instantaneous with plenty of ticked-off snarl from the AMG sport exhaust, as you complete the ?-mile in 13.6-seconds at 107 miles-per-hour. The suspension gets a total AMG rehab too, with stiffened components, firmer springs and shocks, and updates to both the steering hardware and software.
Attacking the cones, this compact ute felt locked in; much more like a hot hatch than lowered crossover. It feels tiny through here with just a touch of understeer from the standard 4MATIC all-wheel-drive. And, thanks to the AMG performance brakes, coming to a full stop takes just 111-feet from 60.
The folks at AMG had they're way with styling too, applying a far more aggressive look with unique front fascia and splitter. The grille gets a twin-blade matte titanium gray treatment, as well as a new insert AMG logo that will be seen on all future AMG models.
19-inch wheels are standard on AMGs, but of course there are upgrades, including these Black 20-inch 10-spokers. The rear also looks wide, low and equally aggressive. The Night Styling Package adds gloss black trim all around, along with black chrome tail pipes.
All-in-all it does look more like a tough little hatchback than an SUV; which is cool until you realize that most hatchbacks actually have more space inside.
The GLA45 AMG is also quite aggressive off the track. The harsh ride and burble-y/drone-y exhaust note had most of our staff grateful for a one night stint behind the wheel and not a lifetime sentence.
AMG interior elements include a performance steering wheel, sport seats, instrument cluster with Racetimer, carbon fiber and brushed aluminum trim, console-mounted AMG shifter, and MB-Tex on the dash with exposed stitching.
Both navigation and rearview camera are available with the multimedia package, and most of Benz's high end safety features are obtainable as well.
We can appreciate that the information on the 7.0-inch high-res. LCD display is closer to the driver's eyes than most, but its dash top integration makes it appear aftermarket than factory. Inputs are made with a COMAND controller located on the center console. While not on anyone's most efficient list, an Eco stop/start system keeps things reasonable.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for the GLA250 are 24-City, 32-Highway, and 27-Combined. Our test saw 27.6 on premium. The GLA45 AMG rates slightly worse at 23-City, 29-highway, and 25-Combined, with 26.1 on our mixed loop.
Still, the 250's Energy Impact Score is better than average, with 12.2-barrels of oil consumed yearly and CO2 emissions of 5.4-tons.
Pricing begins with a front-wheel-drive GLA250 at $32,225; all-wheel-drive adds 2-grand more. The GLA45 AMG stickers for $49,225. While way more than a roomier hot hatch like the Volkswagen GTI, it's way less than what Porsche wants for the Macan.
Overall we like the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA better than its CLA sedan inspiration. It's larger inside and drives with more of the super solid feel one expects from the brand. But, taken together, the GLA and CLA present a young, stylish, and aggressive lineup of new choices. Just like the consumers they hope will buy them.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 208
- Torque: 258 lb-ft.
- EPA: 24 mpg city/ 32 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 12.2 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.4 tons/yr
- 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG:
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 355
- Torque: 332 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 13.6 seconds @ 107 mph
- EPA: 23 mpg city/ 29 mpg highway