Second-generation GLA is all grown up with increased interior space and a confident aesthetic. AMG models here shortly.
Mercedes-Benz admits that the first-generation GLA was a toe in the water of the compact SUV segment, but that the just-arrived second-gen model represents a flying leap into the segment.
At launch, the new GLA range consists of two models; the $55,100 GLA 200 and the $66,500 GLA 250 4matic that we tested. An Edition 1 spec will be available for both variants for the first year of production, adding $6990 to the GLA 200 and $5990 to the 250.
The GLA 200 powers its front wheels with a 1332cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 120kW and 250Nm, and is backed by a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Official combined cycle consumption is rated at 6.2L/100km. For the additional $11,400, the GLA 250 4matic brings a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that adds a dramatic bump in outputs with 165kW and 350Nm. Drive is taken to all corners via an eight-speed auto and Mercedes-Benz’s 4matic all-wheel-drive system. Combined cycle consumption is 7.5L/100km. Both the 200 and 250 models ride on 19-inch alloys.
The range expands shortly with the arrival of the GLA 35 AMG (late September or early October) and the GLA 45 S AMG (Q4). Priced from $82,935, the GLA 35 AMG is powered by a high-output version of the 1991cc engine from the 250, with 225kW and 400Nm. The $107,035 GLA 45 S AMG is also motivated by a 1991cc turbocharged four-cylinder engine, but, as is the case in the A45 and CLA 45 models, the engine here differs markedly from that of the 35 models (for starters it’s rotated through 180 degrees). Like the 35, the 310kW, 500Nm GLA 45 takes drive to all four wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Both AMG variants ride on 20-inch wheels.
Within moments of dropping into the cabin of the new GLA250, it’s obvious that this is an altogether more serious tilt at the segment. Actually, that impression is first gleaned on approach to the new car. It’s significantly taller (up 122mm) compared to the older model, 30mm wider, though 14mm shorter in overall length, and with a more confident aesthetic presence. Our test example wore Cosmos Black metallic paint ($1146) which contrasted with the Macchiato Beige Lugano leather (part of the $2300 Exclusive package) and brown open-pore walnut trim ($454). With sunlight streaming through the standard panoramic sunroof, the interior was light and airy and with a distinctly premium ambience. One passenger guessed that this particular GLA 250 would easily top $100,000. For the record, the optioned-up price of this example did sneak passed $78,500 including Luxury Car Tax.
Of the options fitted to this car, one certainly worth considering is the sliding rear seat ($607) that offers 14cm of fore and aft adjustment. It’s a simple system that allows four six-footers to sit in comfort within the GLA. For the record, Mercedes-Benz expects sales to be skewed towards younger couples and downsizers, with the GLB drawing more families.
The drivetrain and the driving experience of the GLA 250 is familiar in many ways from the A250 and CLA 250. The 2.0-litre engine offers plenty of performance and the GLA has a surprising turn of speed, hitting 100km/h from rest in 6.7 seconds. There’s little turbo lag and crisp low-rev response that builds to strong urge throughout the mid-range. The eight-speed auto is an easy-going partner to the engine, slipping in shifts in a timely manner. Sport mode even elicits some subdued crackles from the exhaust, which encourage you to drive a bit quicker to chase the acoustics.
Despite the standard 19-inch wheels, the ride quality is more than acceptable on Sydney’s very ordinary roads, though they will thud over the very worst impacts. With more speed, the ride is even better and road noise is well supressed.
We found ourselves on a road loop that we usually reserve for faster more exotic machinery, but the GLA 250 wasn’t out of its depth. Its engine was more than happy to shoulder the load of the steep climbs, while the chassis relished some tyre-squealing antics. The steering, though light and requiring little effort, has a natural rate of response, and provides enough feedback to judge grip limits on the front axle. Despite the tall body, roll is well controlled and the overall balance of the chassis is quite neutral. The brakes got a bit smoky on the downhill run, but their performance didn’t deteriorate and pedal pressure remained consistent.
More importantly for most buyers, the GLA 250 is an easy companion on a motorway schlep or on urban arterials.
The second-generation GLA 250 is a talented compact SUV with a premium feel, high equipment levels, punchy performance and an entertaining chassis. It can also slip into the background on the occasions when driving thrills are not the priority.