In 2015, Mercedes-Benz introduced an all-new luxury compact crossover in the GLA-Class. It rides quite sportingly on the capable chassis found in the CLA sedan and draws its power from either a 208-horsepower turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder or, in the GLA45, a tuned version of the same 2.0L 4-cylinder that makes 375 horsepower. The engine is mated to a dual-clutch 7-speed automatic transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, and power is delivered to all four wheels. Three driving modes include Sport, Manual and ECO, which can shut off the engine when the vehicle is stopped and restart it automatically. Mercedes claims the GLA250 can scoot to 60 mph in just over seven seconds. The GLA45 can make 60 mph in an astonishing 4.8 seconds.
Both GLA models use a new generation of 4MATIC all-wheel drive, and the variable-torque system monitors each corner of the vehicle, sending up to 50 percent of the engine's torque to the rear wheels. The system also adapts to varying off-road conditions with an Off-Road mode.
The GLA250 comes well equipped with 18-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a choice of MB-Tex interior surfaces as well as ambient interior lighting, HD radio with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and audio streaming, a 14-way power driver seat with memory, split-folding rear seats and a power liftgate.
Several stand-alone options allow buyers to fully customize the GLA, including a panorama roof, bi-xenon headlights and LED taillights, heated front seats, a harman/kardon sound system, rearview camera, Parktronic parking assist and blindspot assist. Meanwhile a Sport Package adds special exterior body styling, 19-inch AMG wheels and perforated front brakes with painted calipers. The Interior Package adds leather upholstery, sport seats and remote window opening/closing, while the Premium Package provides dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, the harman/kardon stereo and more. Finally, the Multimedia Package adds a rearview camera, advanced voice control, an 80GB hard-drive navigation system and in-dash SD card reader.
The GLA45 AMG is all about performance and its features and accessories all speak to that, including AMG sport suspension and sport exhaust. It also features available AMG performance seats and steering wheel, red-painted rear calipers, an aerodynamic package and rear deck lid spoiler.
Just as Mercedes' new CLA-Class is a huge improvement over its predecessor, so too is this GLA-Class SUV. Starting at $37,280 including $1,050 for destination, the GLA250 is an excellent entry point into the Mercedes-Benz lineup, and finally has the style and tech to really stand out in the subcompact SUV class.
Despite being roughly the same size, visually, the new GLA really works. It's got a 1.1-inch longer wheelbase but is shorter in overall length than before, though it's nearly 4 inches taller and just a smidge wider, too. The sculpted hood gives the GLA250 an aura of strength and I like the LED running light signature. My tester has the $2,240 AMG Line appearance package and the $400 Night Package, giving the SUV a different grille, gloss-black exterior trim and slightly more aggressive styling. Those options normally get you 19-inch wheels, but this GLA250 takes things up a notch with larger 20s, a $1,050 option.
The GLA250's turbocharged 2.0-liter I4 pushes out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, and while front-wheel drive is standard, all-wheel drive is optional. These numbers are competitive within the class -- the GLA250 is as powerful as an Audi Q3 or BMW X1, and it tops the Volvo XC40's base T4 powertrain.
The Good ~ Excellent powertrain ~ Plenty of driver-assistance tech ~ Top-notch MBUX infotainment
The Bad ~ Smaller cargo area than competitors ~ Gets very expensive with options
The Bottom Line The 2021 GLA250 is a great little crossover for first-time Mercedes-Benz buyers.
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