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 the latest 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.
The first-gen Mercedes GLA45 AMG sucked. It was an expensive heap that was perpetually uncomfortable and looked about as good as it drove. Thankfully, Mercedes-AMG learned some lessons over the years. Now, the new-for-2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 is a fully realized compact luxury crossover with a bonkers little powertrain tucked under the hood for good measure, making for one hell of a second act.
The original GLA-Class looked like a surprised hatchback wearing tall shoes. The gist is the same this time around -- the second-gen GLA-Class is still basically a hatchback with a lift kit -- but I think the look is more cohesive. The wide-eyed countenance has been swapped out in favor of something a little more streamlined, but I think the GLA45 looks best from behind, where a short overhang and those ever-present quadruple AMG tailpipes make for some aggressive aesthetics.
The GLA's interior no longer feels woefully cheap. There is no tiny little screen floating atop a menagerie of dated buttons; instead, everything is mounted nice and low, and borrowing many different design staples from larger, more expensive Mercedes models means the interior feels far more precious than before, even though the dashboard is still mottled vinyl and there's still a fair few instances of hard plastic scattered around. Being an AMG, I'm not surprised to see carbon fiber making an appearance on the dash and door panels, but thankfully, there isn't so much of it that I feel like I'm headed to Hot Import Nights. Pair it with some more premium touches like proper metal on the optional Nappa-leather-wrapped steering wheel ($400), and you've got quite the nice place to spend some time.
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