The Mercedes-Benz GLA is an entry-luxury stylish crossover based on the CLA sedan that’s quiet and refined. The 2016 GLA comes in GLA250 and high-performance AMG GLA45 versions.
Launched as a 2015 model, little has changed for the 2016 model year, apart from minor feature improvements: The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC and GLA250 get an updated infotainment system with a new 7-inch touchscreen display, revised seat cushions, a 180-degree rearview camera, and more standard features, including DYNAMIC SELECT.
The 2016 GLA45 AMG gets all that plus more power and revised gear ratios, increasing 0-60 mph acceleration performance from a quick 4.8 seconds to a very quick 4.3 seconds. DYNAMIC SELECT replaces the previous E/S/M button on the 2016 AMG GLA45, and the available Dynamic Plus Package includes a limited-slip front differential, AMG Adaptive Suspension, and a RACE mode.
GLA250 is front-wheel drive, while the GLA250 4MATIC is all-wheel drive. The high-performance AMG GLA45 is all-wheel drive. Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC provides usable off-road capabilities, helped by an 8-inch ground clearance.
Buyers get the utility of a crossover, without the stodgy demeanor that can make it seem too family-friendly. A prominent skid plate enhances the SUV look, while bold body sculpting imparts a more youthful character.
Well-built, quiet and refined, the GLA250 is comfortable as well as stylish. Easy to drive, it promises Mercedes-Benz quality on a smaller scale. Sitting tall on 18- or 19-inch wheels, the GLA250 is about as easy to park as a subcompact. On the down side, the GLA is not spacious, with a snug back seat and skimpy cargo space.
Beneath the GLA250 hood, a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine develops 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A 7-speed dual-clutch is the sole transmission. The stop/start system will shut off the engine at stoplights, but the feature may be switched off. A GLA250 can accelerate to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds.
The 2016 GLA45 AMG engine gets a power boost, the turbocharged four-cylinder now generating 375 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque. The AMG GLA45 looks quite different in proportion because it’s more than 3 inches lower to the ground than the GLA250, while riding on 19-inch wheels.
On the safety front, few cars in this class offer such optional features as Attention Assist drowsy-driver detection, radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive brake assist, and Distronic Plus active cruise control. Available Collision Prevention Assist Plus can brake automatically. Parktronic and Park Assist can steer into a parallel or perpendicular parking spot automatically. Blind-spot and lane-keeping assist also are available.
GLA250 ($32,500) comes standard with MB-Tex synthetic upholstery, dual-zone climate control, keyless start, and power front seats with memory, 18-inch alloy wheels, power liftgate. Options include leather, COMAND system, bi-xenon headlights, panoramic sunroof, KEYLESS-GO, multi-color ambient lighting, Sport Package.
GLA250 4MATIC ($34,500) adds all-wheel drive, Downhill Speed Regulation, an Offroad Drive Program, and Offroad Display.
GLA45 AMG 4MATIC ($49,580) comes with a more powerful engine, all-wheel drive, 19-inch wheels with low-profile performance tires, and sportier suspension tuning. Numerous standard and optional appearance items distinguish it from the GLA250, including aero body add-ons and contrasting seatbelts.
Eight airbags and Attention Assist are standard, but a rearview camera is an option.
More like a compact five-door hatchback than a crossover SUV in appearance, the GLA is 8.4 inches shorter than its cousin, the CLA sedan, and 3 inches taller. Deep bodyside sculpting, a curvaceous profile, and exaggerated details intensify its attitude. GLA is smoothly rounded and stubby. It looks purposeful. A bobbed rear end replaces the CLA sedan’s elegantly tapered trunk.
A large three-pointed star sits in the grille. The nose is raked but upright. Swept-back headlights feature piped lighting, while foglamps integrate into the bumper below with brightwork surrounding the lower air intake. Creases highlight the hood surface, adding a touch of drama. Wheels and their arches are large. Rear pillars are steeply angled, and big oblong taillamps protrude to accentuate the vehicle’s width. Windows aren’t as tall as those on regular SUVs.
For 2016, seat-cushion adjustment was modified, to be more accommodating for larger adults. The GLA shares a lot of its semi-deluxe interior with the CLA.
Dark grey MB-Tex synthetic upholstery is standard, and a two-tone option lightens the cabin significantly. Leather is optional, two-tone beige/black. Wood or aluminum accents trim the interior. Simulated carbon fiber is available. Upholstery in the AMG model has accent stitching and contrasting seatbelts.
The instrument panel features gauges within tubular housings. A display screen resides above the low dashboard, which has different textures on upper and lower segments. A horizontal shelf contains five round vents.
Power-adjustable front seats are comfortable and firmly bolstered, with neatly contoured seatbacks. Adults can expect a tight fit for legs in the rear seat, though headroom is better.
A steeply angled liftgate restricts cargo volume, which totals only 43.6 cubic feet with the back seat folded. Split seatbacks don’t quite fold flat, but there’s a pass-through for long objects.
Not every crossover SUV qualifies as fun to drive, but the GLA250 deserves that description. Holding the road more tenaciously than expected, it feels well-balanced in curves and corners.
Behind the wheel, the GLA250 feels much like a car, though it’s taller than the CLA250 sedan. Body roll is more evident in hard cornering. New electro-mechanical power steering was designed to meld with intervention from the electronic stability control.
While accelerating, the GLA250 engine responds nicely, though its transmission is programmed to upshift as promptly as possible. On the plus side, those shifts are quick and smooth.
Most of the time, the interior is commendably quiet, though optional low-profile tires on 19-inch wheels can grow noisy on some pavement surfaces. The 18-inch wheels and tires offer the quietest, smoothest ride.
Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive is surprisingly capable, whether on snow or dirt or gravel. The 4MATIC models include Downhill Speed Regulation, along with an off-road transmission mode.
The high-performance GLA45 AMG falls into the hot hatch category, despite crossover-SUV pretentions. Practically every internal component has been reinforced and strengthened by AMG. Each engine for the AMG model is assembled by a specific employee, identified by a plaque bearing that person’s name. Enthusiasts are enraptured by its raucous exhaust. More important, the GLA45 AMG clings unshakably to the pavement, helped by its low stance and wide 19-inch tires.
Fuel economy is impressive for the category. The GLA250 4MATIC is EPA-rated at 24/32 mpg City/Highway, or 27 mpg Combined. Front-wheel drive raises the estimate to 25/35 mpg City/Highway, or 29 mpg Combined. The GLA45 AMG is EPA-rated at 23/29 mpg City/Highway, or 25 mpg Combined.
The GLA250 is among the more confined compact crossover models and it adds enticing handling and an element of urban flair. The back seat is snug. The GLA is an entry-level luxury vehicle, but options can escalate the price dramatically.
Driving impressions by John Voelcker, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.