Class: Premium Compact Crossover
Miles driven: 327
Fuel used: 16.0 gallons
Real-world fuel economy: 20.4 mpg
Driving mix: 75% city, 25% highway
EPA-estimated fuel economy: 22/28/25 (city, highway, combined)
Base price: $50,600 (not including $995 destination charge)
|CG Report Card|
|Big & Tall comfort ratings are for front seats only. "Big" rating based on male tester weighing approximately 350 pounds, "Tall" rating based on 6'6"-tall male tester.|
|Room and Comfort||C-|
|Power and Performance||A|
|Fit and Finish||A-|
|Report-card grades are derived from a consensus of test-driver evaluations. All grades are versus other vehicles in the same class. Value grade is for specific trim level evaluated, and may not reflect Consumer Guide's impressions of the entire model lineup.|
|Big & Tall Comfort|
Options on test vehicle: Special paint ($720), 20-inch AMG multispoke wheels ($850), AMG performance exhaust system ($650), AMG illuminated door sills ($350), AMG red brake calipers ($300), blind-spot assist ($550), AMG Nappa/Dynamica performance steering wheel ($500), satellite radio ($460), AMG performance seats ($2250), harman/kardon audio system ($850), heated front seats ($580), keyless entry and starting ($550), AMG Aerodynamics Package ($1950), AMG Dynamic Plus Package ($2800), Convenience Package ($400), Interior Package ($1700), Multimedia Package ($2300), AMG Night Package ($750), Driver Assistance Package ($1500)
Price as tested: $71,605
The great: Invigorating acceleration from ferocious 4-cylinder powertrain, agile handling
The good: A bit more cargo-versatile than the typical track-ready performance vehicle
The not so good: Stiff ride, cantankerous personality in around-town driving, scads of pricey options add more than $20K to base price
The Mercedes-Benz GLA premium compact crossover SUV, which comes in for a freshening for 2018, includes a pretty hot model, the AMG GLA45. But, like anyone who’s ever shopped in the salsa section of the supermarket condiment aisle knows, there’s more than one kind of hot. You can keep heating up a GLA45 to the point where your bank balance may spontaneously combust.
Consumer Guide® sampled a GLA45 that was a veritable speed shop crammed into 175 inches. Sans options or delivery charge, the GLA45 hatchback mini-ute comes with a 375-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and AMG-spec 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, suspension, brakes, exhaust, 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, electronic stability program, and interior detailing for $50,600. To that, CG’s Kryptonite Green Metallic test vehicle added:
- 20-inch multispoke wheels (in place of the standard 19-inchers)
- performance exhaust
- Dynamic Plus Package (2-stage electronic damper control, limited-slip front differential, additional “Race”-mode drive setting)
- Aerodynamics Package (larger front air splitter, “flics” on front apron, rear hatchlid spoiler)
- sport steering wheel wrapped in Nappa leather and Dinamica fabric
- front sport seats
- illuminated door sills
- red brake calipers
- Night Package (gloss-black front splitter, rocker-panel inserts, window frames, mirror covers, roof rails, and diffuser insert; black-chrome tailpipes)
That amounts to $7600 in AMG-branded performance and sport-appearance gear added to a vehicle that was further optioned up to $71,605 delivered—see the list atop this post—and the tester didn’t have the AMG “Red Cut” interior package, which would have added another $1700.
The GLA45 is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that gains 20 horsepower for ’18—and further distances itself from the 208-horse version of this powerplant found in other GLAs. (M-B’s little crossover shares its platform and base engine with the Infiniti QX30.) Mercedes claims the GLA45 can hit 60 mph from a stop in just 4.3 seconds, and the Dynamic Plus Package allows for an increased top speed, electronically limited to 167 mph. Performance is also influenced by Dynamic Select driving modes, which are activated by a dial on the console. They include “Comfort,” “Sport,” and “Sport+” that alter throttle response, shift points, steering effort, and use of the standard start/stop feature. (A fourth “Individual” mode lets drivers set up a mix of their own.)
With 350 lb-ft of torque that peaks between 2250 and 5000 rpm, acceleration is sharp, even in Comfort. Shifts from the 7-speed automated-manual gearbox are palpable but quickly executed, and kickdown is prompt. The exhaust note gets decidedly rorty in the Sport modes. Naturally, with this much zest, the GLA45’s engine is not the thriftiest of fours. The EPA rates it at 22 mpg in city driving, 28 mpg on the highway, and 25 combined. This driver recorded just 21.15 mpg from a trip of 171 miles that was 70 percent city-type driving—and mostly in default Comfort mode with the stop/start activated.
Ride is firm enough to start, but still fairly compliant. Sport+ stiffens it up to the point that it may not be comfortable if everyday drives cover a lot of patchy or cracked pavement. Steering is very responsive and pleasingly direct, and cornering lean is well controlled. The brakes are excellent.
The AMG job’s cabin materials are “sporty nice.” CG’s tester had a serious black-leather-and-bright-metal look (the leather coming as part of an option group). There are abundant soft surfaces, and the suedelike Dinamica material on the steering wheel made for pleasing and secure touch points. The front sport seats have substantial adjustable side bolstering—at maximum grip they may feel a little tight for some builds.
General GLA updates for the 2018 model year include aerodynamically attuned revisions to the front and rear fasciae, and an infotainment-system screen enlarged to eight inches. Also new are LED headlights—standard on the GLA45, optional on other models.
No matter which one you might choose, you’ll have to contend with M-B’s COMAND central control for audio, navigation, and the like, which makes for a lot of busy work. There also are lots of buttons, many for the climate system, some of which are hard to make out at a glance. Cabin storage is not so great. The glove box is small; the covered console box is downright tiny. Small pockets are found in the doors. There are two open cup holders in the center console and two more that spring from the front of the rear pull-down armrest. Note that the molded backs of the optional sport seats do not have storage pouches for rear-seaters’ use.
GLAs have a “cozy” interior with limited headroom front and rear. (The low roof will force taller drivers to duck and cover when entering.) The back row is quite short on legroom, and the practical seating limit for adults is two. Doors open wide, but tight foot space in back makes entries and exits difficult. The reduced roof height and thick pillars—especially at the rear corners—hinder driver vision. Many crossovers have a cargo floor that loads at bumper level but the GLA displays a low raised lip. Beyond it is a modest cargo floor. Two small net pouches are in the sidewalls to hold incidentals. Rear seats fold in a 60/40 split, although they don’t fold flat, and a tiny gap appears between them and the main load floor.
As premium compact crossovers go, the Mercedes-Benz GLA is more on the fun-to-drive end of the spectrum, at the expense of practicality—and, depending on how well optioned, at the expense of expense. The AMG GLA45 just sharpens all of those extremes.
The 2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 is one of the most “un-Mercedes” Mercedes-Benzs I’ve ever driven…a particularly peculiar pastiche of a vehicle. Is it a compact SUV? Is it a compact wagon? Is it an all-out track machine? Is it a high-end luxury vehicle? The answer to all those questions is “sort of.” The GLA45 is trying to be so many things at once that its personality borders on schizophrenic.
The raspy, overachieving turbo 2.0 four is paired with AMG’s “Speedshift” 7-speed DCT automated-manual transmission. This powertrain seems happiest in flat-out acceleration in the Sport or Race modes, where it pulls tenaciously and cracks off lightning-quick upshifts that really get the ol’ blood pumping. On the track, it’s an absolute delight; on the street in everyday commuting, not so much. In mundane motoring, the transmission feels a bit clunky and non-linear. There is a frustrating pause when pulling away from a stop, and the gearbox often seemed to be caught flat-footed when I dipped into the throttle for a bit more power in around-town driving.
With its Kryptonite Green Metallic Paint and the rear wing, front splitter, and “flics” of the AMG Aerodynamics Package, our GLA45 tester had a decidedly boy-racer vibe, and its driving character backed up its looks. That said, I don’t think many flat-billed-cap-wearing Fast and Furious fans could come up with the $71K to put this vehicle in their garage.
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