If you’re looking for compromise and sacrifice, you’ve come to the wrong place (or in this case the wrong article). Because Mercedes 2015 GLA is anything but those things.
What is it
Based on the popular Mercedes CLA, the GLA is an augmented version of the sedan that takes that vehicle’s good looks, and adds a bit of utility and pizazz.
In the segment the GLA sits against BMW’s X3/X1 and Audi’s Q3/Q1. Both of those cars have their appeal, but neither are as good looking or bold in sheet metal work. Just take a look at the hood panel, front fascia or the back end of the GLA and you’ll see what I mean. But we all know looks aren’t everything.
So how does it drive? Good thing you asked. Because I had a chance to drive one, an AMG trim level (not AMG version) version of the CUV to the Coachella music festival a few weeks ago. And I’m happy to say that the GLA is positively intoxicating as, well, the crowd probably is, or should be, at any 3 day, all-you-can-listen-to musical festival.
Beginning in Manhattan Beach’s Shade Hotel, which plays home to an always balmy 70 degrees, we were greeted by the Mercedes team. Before we got some up close time with the car, though, we indulged in an assortment of appetizers and drinks. Once settled into our rooms, and introduced to a strong hold of European lifestyle journalists, we were given a brief walk around of the GLA.
Yes, this is the CLA platform (front wheel drive architecture, but AWD), but with a higher roofline (i.e. more head room), and a bunch more trunk space. So in short, handling has been maintained (more on that in a bit) but with it comes more utility, or put another way, enough room to shove a surfboard in the back.
On trips like this, I prefer to travel light. But in this instance it was a shame I wasn’t packing a bunch of gear such that I could test the GLA’s trunk. Nevertheless, I can attest to its accommodating back seat, which fit my frame (6′ 1″) with a journalist of similar size sitting up front. Not bad, considering the GLA’s some what slender size and sporty handling.
As mentioned, we were presented with a GLA outfitted in AMG trim – it includes AMG appointments (black trim, black wheels and some interior stylings), but without any of the performance upgrades. But that isn’t to say the GLA is short on delivery. Under the hood is the company’s 2.0L 4-cylinder turbo charged engine that produces just north of 200hp and 258 lb-ft of torque good for a 6 second 0-60 sprint. Suffice to say, it’s capable.
There is also a 5.8-inch infotainment system, adaptive cruise control that will bring the car to a complete stop (it works to a “t”), safety sensors, back up camera, and a powerful yet well balanced Harmon Kardon system. Note: you’ll need to tick a few boxes to get the aforementioned.
The first part of our drive took us from Manhattan Beach to Mercedes’ design studio in Carlsbad, CA. It was relatively tame; 405/10 – freeway stuff. It wasn’t until we hit the second leg of our journey that things got exciting. Stuck in freeway traffic, we darted off the freeway and ended up on route 74 heading towards Palm Desert. It runs parallel to the route often traveled to Palm Springs, yet is anything but similar in drive. We’re talking high mountain roads with switchbacks, and unfortunate for us, a Ford Mustang (blah) that jammed the brakes every time an oncoming car approached. No matter, as the GLA easily dispensed of not only the winding roads and hilly inclines, but the slow Ford in question.
And despite the GLA’s accommodating roofline, there is, or was, little body roll to complain about. More over, the steering felt just about right for a vehicle of this size, as did the power to weight ratio. That said I still can’t help but dream about the AMG version of the GLA – it’ll kick out more than 340hp.
Arriving in Palm Springs, we were greeted by 90 degree weather, and a hotel, the Parker, that stank of bespoke opulence. Hipsters, or those striving to be, intruded my eye space every where I looked. Fortunately, relief arrived when Harmon Kardon held a private meeting and provided us with the deets on the GLA’s speaker system, which is nothing short of impressive. They also detailed a brand new DSP system that can instantly repair the overly compressed tunes from Pandora and those alike, to a more ear palatable state – it’s impressive tech that will soon make its way consumer side, so hang tight for that.
So to recap, there is little, very very little not to like about the GLA. Road holding, performance, and practicality easily make it a strong contender amongst the crowded space of CUVs. And while I haven’t driven the other vehicles (X3, X1, etc) in the segment, aside from the Range Rover Evoque, the GLA has the talent to back up its good looks.