We were already impressed by the good looks of the GLA which we saw last year as a prototype "in the flesh" at the presentation of the Mercedes compact range at Château Neercanne in Maastricht.
Well, the actual series version really looks just as good as this elegant prototype. Our test car came with stylish AMG light alloy wheels, and indeed looked dramatically "just right" from any angle, with all the well rounded proportions in timeless balance, like its legendary ancestors which were designed by Uhlenhaut. It certainly is the most stylish Mercedes on the compact platform. Does the GLA also drive just as well as it looks?
Well, just read on...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Well proven engineering excellence...
The car not only looks just right, it also sits very well on its wheels. It is not very much higher than the A class, depending on the chosen suspension set up some 8 cm, therefore it feels more like a crossover than an outright SUV. Nevertheless, the overall ground clearance of some 20 cm is more than adequate.
Therefore, it has some good off-road talents. The 220 CDI version we drove not only had 4Wd, it also sported down hill assistance and this keeps you well on track even on off road terrain.
Also the front and rear of the bodywork are well shaped to keep you from brushing the terrain if and when the going gets somewhat rougher.
The 4Wd system is also able to transfer up to 100 pct of the power either to the front or rear wheels, depending on terrain conditions, and this enables you to master more outspoken off-road conditions than most GLA driver will ever meet.
Under the bonnet, one finds well proven MB technology, like for instance the 2,1 litre four cylinder Diesel OM641 engine, this time in 168 bhp guise.
The engine is somewhat rough on idle, but otherwise is very civilised, and virtually inaudible at speed.
The transmission consists of the excellent 7 speed dual clutch automatic gearbox, which offers even smoother gear changes than we experienced in the "normal" A class, thanks to further perfected gearbox control electronics.
The gearbox is well adapted to the engine characteristics. The engine is offering lots of torque form low revs, and has maximum torque of some 258 lb/ft.
In the interior we find familiar Mercedes hardware, like the instruments, the round ventilation vents, the layout and positioning of the controls, such as the control stick for the unsurpassed cruise control for instance.
The dashboard sported some stylish wood inserts and panelling across the dashboard, and we also find back the nice media/map display.
The seats are excellent, like we would expect from Mercedes. In our test car, the seats were of the integrated headrest type, which we like not so much because the headrest always manages to come into (light) contact with the back of your head.
The range of adjustment is ample enough, and enables one to find the right seating position, fit for true gran turismo travelling.
Rear passengers have adequate room, the integrated front seats make the rear space and ambiente somewhat claustrophobic, overall visibility is rather restricted, and one needs the electronic parking helps and rear-view cameras come in quite handy.
Superb ride and road manners
The comfort of the GLA is quite good, offering saloon-car ride, and the car really feels like a true Mercedes, in the city, on the (winding) open road, and last but not least on the motorway. Additional spring travel and slightly softer spring settings also delivers more of a "Mercedes" ride than any of its A class sisters. This is certainly noticeable on Belgian urban pavés...
The cruise control command stick is unsurpassed in ease of use...
This GLA also reveals itself as a true "Autobahn" master, in the grand Mercedes tradition. The car corners quite pleasantly, and can be steered sportingly with pleasure, the electro-mechanical steering is responsive and precise.
Performance of the car is quite good, the well pulling engine in combination with the gearbox is offering quite brisk accelerations, and 0 to 100 kph is reached in merely 8.3 seconds.
Economy is also at the rendez-vous, with a test average of around 5,6 litres/100 km. the average official test cycle delivers 5,1 litres/100 km and 132 grams of CO2 emissions.
A very well balanced, very stylish compact Mercedes, in our taste even the most attractive member of the A class series. It is hard to fault in any respect, comfortable, pleasant to drive, solidly built and stylish.
We tested the Gran Turismo capabilities of the car by taking it to Paris, here we parked it in front of the Armani store and café, near Brasserie Lipp on the Boulevard Saint Germain...
On top of that it is offering adequate room, very good economy and performance for a crossover. These good qualities of the GLA will, in our opinion, be reflected very soon in the sales figures, if not already...
Hans Knol ten Bensel