A stupidly fast, hatchback sized, SUV with barely any off road ability? Something we the public never really asked for. However it is a question none the less that Audi and Porsche have already answered with the SQ3 and Macan. So in a bid to not look like slackers Mercedes this year will wade into battle with their latest niche filling exercise, say hello to the Mercedes Benz GLA 45 AMG.
Put simply the GLA is basically a fatter, higher riding A-Class and this new version is just the latest car in the A family to be hit with the AMG tuning stick. On paper this is good, it gets the 2 litre, four cylinder, turbo charged engine from the smaller A45 AMG. Which if you hadn’t heard is the world’s most powerful production four cylinder. It makes 355bhp, 450Nm of torque and is capable of propelling the GLA to 62mph in 4.8secs, and then onto a limited 155mph. Economy in 2014 is also vital and the AMG’s astounding little engine is rather good at this too. Mercedes claim a combined 36.7mpg and 175g/km of CO2. All very impressive figures which when you think about are utterly ridiculous given that the GLA is basically a soft roader for the school run. Oddly though despite the urge to dislike the GLA the figures do add a certain appeal, I mean this unlikely looking machine is as near as makes no difference as fast as a late 90’s Ferrari 355!
Transmission and drive chain are also unchanged from the smaller A45, with a 7 speed DCT gearbox helping to deliver power to all 4 wheels. There are also a number of engine modes available. From the sensible “Controlled Efficiency” for maximum green credentials to the absurd “Sport” mode featuring Race Start, which is launch control in Mercedes speak. Again if the premise of this car wasn’t weird enough, fitting it with launch control just seems utterly pointless. Though weirdly again I’m drawn to the absurdity of this feature too. Who wouldn’t want to build up the revs and launch control away from the Waitrose car park in a high riding hatchback if they had the choice?
Mercedes however appear to have created a whole bunch of problems for themselves by AMG’ing the GLA. Namely trying to make the high riding softly sprung GLA handle well. Mercedes explain at great length the MacPherson front axle set up on GLA 45 with its stiffer steering knuckles and improved elastokinematic’s, don’t ask what that actually means but they mention it a lot. The car also gets specially developed springs/dampers and anti-roll bars, designed to reduce pitch, dive, and body roll during acceleration, braking, and cornering. I get the distinct impression a lot of money was spent developing the suspension for this car, despite it being a car that never really needed to exist. Clearly though the marketing men think the number they’ll sell will recoup that cash so next AMG turned their attention to the aesthetics.
Despite the very niche brief for this car Merc and AMG, I think, have made quite a handsome beast. I was already a fan of the A-Class’s appearance and bulking it up has only enhanced what was already a good looking hatchback. The car has real presence, despite its height it manages to look low and wide. That big trademark Mercedes grill painted matte titanium grey with AMG lettering, combined with those big bi-xenon headlights help with the wideness. While the combination of narrow glass, creases running along the doors and yet more matte titanium sill inserts help to visually lower the car, making it less slab sided. Oh and those bonnet bulges are a nice touch too.
Optional 20 inch wheels are the standout feature for me though; they totally fill the large wheel arches. On the move the GLA seems to hunker down even more, I think it looks like a giant Hot Wheels toy with all the key elements you expect a car to have pumped up for visual affect, this is a good thing. Round the back the pumping up continues, those rear lights are massive and the rear diffuser although totally useless from an aerodynamic standpoint looks good with the exhausts incorporated either side. See the GLA in motion here.
On the inside buyers can expect the usual Mercedes level of quality with added AMG’ness. Leather sport seats come as standard with contrasting red stitching, there’s a sports steering wheel and enough brushed aluminium accents to fill a designer kitchen. All in the cabin looks clean, neat and uncluttered due to its relatively button free surfaces.
The Options List
Naturally, the options list for this car is massive. Buyers can spec an aero package, carbon fibre trim, fancy floor mats, big sportier seats and the all-important red seat belt and brake pad combo to name but a few. No prices have been announced yet but expect to pay around 40 thousand pounds although that’s before any of those options have been ticked.
All things considered the GLA is an impressive piece of kit that I have to admit I’m oddly attracted too. Maybe I admire it as a wonder of modern engineering, taking such a big thing and giving it genuine sporting intentions takes a lot of skill. Or maybe I like it because it is totally mad, uncalled for and appeals to my inner Hot Wheels loving child. Either way it’s the first micro niche filling car I’ve ever liked. Maybe over time we will actually start asking for these things?