Sometimes it is worth going the extra mile to get under the skin of a car as then only will you get to know everything. Now when the car in question is the new Mercedes-Benz GLA we just had to put in as much driving as possible to decipher this new Merc SUV.
Fast forward to a crisp Thursday morning and I have a box fresh GLA in front of me. Having worked till late last night my bleary eyes welcome the sight of this handsome crossover as I do not need caffeine anymore with the stunning lines of the GLA.
Park the GLA side by side along with the other Merc SUVs and the differences could not be more obvious. Instead of the typical SUV styling cues Mercedes has taken the supermodel we know as the A-Class as the base and grafted on some rugged styling bits with the end result being a handsome crossover beating its rivals for presence by a mile.
It still looks low and very wide from the rear but the GLA sports some important changes. First of all the 183 mm ground clearance makes it a lot more practical than the A-Class and as we learnt on our long drive- it makes the GLA perfect to tackle all bad roads. Then you see the 18 inch alloys, all that cladding, roof rails, massive wheel-arches and scruff plate which round the SUV look.
With a length of 4417mm the GLA is not big but oozes presence thanks to the aforementioned styling details and having the swoopy, curvacious look of the A-Class including the diamond pattern grille and the "dropping line" which emerges at the headlamp and extends to the rear wheel arch.
By the time I am finished having had a proper look at the GLA I am late and have to cover some serious ground. So I get in twist the key and set off. It is only when encountering the first traffic jam that I have a chance to have a proper look at the GLA cabin. It is basically the same high quality cabin of the A-Class dripping with exquisite details.
We love the sporty steering, instruments and the air vents which have galvanized bezels around them matching the look of the skid plate and side sill panels. Differences emerge in the driving position which is higher than the A-Class and provides a better view of the road ahead from behind the wheel. It is more roomy at the back as well with the beige colour (black is also an option for the Sport variant) ARTICO leather and the massive panoramic glass rear section no doubt helping matters.
However legroom and shoulder room is a bit tight and it is best suited for two passengers only. The 421 litre boot space is hampered by the space saver sitting there but it can be extended to 1235 litres with the 60:40 split rear seats dropped down.
As expected equipment levels are generous with 14.7 cm screen having various funtions of the car which can be accessed via a controller on the centre console. The feature list comprises of navigation, reversing camera (you need it!), Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system, panoramic sunroof, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring system along with Various Driver Assistance Systems like Hill start assist, ESP, ASR, BAS.
During the drive it was apparent that the petrol GLA with the 181 bhp 2.0 turbo-petrol is indeed the driver focused choice. The 0-100 km/h time of 7.6 secs only confirm that point. It is faster than the diesel and is also so much more fun than the petrol A-Class. Performance delivery is strong and it gathers speed rather well plus it sounds good too! The 7-speed DCT does a decent job for most of the time and only when under hard driving that you wish it was a tad more responsive.
The GLA in India is only available in front wheel drive while the four-wheel drive GLA will come soon in form of the GLA45 AMG. Yet despite that the GLA actually did very well off-road even surprising us. For photography purposes we took it through a small off-road track and it came out with flying colours.
The ride of the GLA is better than the A-Class but still is a bit firm and it does get bouncy. Handling wise the added ground clearance has done nothing to stem the fun factor as there is hardly any roll and we found ourselves piling high speeds into each corner with the GLA handling it with ease. In the city the compact size and light steering also make the GLA effortless to drive.
Priced at Rs 36 lakh the petrol GLA strikes a unique combination of style, performance and added practicality and it is our engine of choice in the GLA range even though the diesel is more economical. Without a doubt it has more flair than its rivals and those looks will be enough for many to sign that cheque. However discover more and the wide array of talents that the GLA has is what ultimately wins us over.