The GLA-class is the smallest SUV manufactured by the German brand; it comes in a variety of colours and prices. But this particular version isn't like the rest of the group, notably, with a handcrafted turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a base price for the AMG about $20,000 more than the regular GLA. Our test model was manufactured at the Rastatt plant in Germany and has an MSRP of $76,750.
The first generation of the compact SUV lacked a bit of the flair and luxury you would expect from a Mercedes-Benz product. This 2021 AMG GLA 45 corrects this feeling with an updated sporty and premium design, especially with the MANUFAKTUR Mountain Grey Magno, which is the matte colour. Even the 21-inch wheels were matte. The front grille is bolder than the last generation, but we were disappointed that our test model didn't have the optional AMG Aerodynamics Package with the cool rear wing. One might say that it makes the car less flashy, and we wouldn't argue against that either. Overall, the GLA is one of the best-looking vehicles in the compact SUV world.
Inside the second generation, you can see Mercedes' improvements to class up the interior on the new GLA. We don't get tired of the new MBUX system. Both the gauge cluster and infotainment system are part of this dual-screen setup, and both of them are configurable effortlessly. The screen in front of the driver is very large. It can display different information such as a trip odometer, G-meter, map of your surroundings, even a graphic of a car coasting to the gas pump to illustrate the range remaining. You can change the information displayed with the square button on each side of the steering wheel. This setup is currently one of the best in the car industry.
The seats have good lateral bolstering to help the driver stay in place. They are perfectly adapted to the spirited driving experience expected from this kind of vehicle. The steering wheel also has a sporty feeling with the combination of Nappa leather and microsuede. The rest of the interior is roomy; you can seat 4 adults in the vehicle. The ISOFIX ports are clearly marked and easy to reach, making this beast also practical. Trunk space is adequate; the new generation GLA is still a compact SUV. You can go grocery shopping trouble-free, but you can upgrade to the GLC, which is also offered in an AMG version if you need more space.
We are now getting to the icing on the cake, unleashing the beast! The numbers on the AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ are pretty special: 382 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, electronically-limited top speed of 250 kph, and an acceleration time of about 4.3 seconds; this vehicle is worthy of the famous three letters associated with performance for two decades now. The power comes from a handcrafted turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder engine combined with a dual-clutch 8-speed transmission; this compact vehicle is a missile waiting to launch when you engage the sport+ drive mode. The all-wheel-drive system does a great job of keeping the vehicle stable on hard acceleration; you reach illegal speeds very fast, so you have to monitor the speedometer closely. This small SUV is also very stable; hard cornering is thrilling and safe with the AMG sport suspension that helps the driver maneuver the vehicle. The exhaust is glorious, the roaring is a pleasure for the ears, and you can even make it louder or quieter depending on whether you want to wake up the neighbours or not. Finally, braking is also efficient, braking distances are more than reasonable, and it doesn't fade even in intense situations.
On a more reasonable note, when you put the vehicle in comfort mode, it does feel like a tamed beast. The ride is smooth, you don't feel the bumps as much as you would in a regular GLA, and you still get the luxurious experience you expected when you buy a Mercedes product. The car is agile, making it easy to park in tight spaces. They made excellent in keeping the cabin quiet while allowing the engine rumble in when you want to hear it. You can change the driving parameters quickly with a knob on the steering wheel or the DYNAMIC toggle on the center console, depending on the preference at the moment. The drive modes available are Comfort, Slippery, Sport, Sport+, and Individual. A quick word on fuel consumption, it's a mixed bag. You can easily achieve 7.9L/100km on the highway, better than what the German automaker announces (8.8). Although in the city, you will be close to 14L/100km, worse than the official figure (11.6). Combined highway-city, you can expect an average of about 11-11.5L/100km, pretty good when you consider the level of performance with this SUV.
The GLA-class from Mercedes is now an important competitor in the entry-level SUV category; this AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ is miles ahead in performance. Nothing in this segment comes close in terms of the sheer amount of fun you get behind the wheel and in pricing; almost 80 thousand dollars for this small vehicle is a considerable amount of money. It is still the cheapest SUV to offer a handcrafted engine and quality interior. So it may be worth that kind of money if you want the extraordinary performance but don't need extra interior room.