After showing the Concept GLA a few months ago, Mercedes is ready to drive the real thing to market. It has detailed its newest SUV ahead of its official world premiere at next month's Frankfurt Motor Show. The GLA-Class benefits from some of Mercedes' latest SUV tech, earning its place as the fifth SUV model line in the Mercedes stables.
Mercedes sings the same tune about a "multi-talented" small SUV that other manufacturers also love to sing. It says that the GLA can take on your everyday commuting needs while remaining "robust enough for off-road excursions." We're quite sure the former is true, but we're guessing you might want to stick with the G-Class, particularly the beastly six-wheeled G, if you plan to do much of the latter.
The GLA-Class looks a lot like the sporty, ruggedized A-Class that it is. It shares its platform with the A-Class hatchback and CLA-Class four-door coupe. Though the GLA-Class is Mercedes' smallest SUV by more than 4 in (10 cm) of length, it earns some "utility" cred with folding rear seats, versatile cargo loading underpinned by a wide tailgate, and standard chrome roof rails. The new model is also the first to be available with the newest 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system, which has fully variable torque distribution.
We always love meaningless, abstract auto manufacturer hyperbole, and Mercedes does it as well as anyone. In the case of the new GLA-Class, Mercedes says that we're looking at an exercise in "sensual clarity as an expression of modern luxury." If you're struggling to make heads or tails of that, think of it as "clear contours and smooth surfaces that communicate both high-tech sophistication as well as emotional appeal."
Back to meaningful, plain English, what we have is a crossover with a cabin that sweeps back from a sculpted hood and upright front-end. The front-end lets you know exactly what clan the GLA belongs to by way of a large Mercedes symbol flanked by wing-like louvers. Along the sides, the GLA-Class shares the upper and lower brush-like strokes of the CLA and A-Class. The raised body, large wheel arches and rear skid plate give it a more rugged look than its A line siblings.
Like the CLA-Class, the GLA was designed to offer optimized aerodynamics. Mercedes says that it sits at the head of its class in aerodynamic efficiency, using a variety of measures, including a rear roof spoiler, aero-optimized mirror housings, extensive underbody paneling and front bumper seals. As a result of this attention to airflow, the GLA will return an estimated 37 miles per gallon of gas.
The engine driving those 37 mpgs is Mercedes' 208-hp 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder, which partners up with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Efficiency optimizing technologies like an ECO start-stop system, direct injection and the aforementioned turbocharging contribute to the GLA's fuel economy expectations. The turbo four churns out 258 lb-ft of torque and pushes the GLA to 60 mph (96.5 km/h) in 6.4 seconds.
The initial US market GLA-Class, due in dealerships next year, will be the GLA250 4Matic. The front-wheel-drive GLA250 will follow in 2015.
The newest iteration of 4Matic all-wheel drive, available for the first time on the GLA, includes a rear-axle power take-off integrated into the gearbox and a rear-axle gear with integrated electrohydraulic multi-disc clutch. The new system varies torque distribution between the front and rear axles, providing what Mercedes classifies as better grip, safety and handling.
Working with the 4Matic to provide the best handling and stability in variable conditions are a push-button Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) system and off-road transmission mode. The DSR system helps the driver keep the vehicle under control by maintaining a slow, driver-selected speed when descending steep, dicey hills and mountains. The system maintains control of the speed through the engine, transmission and intermittent braking. The off-road transmission setting optimizes shifting and acceleration for driving in shifty, dirt-road-type conditions.
Other drive components of interest include the standard radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive braking, standard Attention Assist drowsiness detection system, McPherson front suspension, independent multi-link rear suspension, electromechanical steering with ESP assist functions, and available Parktronic parking assist system.
While the GLA has a lot of mechanicals at work getting you safely and efficiently from point A to B, occupants won't notice them any more than necessary thanks to a cabin optimized for sealing out external noise. Multi-layer door sealing, rigid window frames and low A pillars contribute to the quiet interior.
Inside that sealed cabin, driver and passengers will find a selection of materials and details that Mercedes says deliver a "cool touch" effect. A central freestanding display provides multimedia and navigation capabilities supported by Mbrace2 connectivity, which connects seamlessly with your smartphone. The display can also double as an off-road read-out, showing information like steering angle, off-road transmission mode, gradient and roll angle.
Before arriving in US showrooms in the latter half of 2014, the GLA-Class will make its world debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show next month. Mercedes has not yet announced pricing.
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