Mercedes GLA45 AMG: Driven

Even in a world where apparently every nook and cranny of niche motoring is catered for, the Mercedes GLA45 AMG appears an odd one. It surely won't be bought for any off-road ability (indeed the standard GLA's off-road extras aren't available), plus it's heavier, thirstier and slower than the AMG A-Class. And yet it could be the better car. Here goes ...

Drives just like an A45. No, really
Drives just like an A45. No, really
For starters, and purely subjectively, it has more visual appeal than the A-Class. If the GLA had been badged along the lines of an A-Class Allroad or suchlike it would be entirely believable. It really doesn't sit an awful lot higher than the hatch which, combined with the AMG body addenda and (optional) 20-inch wheels, gives it some presence and stature lacking from the A45. Personally, the grey car on black wheels looked superb.

Those wheels dominate first impressions on the road too, but for entirely positive reasons. A GLA on 20s rides better than an A45 on 18s, at least on this testing. It's still firm but fractionally less so, attributable to the additional travel of the GLA's suspension and a slightly softer set-up. Dictated by its remit as the more family-oriented 45 AMG model, it actually offers a preferable dynamic experience.

Best of the rest?
That's because the tweaks are subtle, with no significant drawback when driving hard. That same eagerness, agility and ruthless composure that characterises the A45 has transferred across to the GLA near perfectly. Perhaps due to the heavier wheels it feels like there's some additional weight to the steering as well which is great for placing the fairly bluff nose. The GLA45 remains very nearly as engaging to drive fast as the A-Class but with an additional layer of refinement. Brilliant, right?

Looks better too. Maybe
Looks better too. Maybe
Sort of. Turbo lag was more evident than in the A45 and even when beyond 3,000rpm, it seemed to lack the A45's rabid acceleration. It wasn't until the last few hundred rpm that it ever felt 360hp. And this despite only weighing "around 40kg" more than the 1,555kg A-Class (there isn't an official kerbweight yet).

Even more confusingly, an ostensibly identical Edition 1 felt much keener from 2,500rpm onwards despite still being afflicted by a low-rev lethargy. The, erm, distinctive Edition 1 won't be offered in the UK but the individual options aside from the body kit (AMG Performance exhaust, suspension and wheels) will be.

Snap, crackle and pop
There was little discernable difference on the suspension despite the tweaked springs and dampers reputedly increasing overall stiffness by around 20 per cent. We'd save the cash there as the standard set-up feels great and instead plump for the exhaust; the regular GLA45 is actually a tad quieter and less raucous than the A/CLA. The performance exhaust adds a whole heap of extra snap, crackle and pop from behind should you wish. It could be a hard one to refuse...

Decent ride on 20s a surprise
Decent ride on 20s a surprise
For some perspective on the AMG's ability, a brief drive in the GLA200 CDI manual proved a lot. Of course there was the obvious performance difference, but 45's ride was actually more composed and consequently made it more relaxing on the motorway. The steering's greater sense of connection to the front wheels also became patently clear, the diesel's rim completely numb by contrast. Perhaps not a relevant comparison, but revealing all the same.

The roads used for the GLA launch were just glorious (Dream Drive coming soon, for sure) but they served to highlight (again) the frustrating delay in downchanges that can occur with the 7G-DCT Speedshift 'box. Charging through third gear into hairpins the brakes are great but just where second is needed to lend some engine braking the shift never materialises; the car trundles into the bend in third and the change nearly always comes too late. Sometimes it will drop a gear perfectly, but never frequently enough. The lag perhaps drew greater attention to the transmission's deficiencies too.

360hp turbo only has another 40kg to shift
360hp turbo only has another 40kg to shift
All your bases
But that shouldn't sound like concluding on the GLA45 negatively as it's a fantastic car. It offers all that is so enjoyable about the A45 (at least the Edition 1 car did) with an additional level of compliance and a little more practicality with no significant dynamic drawback.

There is a slight downer to finish on though. The GLA is expected to cost about £1,000 more than the equivalent A-Class, but that premium will be nearer £5K for the '45 AMG with a predicted price of £42-45,000 when it arrives in the UK this summer. From this experience, the GLA is preferable to the A-Class even if everything suggested it shouldn't be, but not by enough to warrant that sort of price. At closer to £40K it would be much closer to call but at much more it could price itself out of consideration, capable and likeable though it is.

1,991cc 4-cyl turbo
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 332@2,250-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 4.8 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
MPG: 37.6 (NEDC combined)
CO2: 175g/km
Price: £42-£45,000 (estimate, on sale June)

P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (44) Join the discussion on the forum

  • TheBigUnit 19 Feb 2014

    I agree on the subject of looks. It is certainly the best proportioned of all the new small Mercs.

  • dukebox9reg 19 Feb 2014

    Looks one of the better new Mercs to come out but I still prefer the Evoque to this.

    Heard an A45AMG in full track attack at Mercedes World and the engine does sound cracking for a 4 pot flat out. Especially the shotgun blast noises on full bore up shifts.

  • Oddball RS 19 Feb 2014

    I hope they have sorted the rabid wind and road noise from around the front doors, and I wish the centre console wasn't so 'low rent'

  • Johnnytheboy 19 Feb 2014

    It really isn't that different looking from the A Class is it?

  • CRB14 19 Feb 2014

    I think i'd be putting that sort of money on a Macan.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment