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?
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...
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.
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.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLA45 AMG
Engine: 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)
Price: £42-£45,000 (estimate, on sale June)