2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 First Drive

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  • Pricing & Specs
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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class SUV

(2.0L 4-cyl. Turbo AWD)
  • 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

    2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

    If you're not keen on the rakish looks of the CLA sedan, the new GLA crossover offers an alternative with all the same features. | February 07, 2014

40 Photos

A Small, Capable Crossover From Germany

Mercedes-Benz has been slow to bring a truly compact crossover to its lineup, leaving the door open for its premium-brand rivals in one of the fastest growing market segments in recent years.

While Land Rover has profited greatly from the success of its entry-level Evoque and BMW has seen the X1 enjoy strong sales in key markets, Mercedes-Benz and its dealers have been left with only the stockier GLK sport-utility.

But the waiting for Mercedes-Benz has now come to an end. With the launch of the new 2015 GLA, Mercedes finally has an even more compact SUV that promises sharp handling, four-cylinder efficiency and striking looks in an affordable package.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

How Big Is This Compact Crossover?
First revealed at the Frankfurt auto show last year, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA is a high-riding sister model to the recently introduced CLA sedan. Mercedes-Benz describes the GLA as an SUV, even going so far to suggest that it plays in the same league as the larger GLK-, M-, GL- and G-Class models. But with a five-door hatchback body and limited ground clearance, it is more crossover than true sport-utility.

It is interesting to note the differences in size between the Mercedes-Benz GLA and its premium brand rivals. With a length of 173.9 inches, width of 71 inches and height of 58.8 inches, the GLA is 3.5 inches longer, yet 3.8 inches narrower and 5.2 inches lower than the Range Rover Evoque.

That last measurement depends on which suspension you choose, however, as there are three available: Sport with 6.1 inches of ground clearance, Comfort with 6.7 inches of ground clearance or an Off-Road arrangement offering a generous 8 inches of ground clearance. Of the three, it is the latter that suits the GLA the best, providing a butch stance that separates it even further from its CLA sibling.

The GLA will be sold with the same choice of turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engines offered in the CLA sedan. They deliver 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque in the GLA250 4Matic and 355 hp and 332 lb-ft in the performance-oriented GLA45 AMG 4Matic.

Both engines are mated to a standard seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles as standard. Initial models will be all-wheel drive only, although Mercedes-Benz plans to add a cheaper front-wheel-drive GLA250 to its North American lineup in early 2015.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Does It Drive Like a Hatchback or an SUV?
We spent our time behind the wheel of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic, as it's expected to be the volume seller in the U.S. Predictably, its on-road character more closely resembles that of a conventional hatchback than a typical go-anywhere SUV.

On the open road, the new Mercedes-Benz delivers convincing agility and a much smoother ride than the more inherently sporting CLA250 4Matic sedan. Both vehicles share the same basic suspension design that consists of MacPherson struts in front and a multilink suspension in back.

The electromechanical steering is engagingly direct if a little heavily in feel away from center, and despite the added ride height there is excellent body control with only a limited amount of lean on more challenging roads. Its relatively tight turning circle of 36 feet proves well suited to the cut and thrust of urban driving.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

The Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Feels Strong
While the engine in the GLA250 lacks the outright firepower of the GLA45 AMG 4Matic's more heavily tuned unit, it nevertheless possesses a solid amount of low-end torque. This imbues it with a satisfying user-friendly nature, as it feels energetic when pulling away from traffic lights.

The innate flexibility to the delivery allows you to call up taller gears via the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for truly relaxed highway cruising, even at moderate revs. It is also nicely refined, with subdued aural qualities until you are well on the way to its 6,500-rpm limit.

With a claimed 0-62-mph time of 6.4 seconds, the GLA250 4Matic accelerates with greater vigor than the Land Rover Evoque. At 143 mph, the new Mercedes-Benz also boasts a higher top speed than the stylish Range Rover. There are no official EPA mileage estimates for the GLA250 yet, but the CLA250 is rated at 30 mpg in combined driving.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

It Can Go Off-Road If You Want
While it is doubtful that many potential customers are ever likely to experience the full extent of the GLA's off-road capabilities, it is worth noting that the new junior Mercedes-Benz can deliver away from the blacktop given the right options.

We're not talking about the low-slung GLA45 AMG 4Matic model here, but the GLA250 4Matic with the optional off-road package that will be made available in the U.S.

It adds standard 17-inch wheels fitted with taller all-weather tires, a hill descent function that automatically applies the brakes on steep descents and the ability to send up to 100 percent of its power to either the front or rear wheels. The suspension is also recalibrated to deliver a respectable 8 inches of ground clearance, which makes the GLA look less like a hatchback and more like a capable SUV.

We tried it on some rocky terrain and it happily traverses trails and loose gravel roads without feeling overly fragile or vulnerable. Whether you like it for its looks or its capabilities, the GLA fitted with the off-road package is uniquely appealing.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

Front Seat Feels Good, Backseat Is Tight
Performance aside, the GLA serves up a rich and well-appointed cabin. The uniquely styled dashboard fascia and trim materials are on par with those of the CLA sedan in terms of quality.

An elevated driving position provides excellent forward visibility, although the shallow angle of the tailgate impedes the view out back. But while there is a lot to like about the forward section of the cabin, the new entry-level Mercedes-Benz SUV lacks for space in the rear in comparison to its premium brand rivals.

Small rear door apertures impede entry to the rear, while the curvature of the roof compromises the headroom of occupants sitting in back. Trunk space measures 14.9 cubic feet — some 4.5 cubes less than the Range Rover Evoque but a couple cubic feet more than the CLA sedan. Unfortunately the liftover is set quite high, making it a chore to load heavy luggage.

A Compelling Competitor
If the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA were trying to go it alone as the sole entry-level vehicle for Mercedes-Benz, its prospects might not be so bright. But the fact that it's paired with the slightly smaller and sportier CLA sedan makes the GLA an interesting alternative.

It adds more cargo space, a higher seating position for better visibility and even some rough road ability if you need it. Not bad considering it has the same footprint, similar styling and should likely deliver equivalent mileage numbers.

Mercedes-Benz has yet to officially announce pricing for the GLA. However, North American officials suggest it will boast similar sticker prices to the CLA, which starts at $30,825 in CLA250 4Matic form.

Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.

Most Recommended Comments

By cjasis
on 02/10/14
1:30 PM PST

Holy smokes that thing is FUGLY! Maybe I missed it but 8 pages of pictures but not one shot of the cargo area or the back seat?

Recommend  (16) (27)

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By marcos9
on 02/10/14
10:08 AM PST

My goodness will auto mfg stop it with "compact crossovers" already and just make a damn good sport wagon. How many people drive all these crossovers and SUVs on anything other than pavement? Maybe .5%?

Recommend  (14) (18)

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