2022 Mercedes GLA 35 AMG
Since the introduction of the original Ford Explorer over 30 years ago American families have been increasingly relying on SUVs for transportation. Not surprisingly, automotive manufacturers from everywhere have rushed to create SUVs to satisfy the seemingly unquenchable thirst for these types of vehicles. And it’s not stopping. Ten years ago it would have been hard to imagine an Aston Martin or Lamborghini SUV, and now we have those in addition to a Ferrari SUV expected soon.
While the success of the Explorer and other SUVs followed by the proliferation of many other SUV models was completely predictable, a related trend, the “SUV-ization” of cars was less easy to foresee.
It all started with the first Subaru Outback, introduced in 1995. Based on the Legacy wagon, the Outback combined tough guy styling elements—a roof rack, lots of lower body cladding, etc—and a slightly higher ride height to create a vehicle that looked like it could do most of what an SUV could off road. Thanks to that and ubiquitous TV commercials featuring the lovable pitchman Paul Hogan (aka Crocodile Dundee) the Outback became a hit.
Not long afterwards, other manufacturers launched similar cars—the Subaru Crosstrek, Audi Allroad, and Volvo Cross Country are just three examples—and now there are many to choose from.
Enter the Mercedes GLA, now in its second generation. The current GLA, based on the A-class car, looks quite SUV-ish, unlike the last one, which looked like some kind of large insect. The GLA’s styling isn’t as boxy as the (mechanically related) GLB, but the GLA is certainly trying hard to look like its big brothers the GLC and GLE.
Helping the cause are black plastic accents around the entire lower part of the body as well as aluminum roof rails, to which, presumably, active young professionals will attach ski- and bike-racks.
The inside of the GLA is standard Mercedes fare, albeit without the grandeur of the venerable S-class sedan. The prominent round air vents that I (and others) admire are there, as is a big rectangular screen that houses all of the gauges as well as many other functions. Mercedes is doing away with the two-screen way of doing things, and I applaud them for it.
The GLA comes in three flavors, the standard GLA250, the sportier GLA35 AMG, and loud-and-fast GLA45 AMG. Most customers will choose the first option, and I expect the last one to be very niche given its high price point and very extroverted personality, but the GLA35 AMG that I tested may end up being surprisingly popular.
In fact, I’d call that version the Goldilocks GLA. Happy to be better looking, quicker, and more fun than the base model but also less boisterous and in your face than the GLA45 AMG, the GLA35 AMG is a nice “tweener”.
No GLA is a sports car, though. My test vehicle was zippy and nimble around town, capable on B-roads, and good on the highway. But at no time did it exhibit BMW M-car-like handling or Lexus highway manners. I’d say the GLA35 AMG’s sweet spot is day to day driving: trips to work, the HEB, and your son’s baseball practice.
Of course, the GLA’s diminutive size will limit who and what you carry. It seats five, but only four will fit comfortably, and the two people who sit in the back seat shouldn’t be too tall due to headroom limitations. In addition, there’s not much cargo space behind the rear seats.
All GLAs are powered by 2.0liter turbocharged four-cylinder engines. The GLA250’s produces 221HP, the GLA35 AMG’s makes 302HP, and the big daddy GLA45 AMG puts out a prodigious 382HP (an astounding number for a four-cylinder engine).
Fuel economy is 25MPG city/34MPG highway for the GLA250, 23/29 for the GLA35 AMG, and 20/27 for the GLA45 AMG.
The GLA250 comes well equipped as standard—this is a Mercedes, after all—but AWD and numerous other doodads can be added as options. All GLA AMGs have standard AWD, by the way.
Pricing starts at $37,450 for the GLA250, $48,600 for the GLA35 AMG, and $56,000 for the GLA45 AMG. Options add to those numbers (considerably if you’re not careful), and in our microchip-constrained world discounts are hard to come by. As always, calling Phil Hornbeak and buying or leasing through the BCMS will get you the best deal possible.
The Mercedes GLA is a prime example of an “SUV-ized” car that combines a car-like driving experience with extra utility and capability. It’s small, fuel efficient, and comes with all the advantages that Mercedes ownership provides: luxurious interiors, well-engineered powertrains and suspensions, and superior dealers.