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5 things we learned in 5 hours with the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA
February 22, 2021 – 01:50 pm
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Straight off the plane and onto the breathtaking coastal roads of Southern Spain—not a bad way to tackle the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250. Sheer drops,
208 hp, and a telltale mountain of empty espresso cups did the heavy lifting against jetlag; fantastic views and fine weather did the rest. With only a
few hours to get to know Mercedes's new pocket ute, we set out to put as many miles under us as possible. Here are the biggest surprises from the drive.

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It's remarkably capable off-road

Equipped with hill descent control and tilt and roll gauges, the 4MATIC-equipped GLA happily trundled up steep grades and rocky riverbeds. It's not a
hardcore off-roader by any means, but its capabilities verge on overkill for the segment. Have no doubt that it'll survive the average family vacation in
the mountains.

With a right-rear wheel hanging in the air and the GLA220 CDI 4MATIC parked on a serious slope, I asked Prof. Dr. Thomas Weber (Mercedes-Benz board member as well as
R&D honcho) if he thought that engineering off-road ability onto a chassis shared by the CLA was a bigger challenge than sending it off to AMG for
performance tuning.

"Yes, maybe, " he laughed, and then eased the little diesel GLA onto the next obstacle.

"Chris Cantle"

Variety is the spice of life. So is diesel

While the lucky Europeans have several engine options, only the GLA250, with its 2.0-liter gasoline engine rated for 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, will be
available here in the States. We'll have the choice of AWD via 4MATIC starting this fall, or front-wheel drive starting in the spring of 2015. Good for an
estimated 7.1-second 0-60 time, the 2.0-liter turbocharged gas engine is a perfectly respectable mill, but we enjoyed the torquey diesel a little more. The
US market will have to create demand for the diesel powertrain in the aforementioned GLA220 CDI to come stateside.

Of course, if it's torque you're looking for, Mercedes will happily take your money for an AMG-tweaked GLA45.

It has a column shifter

Which is weird, because this is 2014. The sportier GLA45 has a handsome shifter plucked from the SL63 and mounted exactly where it ought to be.

Sadly, that column shifter isn't the only anachronism onboard the GLA. The lot of them will ship with the same seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that we
found irksome on the CLA. While the GLA250 exhibits a fantastic chassis and plenty of power, the transmission will often leave you waiting mid-corner while
it finds a gear to match your throttle input. Should you get impatient and stomp a little harder, doing so only sends the transmission searching for lower
gears. It's an annoying trait, one that stands out on an otherwise pleasant vehicle.

The proportions are just right

The GLA is surprisingly smaller than its sibling CLA. While the two share an identical wheelbase, the GLA stands about 3 inches taller and, at 173.9
inches in overall length, is a whopping 8.4 inches shorter than its stablemate. The extra height means rear passengers in the GLA have ample headroom,
which was sorely lacking in the coupe-ish CLA.

You want a small station wagon? This is your small station wagon

With that unexpected off-road ability, Mercedes is confidently branding the GLA as an SUV, and that's great. And then you stand next to a GLA, and it's small
and trim, and you remember how delightful it was over the road, and—hey, it's a station wagon.

Sometimes a nice car deserves to be a nice car and not a crossover or a small SUV. The GLA250 does so many car things well. Tracing along the Spanish coast,
the little Mercedes was happy to pass when the passing was good and quiet and refined when loafing through traffic. There's lots of room inside, a
handsome interior with loads of X-shaped vents to ensure your climate-controlled comfort, and a large monitor that sits proudly atop the center column.

A little push in the corners was all we could detect through a less-than-sensitive electronically-assisted steering rack, but that's just fine. These days,
we don't expect much more from a passenger car, and we can bask in the knowledge that AMG sorted out those steering issues in the performance-oriented

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250

  • Powertrain: 2.0 liter inline 4-cylinder, Direct Injection, Turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 208 @ 5500rpm
  • Torque: 258 lb./ft. @1250rpm
  • Drivetrain: 7-Speed Dual Clutch Transmission
  • 0-60 MPH: 7.1 seconds (mfr. est.)
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