Mercís Latest GLA Ups Youthful Appeal

By Lee Pang Seng @ Leeps

MERCEDES-Benz’s latest GLA range maintains the strong momentum the German carmaker had achieved in expanding its SUV (sport utility vehicle) range. As the entry-level model, the GLA range does not fall short in projecting the premium class that it belongs to. And the positive support it has received in Malaysia has seen to the GLA being locally assembled.

Since the target buyer is more likely the younger set with a more outgoing lifestyle, the latest GLA is styled to look less formal and staid. This design exercise has taken root quite a while ago as Mercedes obviously eyes the need to expand beyond the well-heeled older set. And as the latest GLA clearly revealed, that strategy is working nicely.

There is more flash and dash in its body design details that lean towards younger tastes such as the aggressive eagle eyes that shape the front headlamps and the loud nose embellishment carrying the three-pointed star on the mesh grille. This is complemented by the bold outline of the bumper that emphasised the prominent under air scoop.

It’s an interesting ‘face’ that borders on being cherubic, though not quite angelic, rather than a wrinkled one. We believe the younger folks from well-heeled families would feel right at home driving the GLA, given this youthful appeal.

We had the more powerful GLA250 AMG Line for a weekend - the other model being the GLA200 Progressive Line - and there is plenty of oomph to ruffle young feathers as well. And yet, the GLA had all the interior flexibility expected of an SUV to meet bulky transport needs should they ever arise.

We enjoyed both the extra horses and advantage if the flexible interior during that short acquaintance. If turbo power doesn’t impress you, nothing would. Powering the GLA250 is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine (1991cc) that delivers 165kW (224hp) at 5500rpm and lots of torque at 350Nm that develops early at 1800rpm and holds toll 4000rpm.

As we picked up speed strongly taking off from the traffic lights, we could feel the impressive 0-100km/h acceleration performance of 6.9 seconds. This strong and highly useable torque was also enjoyed in quick overtaking manoeuvres. We did short stints on highway driving but academically, the GLA250 would do a 240km/h top speed should you wish to risk the speed camera.

Coupled with the 8G-DCT eight-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, the torquey engine is easy to lived with in urban traffic conditions. With the GLA250 probably tipping the scales upwards of 1500kg, the strong torque available early in engine delivery made moving around pretty effortless.

We believed that with prudent driving, one could enjoy good fuel mileage too as the engine worked rather lazily below 2000rpm cruising at the legal highway speed of 110km/h. But that turbo punch was a bit too tempting sometimes, especially when the road opened up and we couldn’t resist putting a bit more weight on the sporty metal accelerator pedal to ‘fly’ past all and sundry, if only for a brief moment of pleasure.

We liked the fact that the GLA250 came with a lowered ‘Comfort’ suspension and Direct-Steer system. The former suggests a lower and dynamically tuned suspension to match its sporty AMG overtones that we enjoyed while driving the GLA250 through our favourite winding roads. Body lean was nicely checked and steering was sharp enough for us to drive through tight corners with some abandon.

We didn’t have to use the galvanised steering wheel paddle shifts and simply relied on the ‘intelligent’ selection of gears for the winding road drive. As we have learnt in recent years, modern automatic transmissions are ‘smart’ and could learn from accelerator and engine inputs to select the proper gear for a reasonably quick drive under such circumstances.

Of course, one could choose the gears accordingly via the paddle shifters but with eight to choose in the GLA, we decided to let the automatic transmission do all the work. So far, this has not let us down. It’s only when we wanted to push the vehicle really hard as in driving on a race circuit that we select the gears manually or put the automatic transmission in Sport or Super Sport mode, if it is available.

It comes with 19-inch alloy wheels of a five twin-spoke deign and the tyres fitted as standard on the GLA250 were Continental EcoContact6 tyres of the size 235/50 WR19. They combined well with the lowered suspension to give a comfortable ride over badly patched road surfaces, rumble strips, potholes and speedbumps. Deep ruts or ridges did bring out quite a hard thump though but overall, we had few complaints here.

The flash and dash note is pretty obvious too when you get into the GLA250. The round air vents on the dashboard – three in the centre area and one each on the extreme ends - drew our eyes immediately. In reflective chrome, each vent looked like a turbine and the glittering effect was hard to miss.

And there is that long fully digital multi-info display, incorporating the meters that front the driver. This design theme is also found in other Mercedes-Benz models and is actually a two-in-one panel. The multi-info section at the centre section of the dashboard is a touchscreen unit while the display for the meters section for the driver is selected via controls on the steering wheel.

For the latter, we didn’t quite figure out how to change the meter display to indicate road and engine speed, rather than lived with (albeit temporarily) the Eco display and mileage indicator. We only found out on returning the vehicle to Mercedes-Benz Malaysia that we had to ‘slide’ a seemingly innocuous button on the steering wheel to get that done!

As we have an older Mercedes-Benz C200 in our garage that wasn’t up to date with these new electronic gizmos, we still have plenty to learn on how to access the respective functions. Generally, controls for all the other areas – music and air-conditioning – were quickly learnt and used to select what we preferred.

We also needed to carry some heavy stuff during the weekend and the extra space that we wanted was easily obtained. The rear seatrests, which were split 40:20:40, were easy to fold away as in most SUVs. There is a release button on the seat shoulder and we had enough room in the extended space to meet our needs that weekend. And if we had removed the rear bar with the fixed cover, we could carry taller items too. It is just as easy to remove and refit the item.

The locally assembled GLA range had just about the same level of equipment as the imported models that were introduced earlier. This included the full suite of passive and active safety systems that included the Active Brake Assist, Blind Spot assist, rear seat belt status indicator and tyre pressure monitoring system.

You get all that at about RM40k cheaper and for the GLA250 AMG Line, the price on the road without insurance but with 5-per cent sales tax exemption (till June 2022) is RM266,164.84. In July, you would have to pay an additional RM12k; so it’s good time now to check out the outgoing and spirited GLA range.

Price list here
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 AMG Pricelist.pdf