The wraps have just come off the all-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class prior to its public debut next month at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The fifth and smallest member of M-B's prolific SUV/crossover clan, the new GLA-Class matches style with capability and is based on the same "MFA" modular architecture that underpins the automaker's A-Class/B-Class in Europe as well as the new 2014 M-B CLA-Class sedan that goes on sale here later this year.

The production version of the 2015 GLA-Class retains most of the basic styling cues seen in the GLA Concept that was unveiled at the Shanghai Auto Show in April. In creating the package, M-B design chief Gorden Wagener aimed to create a look that was both traditional and progressive but also embodied a uniquely youthful character. The GLA's boldly contoured yet aerodynamically efficient bodywork is complemented by edgy but elegantly rendered front/rear fascias, a low greenhouse, and prominently flared fender arches filled with a standard 18-inch wheel/tire package or optional 19-inch upgrade. In addition to numerous visible wind-cheating details -- from the shape of its mirror housings and taillamp lenses to a subtle but effective liftgate spoiler and rear diffuser -- the profile of the GLA-Class has been further streamlined through the use of various hidden air-channeling devices that include an array of underbody fairings.

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The young-and-cool persona of this new compact SUV carries over to its passenger compartment, starting with a dash design that, save for GLA-specific wood or aluminum trim finishes, is a virtual clone of the one in the new CLA-Class. Beyond the GLA's leather-wrapped, 3-spoke multifunction steering wheel is an instrument cluster that matches analog main gauges with digital ancillary readouts, while a large multimedia display screen positioned high in the center of the dash works in concert with the GLA's various infotainment systems, including the standard mbrace2 connectivity services and optional COMAND telematics. Like other Mercedes offerings, the GLA-Class will be available with M-B-Tex or optional leather upholstery in a variety of colors, with standard buckets or more aggressively bolstered sport seats up front. The GLA's aft quarters feature a belted-for-three split rear bench with flat-folding seatbacks. At the rear, its large liftgate teams with a low sill height to ease cargo loading chores.

The 2015 GLA-Class will share all of its key powertrain elements with the A-Class/CLA-Class. That includes the CLA 250's 2.0-liter turbocharged/direct-injected 4-cylinder engine that cranks out 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and a 7-speed (DCT) dual-clutch automatic transmission. In addition to standard front-wheel drive, the GLA also will offer M-B's all-new lightweight and super-efficient 4Matic system specifically designed for vehicles with a transversely-mounted engine. Opting for this sophisticated all-wheel-drive setup also nets Downhill Speed Regulation control that uses a variety of engine/transmission/brake inputs to maintain a safe pace on challenging grades as well as a dedicated "off-road" transmission mode that tweaks the throttle and shiftpoint mapping to optimize the GLA's traction and handling on loose surfaces.

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Like all M-B vehicles, the new GLA-Class will come with a comprehensive array of standard safety systems highlighted by Attention Assist drowsiness detection and M-B's radar-based Collision Prevention Assist with adaptive Brake Assist that can help protect against impacts from as low as 4 mph. Other available safety upgrades include Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control, Collision Prevention Assist Plus all-speed autonomous braking capability, Blind Spot and Lane Keeping Assist and Parktronic with optional Park Assist. In addition to Sport and Driver Assistance Packages, the new GLA-Class also will be available with a power liftgate and Panorama sunroof.

While Mercedes has not yet released pricing for any GLA-Class model, it has confirmed that the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic will be the first to reach showrooms here when it goes on sale in fall 2014 and takes on rivals like the Acura RDX, BMW X1 and upcoming Lincoln MKC. The front-drive 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 is set to make U.S. debut in early 2015. No word yet on any arrival date for a performance version of this classy crossover, although it's believed that a CLA45 AMG powered by the same 355-horse engine used in the CLA45 AMG Sedan is in the pipeline.

Other Compact Sport Utility/Crossover Vehicle Happenings...

BMW Concept X4 sets the stage for its next Sports Activity Vehicle 

The Honda Fit gets a full redesign for 2015

The Lincoln MKC Concept previews a new luxury crossover coming in 2014


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