By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
With compact-luxury crossover SUVs like the BMW X1 and Lexus NX roaming freely, it was only a matter of time before Mercedes-Benz jumped into the fray. With the 2016 GLA, MB has produced a sub-$35,000 compact-luxury crossover SUV that obliterates the field with its stunning good looks, powerful engine options and surprisingly roomy interior. Sharing its engines and underpinnings with the popular CLA sedan, the GLA250 and GLA45 AMG depart from the Audi A3, Land Rover Evoque and BMW X1 by creating a silhouette more wagon-like than SUV. As such, the GLA appeals more to driving enthusiasts with light off-road needs rather than the “outdoor lifestyle” crowd so over-represented in most marketing campaigns.
Love the look and feel of a wagon but not the stigma or limited availability? The 2016 GLA compact-crossover SUV from Mercedes-Benz is the perfect solution. Available all-wheel drive makes the GLA the perfect year-round companion, while the AMG version should satisfy the most demanding enthusiast.
For 2016, the GLA250 gains keyless start, dual-zone climate control, Dynamic Select drive modes and an upgraded infotainment system. Keyless Go is added to the Premium package, while the GLA45 AMG gains a new Dynamic Plus package option. The GLA’s rearview camera has been improved to provide a 180-degree viewing angle.
Mercedes-Benz’s 2016 GLA250 luxury-crossover SUV is the kind of vehicle that prompts fights over who gets the driver’s seat and who rides shotgun, and there’s even more to love when...
... it comes to the GLA45 AMG. The base GLA250’s 208-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder is plenty quick, delivering a zero-to-60-mph sprint just a hair over the 7-second mark. The GLA’s low center of gravity and well-engineered suspension help it hug the corners, and understeer is fairly predictable once the tire’s adhesion limits are broached. As good as the GLA250 is, it can’t hold a candle to the performance delivered by the AMG trim’s 355-horsepower engine and Dynamic Select suspension. Although performance is not as neck-snapping as some of MB’s larger AMG offerings, the GLA45 AMG can still sprint to 60 mph in less than five seconds, and the sound from the exhaust tips is like Mozart for motorheads.
DOWNHILL SPEED REGULATION
Although you probably won’t be taking the 2016 MB GLA250 to the Rubicon Trail, the standard Hill Descent Control is a nice feature to have when creeping down a snow-covered hill or the occasional dirt trail.
A panoramic sunroof can help open an otherwise claustrophobic cabin, but when fitted to a vehicle the size of Mercedes-Benz’s 2016 GLA compact-luxury SUV, it practically makes one feel like they’re driving a convertible.
Though the 2016 GLA luxury-crossover SUV from Mercedes-Benz feels somewhat coupe-like from the front seats (which is no accident – after all, it’s essentially based on the so-called 4-door- coupe format of the CLA), rear passengers are met with more generous headroom thanks to the GLA’s 3.5-inch-taller SUV profile. As such, this bubble-like greenhouse is bestowed with poplar, burled-walnut or aluminum trim options, which make it feel rather upscale in spite of its accessible price point. Those who won’t spring for leather will get the faux – but convincing – MB-Tex upholstery instead.
You can tell a lot about a car by its available colors, and the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250’s available palette suggests a level of sophistication and maturity that you simply can’t find in other accessible offerings. Early adopters can choose the Edition Orange, of which 750 will be built, as well as a limited Night Package that adds gloss-black trim and black wheels. AMG versions receive the obligatory aggressive body treatment, while an optional Aerodynamics Package goes to 11 with a larger front splitter and a big roof spoiler.
The GLA250 comes with an impressive list of safety items, including collision prevention with autonomous braking and attention assist. Other unexpected standard items include an off-road mode with hill-descent control and a graphical representation of suspension and steering settings with 4Matic versions. Engine stop/start, keyless start and a power liftgate round out the list of off-the-shelf items you might not expect in a reasonably priced Mercedes-Benz.
If you’re smitten with the AMG model’s looks but are stuck with a standard-sized budget, the Sport Package adds meaner bodywork and 19-inch, 5-spoke AMG wheels. Available convenience items include blind-spot assistance, a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control, and park assist, which helps find a parking spot and takes the reins by steering the GLA into the open space.
Both of the 2016 GLA’s engine offerings are mated to 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmissions. The lineup’s powerplants couldn’t be more different in terms of spec, however – the GLA250’s 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbo produces 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, while the GLA45 AMG’s yields 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque (as well as a more aggressively programmed transmission). The 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 compact-crossover SUV is available in front- or in all-wheel-drive 4Matic trim (FWD, AWD).
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GLA250)
208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,250-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 25/35 mpg (FWD), 24/32 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (GLA45 AMG)
355 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg
In front-drive form, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2016 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 compact-crossover SUV starts just under $33,500, with the AWD version about $2,000 above that. At that mark, the GLA represents a solid value considering its quality interior and generous standard equipment. If you don’t mind keeping it somewhat simple by forgoing expensive options, you should be able to purchase a new GLA for less than you might think. The AMG version commands around $50,000, but the sportier model also delivers a fiercer, more mature driving experience. To get a good idea of what others are paying in your area, be sure to check out our Fair Purchase Price. Value should also work in the new GLA’s favor, as Mercedes vehicles tend to hold their value more than most, better than the Lincoln MKC, Audi Q3, Lexus NX and BMW X1, but on par with Land Rover Evoque.