By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor
Mercedes-Benz has left its comfort zone to create a radical compact SUV unlike anything before it. The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA small-luxury-crossover SUV takes aim at the BMW X1, Infiniti QX30 and Lexus NX, offering Mercedes’ engineering, luxury and performance at a price starting under $34,000. Despite its very un-SUV-like profile, the compact GLA is surprisingly roomy, although you’ll find more cargo and passenger space in an Audi Q3 and Land Rover Evoque. A pair of turbocharged 4-cylinder engines borrowed from the MB CLA sedan supply power to the GLA250 and high-performance Mercedes-AMG GLA45 SUVs. Because of its taut suspensions and low ground clearance, the GLA is more appealing to driving enthusiasts rather than weekend campers needing true off-road ability.
Miss the ride comfort and cargo hauling abilities of small luxury wagon? The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA is just that, only those crafty Germans have disguised it to look like a small-luxury SUV. The AMG version delivers scintillating performance, while 4Matic all-wheel drive can help tackle winter’s worst.
For 2017, the Mercedes-Benz GLA gains Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while a new, thinner 8-inch display screen is part of the Multimedia package. New standard features include Dynamic Select suspension and a revised dash.
With Mercedes-Benz’s 2017 GLA luxury-crossover SUV, when it comes time to decide who will drive and who will ride shotgun, don’t be surprised if a scuffle ensues. With the Mercedes-AMG...
... GLA45, it might actually become a brawl. That’s because the 2017 GLA SUV is far more about driving fun than utility. In the GLA250, a 208-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder provides brisk acceleration and passing power, enough to produce a 7-second zero-to-60-mph run. Adding to the fun are a taut suspension and a low-sprung body that allow the GLA to hug corners without feeling like it’s about to tip over. We did encounter understeer once the tires reached their breaking point, but it was gradual enough to allow for correction. The true performer is the 355-horsepower GLA45 AMG. With a sub-5-second sprint to 60 mph, the GLA45 AMG lays waste to every other competitor in this class.
DOWNHILL SPEED REGULATION
This feature is nice to have when creeping down slippery inclines or gravel-strewn trails. The 2017 MB GLA’s Hill Descent Control holds the vehicle at a slow set speed so the driver doesn’t have to constantly ride the brake.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA for 2017 offers a dual-pane panoramic sunroof so large that when open it makes the GLA feel more like a Jeep Wrangler. A power sunshade keeps things cool in the summer, or can be retracted to let sunlight stream into the cabin.
Though the 2017 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 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA250’s available palette suggests a level of playful sophistication and maturity that you simply can’t find in other accessible offerings. Names like Kryptonite Green Metallic, Jupiter Red and designo Magno Mountain Grey should give you a clue. 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.
Mercedes’ 2017 GLA250 luxury SUV 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. Standard run-flat tires are a must as a spare tire is not included in the GLA’s limited cargo area.
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 2017 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 Mercedes-AMG GLA45’s yields 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque (as well as a more aggressively programmed transmission). The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 compact-crossover SUV is available in front- or in all-wheel-drive 4Matic trim (FWD, AWD), the latter being standard on the AMG trim.
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: 24/33 mpg (FWD), 23/31 mpg (AWD)
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Mercedes-AMG GLA45)
355 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
332 lb-ft of torque @ 2,250-5,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/28 mpg
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
In front-drive form, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 compact-crossover SUV starts just under $33,800, with the AWD version about $2,000 more. 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 $51,000, 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 the Land Rover Evoque.