It also gets uprated suspension components including a wider track for improved stability
The new GLA, Mercedes’ second-gen compact luxury SUV, has clearly grown up. More SUV and less sporty SUV-coupe, the new GLA is taller and built on a longer wheelbase, making it more spacious on the inside.
A lot of that added visual bulk comes from the higher roof, the resolute chin upfront makes it look more robust and the squared wheel arches help give it more of an SUV look as well.
The designers have used creases on the bonnet to good effect and the upright chrome-studded grille catches the light nicely.
It isn’t quite as exciting at the rear, but the wide base and the individually sectioned LED lights do give it a fair amount of character.
However, it is not all straight lines in profile though — the cowl is not very ‘stand-up’ and the roof starts to drop down towards the rear.
Inside, there is more than sufficient legroom and headroom, even for tall individuals. What adds to the feeling of space are the pair of sunroofs that brighten up the cabin.
The GLA impresses up front as well, with its attractive ‘deconstructed’ dash — many of the elements appear to be freestanding. You get a pair of large flat-panel screens, a high-quality steering wheel, twist-to-close vents, and customisable LED mood lighting. The designers have used piano black on the centre console for greater separation, and the panel of brushed aluminium above the glovebox works well too.
What the new GLA also has in abundance, is that tough Mercedes build. That said, some plastics lower down in the cabin, don’t feel quite as solidly built, the seats feel a bit stiff and there is some kit missing — you only get wired Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, keyless entry is absent and the USB ports are all Type C so you may need an adapter. Still, you do get ‘kinetic seats’ that make tiny adjustments every few minutes to take the load off pressure points in your back and thighs, Mercedes’ MBUX system the AI-based voice assistant and radar-based Active Brake Assist that brakes for you if it senses you are going to hit an object.
Now moving to the driving experience —this GLA 220d gets Mercedes’ 2.0-litre diesel putting out 190hp and 400Nm. Set in Sport, throttle responses are strong with the diesel delivering a lusty tug as soon as you put your foot down, clearly helped by the 400Nm kicking in from just 1,600rpm. What also helps is the quick-to-respond new eight-speed twin-clutch gearbox that always seems to keep you in the powerband. Acceleration, as a result, is relentless and the GLA 220d hits 100kph in a seriously quick 7.4sec — almost half a second faster than the BMW X1.
Working along with the engine and the gearbox is the uprated chassis which is now considerably stiffer and more rigid. The new GLA also gets uprated suspension components including a wider track for improved stability. In addition, the 4WD or 4Matic system, in Sport, can now send 30% of power to the rear wheels.
The GLA does roll a bit when driven around corners quickly, but what helps make the GLA drive nicely is the direct and accurate steering and feel some brakes. Once in the corner, there is a fair amount of grip and the GLA even feels comfortable if you keep on increasing the pace, the rear axle chipping in on longer corners.
Set in Comfort, the GLA becomes easy-going and relaxing to drive. Throttle response is immediate, the gearbox only slurs and hesitates occasionally, and the steering is light and easy to twirl. There is some amount of rattle from the diesel at idle, with a bit of vibration creeping up from the floor too, but rev the engine and it smoothens up nicely.
The GLA even rides silently and without much body movement over poorly surfaced roads. The suspension comfortably deals with regular potholes with no real kick back and that is despite the large 19-inch wheels.
Mercedes’ new GLA, straight off the bat, is a more accomplished luxury SUV. Space and comfort are much better, to begin with, performance is stronger, it is more enjoyable to drive and even quality and kit on the inside are superior. There is some kit missing and the boot is not very large, though.
This version is likely to be a bit more expensive than rivals, at an expected price of ₹44-46 lakh.
If you are looking for a compact luxury SUV that delivers a strong all-around performance, Merc’s new GLA has what it takes to be the best SUV in its class.
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