The latest generation of the GLA is being pushed as a trendy urban lifestyle for the young professionals. But who are these young hip people and what do they want from a car these days? With a price tag starting at $101,200, would these young hip professionals feel that the new GLA AMG 35 delivers?

The Range

There are four variants available in New Zealand, two standard and two AMG variants. The range starts with the GLA 200 (starting at $74,100) and then moves up to the GLA 250 4MATIC (starting at $87,600). There is a bit of a jump to the AMG GLA 35 4MATIC (starting at $101,200) and it finishes with the AMG GLA 45 S 4 MATIC (starting at $128,200). 

The GLA 200 has a 1.3-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine, which produces 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque. The other 3 variants all have a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with different performance figures based on each variant. The GLA 250 4MATIC produces 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque. Then the AMGs see a bit of a jump in kW, the AMG GLA 35 4MATIC produces 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Last but not least the AMG GLA 45 S 4MATIC produces 310kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

The GLA comes with 8 paint colour options, with Night Black Non-metallic as the default colour and Polar White Non-metallic being a no cost option. Oddly, every other paint option comes with an additional cost.  Digital White Metallic, Cosmos Black Metallic, Iridium Silver Metallic, Denim Blue Metallic, Mountain Grey Metallic are all $1490 extra and designo Patagonia Red Metallic is $1990 extra.

The standard GLA comes with a huge range of features, so to avoid a massive list of things, I will just cover off what comes with the AMG GLA 35, which is still a considerable list. They include; AMG drive unit, AMG leather package, AMG pedals in brushed stainless steel with rubber studs, AMG performance steering wheel in black nappa leather, brushed aluminium trim, comfort sports seats, ENERGIZING comfort control, 20-Inch 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, AMG exhaust system, AMG high-performance braking system, AMG night package Including, AMG performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive, AMG RIDE CONTROL sports suspension with electronically controlled damping system, AMG-specific bodystyling, AMG-specific radiator grille, AMG speed-sensitive power steering, AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 8-speed automatic sports transmission with AMG DYNAMIC SELECT, black roof rails, dark-tinted privacy glass. 

There are so many packages available for the GLA, some of which are standard on different models. For the AMG GLA 35, the standard packages include the following: Seat Comfort Package, Protection Package and Keyless-Go Comfort Package. In addition to this you can option the following packages; Driving Assistance Package, Vision Package, Exclusive Package, AMG Aerodynamic Package, AMG High Performance Seat Package.

To make things even more configurable, or confusing, you can also add the following optional equipment: climate front seats, multi-contour front seats, rear seat with fore/aft adjustment, front LED fog lamps, partition net, red brake calipers and AMG Track Pace.

There’s a huge amount of different options to up-spec your AMG GLA, for the full list head over to the Mercedes-Benz New Zealand website.

First Impressions

The AMG GLA 35 is not a visually loud car, it has a squat look with a bit of aggressive sportiness here and there. Not a bad looking car really and looked great on the 20inch rims, as they filled out the large wheel wells perfectly.  

Our review car was red, not a common colour for Mercedes-Benz. This colour was a special one too, it’s called designo Patagonia Red Metallic and it’s a $1990 additional extra. The colour worked perfectly with its shape and the contrasting black body trim. 

The front of the GLA was sporting the vertical AMG grille, which signaled it was ready to have some fun. I was keen to see what this new AMG 35 variant was all about. 

The Inside

The inside of the new AMG GLA 35 was nice and modern. It felt like a $100k vehicle, with a nice sleek twin screen digital screen sweeping across the dash, lovely sport steering wheel and aluminium trim panels with a clean and fresh design. Overall the feeling was new and fresh, which was a nice change from Mercedes-Benz. 

The other major thing you notice when getting in is the LED colour lighting, It is everywhere. Along the dash, in the air vents, on the doors and the centre console. Whoever had it before me has set it to a very intense blue, which I quickly changed to a more neutral colour. But I had to admit the range of colours were impressive, however the brightness at night was sometimes a bit much depending on the colour. You could adjust this, but it was a trade off, too bright at night so it was visible during the day. 

As you start to age you put up with less discomfort then you need too. The seats in the GLA are great, very comfortable, and I was glad they were not upgraded to the sports seats, I have found them to be too stiff in other AMG’s. The seats have great adjustment and side support, and finding that sweet spot was not a bit of a hassle.

The seats in the rear were good too, even with a bit of a bucket sensation. Just as comfy as the front, with decent room for rear passenger leg room, even for tall people. 

The new wide central display and dash is stunning. It’s stylish and incorporated into the dash with purpose. This was where you could control everything. Once again I didn’t really enjoy using the centre console touch pad, but as the screen was touch screen it didn’t really bother me. Overall it had a nice clutter-free feel.

The central console was clean and clutter free, with a sliding slat cover that concealed the cup holders and area where you can casually put things like your phone etc. It was nice that this console just flowed in under the dash instead of curing up to meet it. This gave the cabin a more spacious feel. 

In the middle of the dash there is a nice collection of switches and buttons, that are neatly tucked under the air vents. In other cars this many buttons could be spread across half the dash, so it was nice to see this clean feel was flowing through the cabin.

The main dash and central display were the key feature in the cabin, leaving you little else to talk about. This central media display is where you can do it all from media, connected devices, phone book, vehicle settings and performance setting. You can set up the performance modes and adjust them for custom selections too. However, as you will read later, this was more than was required.

The boot did well on our trip, which you will read a bit more about below. Even without dropping the seats down, we were able to fit coolers and large bags in with ease. The boot’s available space is 435 litre, which expands to 1383 litres when the rear seats are folded down. There were nice side pockets for loose items, both of these had an elastic net around them to keep items in. 

The Drive

During this review, Rob, one of the reviewers in the DriveLife team, was getting married and we had a bit of a bachelor party out in the sticks, very Man vs Wild. This gave me was a chance to take it on a big drive, covering motorway, urban and country back roads on its way to a remote destination in the hills east of Eketahuna.

On the motorway the GLA handles like a champion. The ride is smooth, and the road noise is minimal. Inside the cabin while cruising at 100km/h it’s rather quiet. It’s easy to have a chat with your passengers in the front or rear of the car. While on the motorway, I let the cruise control do all the work. Mercedes-Benz radar cruise is still one of the best in the business in my opinion. So easy to use and it has evolved over the years to be more intuitive. Systems like these can make a long drive less of a strain and much more comfortable and enjoyable. 

Before the trip away I had been using the GLA to go in and out of work, mainly through urban areas. 99% of the time I kept the car in Sport. I did this as I found comfort to be a bit on the sluggish side and found that Sport was a nice setting for where the car should normally be. Sadly the name of this button did not really leave me feeling like it was ready for some sporty driving. The car was still pretty quiet, from both the engine and the exhaust. Overall the car did feel like it had tightened up, but it was where I would expect it to be in comfort if I am being honest. 

Sport+ should have been the dial to 11, but there was no 11, there wasn’t even an 8. In Sport+ the car felt a bit tighter again, ever so slightly more agile, ready to pounce. But when you went for it, it seemed no different to a mid range $50k hot hatch. Yes it can get up and go, but this is a $100k AMG, this thing should fly. But sadly it didn’t feel fast and it didn’t sound sporty. It was so quiet in fact that we put the windows down to see if the sound was being muffled. During this test we did feel that there may have been some fake sound coming from the speakers, but we were not 100% sure. The AMG side of this GLA is a bit of a disappointment. 

Apart from the lacking performance, the rest of the driving experience was almost faultless. They have taken everything that works well in all of the previous GLA models and other Mercedes-Benz models, giving you the best of everything. 

The further we got down the road I knew that it would only be a matter of time before the asphalt turned to loose gravel. About 5km from our destination, was that moment it officially became a loose gravel dirt track. Regardless of this, the 4wd system, 4MATIC, didn’t even break a sweat. There were areas of heavy and lite gravel and the GLA handled it well, smoothly and quietly. As the GLA was handling it so well, I pushed it a bit with some sudden change of directions to see if you would break loose or feel unstable at any point. The GLA just pointed and laughed at me for even trying, it was really confident in this sort of environment. 

This was the extent of the offroading we put the GLA through. After all it’s designed to be a crossover or compact SUV, not a full blown off roader. The main reason behind the GLA’s confidence is that it comes with AMG ride control. This suspension system can be set up for different modes or or even adaptive, which change with different driving styles. You can choose between “Comfort”, “Sport” and “Sport+” at the touch of a button. These modes highlight themself even more so on uneven roads, as they are working hard to make sure the occupants are experiencing a comfortable ride.

My big disappointment with this car is the performance. I am a firm believer that a vehicle branding is key to its success and characteristic. So when AMG, the high-performance subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz, has a clear label on the back of your car, it should make an impression. However, over the years many German brands have started to water down their god-like performance brands. In an effort to make it more accessible across the range. This can have advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, most AMG branded vehicles look better than the normal ones. On the downside, they don’t all drive like AMG’s should. And after my time in the GLA AMG 35, I think they would have had a better car if it didn’t have the AMG badge. In fact, it would have been a really fun car, but the badge raised the bar too much, making my expectation so much higher.

The Competition

The compact SUV and crossover SUV market has a lot of options. However, once you get up into the $80k – $100K range, the options drop off and you’re left with a few key players. Oddly the Merc does not seem to stack up well, being more expensive than the offerings from BMW and Audi. I dropped the Audi SQ2 not long after the GLA, ignoring the fact that it’s $20k cheaper, the Audi felt like a sportier car.

Midsize Crossover SUV

Brand / ModelEnginePower kW/NmNumber of SeatsFuel L/100kmBoot Capacity LitresPrice Highest to Lowest
Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 352.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged225/40058.0435$101,200
BMW X2 M35i2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged225/45057.4470$93,900
Audi SQ22.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged221/40057.7335$80,900

PROS

  • Smooth and comfy ride
  • Engine is so quiet
  • Good handling for an SUV
  • Easy to drive, even for its size
  • Quality, luxury interior

CONS

  • Lacking in power for an AMG
  • Not a performance vehicle
  • High cost difference, for an AMG kit

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA AMG 35 4MATIC

Vehicle TypeAll-wheel drive luxury 5-door SUV
Starting Price$101,200
Price as Tested$103,190
Engine3.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged
Power, Torque225kW/400Nm
TransmissionAMG speedshift DCT 8-speed
Spare WheelNone
Kerb Weight, Kg2415
Length x Width x Height, mm4417 x 1834 x 1610
Cargo Capacity, litres435 
Fuel tank capacity, litres50 
Fuel Economy, L/100kmAdvertised Spec – Combined – 8.0
Real World Test – Combined – 10.2
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked965/1400
Turning circle, metres11.3
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty3 years warranty
ANCAP Safety RatingsTo be tested
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
7
Interior
9
Performance
4
Safety
9
Styling
8
Value
5
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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