This is what I consider the future of motoring in capsule form: the Mercedes-Benz GLA.
The all-new GLA is a compact crossover based upon the Mercedes A-Class but with a slightly taller ride for off-road capability, a bit more luxury for the discerning Mercedes customer, and a dab more power to justify its purchase price.
Just look at the thing. I don’t think it has one bad angle. It is absolutely gorgeous. I recently wrote about the car I’d like to see Porsche build: the Katana crossover. This, I reckon, is far better looking than our rendering. It’s simply staggering.
Under its sinewy body, the GLA packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 208 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, which is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. All told, the GLA will make a 0-60 mph run in 6.4 seconds.
The first GLA to hit American shores in the fall of 2014 will be the all-wheel drive model with the new-gen permanent 4MATIC system packing fully variable torque distribution for improved traction, also known as torque vectoring. A few months later, the standard front-wheel drive model will go on sale in spring 2015.
Slip inside and buyers will find a world-class interior with a floating infotainment screen that looks like a mix between the G550 and the S-Class.
Surprisingly, Mercedes is pushing the idea that the GLA will be off-road capable, bragging that models fitted with 4MATIC will include “DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation) and an off-road transmission mode as standard.” This is laughable to me because I doubt very much anyone will – or would ever want to – drive his or her GLA off the pavement on purpose.
Regardless of its off-road prowess, I still believe this car to be an example of the future of cars. It’s small, relatively light, powerful, efficient, outstanding looking, but most importantly it has a roomy interior.
If this vehicle description sounds at all familiar to you, that’s because it should. It is essentially how I described the BMW X1 – save the outstanding looks bit. Although I derided the X1 for being exceedingly expensive for its size, it was a very good little car.
The X1 was big in the front, small in the backseat, but then cavernous in the rear hatch area. It drove like a small sports sedan but hauled like a large SUV. It was fairly miserly on fuel but also had enough petrol power to give you a kick in the corners. And – at first glance at least – I’d say the GLA takes that brilliance and builds on it in every way.
But why, though, do I think it’s the epitome of all future cars?
Fuel economy standards are ratcheting up. That means cars are going to have to be more aerodynamic, efficient, and smaller. The GLA, then, hits on all fronts.
Americans have been steeped in SUV versatility for so many decades now, they dare not sacrifice that great utility, so the car of the future will have to hold a lot of stuff, despite its exterior dimensions. The GLA has that covered. It is both well packaged and apparently capable of tackling tricky road conditions.
Then, it’ll have to look good. Some buyers will sacrifice looks for efficiency – like those who bough a Prius. The mainstream, I feel, won’t.
There is one thing standing between the GLA and being considered the car of the 21st century: price. Mercedes-Benz has not yet released the sticker price. I suspect when it does, however, it’ll be a bit steep. The X1 starts out cheap enough but by the time you’ve spec’d it how you want it, it’s rather pricey indeed. The GLA’s cousin, the soon-to-debut CLA, is priced rather reasonably so there’s hope the GLA will, too.
I’m rarely in awe of a car. When I am, though, it’s usually over something like a $300,000 hypercar. The GLA has me feeling all gooey inside. I look at it and see a new way forward for the global car market, and that is very exciting indeed.
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