You may have noticed recently that four cylinder engines are gaining popularity. While they have been around since the dawn of the automobile, they are now powerful enough for AMG to embrace them. The new GLA class is defined as an SUV by Mercedes, but it looks and feels more like a performance minded hatchback. They sent us a sparkling new example for a week of evaluation, and we feel that it’s a combination of both.
Being an AMG, let’s dive into the powerplant. While they’re known for building monsters like the 6×6 G63, they also work their magic on the more practical models. The GLA launched last year as an All Wheel Drive “4matic” compact SUV with two engine choices. The GLA 250 is a normal four cylinder with 208 hp, but AMG was unleashed to work their magic. The result is a hand built 2.0-liter that delivers 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. Those numbers are equivalent to what my 2002 Camaro SS made from the factory; the GLA 45 AMG is among the most powerful four cylinders ever produced.
In order to make a car this small with that level of power anywhere near controllable, the 4matic permanent All Wheel Drive system was revised. An electronic rear differential instantly adjusts cornering torque sent to it by a dual clutch seven speed. Try as we might to throw it out of shape, this car grips in any situation.
Driving is very satisfying. With no turbo lag to speak of, you would almost assume this was a big V6, but the aggressive exhaust note doesn’t lie. The steering is properly weighted, and Mercedes fans can rejoice as most of the vehicle’s controls are in their normal locations.
AMG sports seats are comfortable Recaros. Ours had the “Red Cut” leather, and they were smile inducing. The seats are on the stiff side, but since the tires have a meaty sidewall, the ride is among the most pleasant I have felt in a modern German performance car. Have no fear of broken pavement, and stop dodging reflectors- the GLA can soak it up. The tire’s size was chosen to allow the GLA to hit the dirt and have some fun where the pavement ends. We didn’t get to experience the off road attributes, but our urban test loop amazed us with the best braking and cornering we have experienced in a small car.
Although it looks small, there is a ton of usable space inside. With the rear seats folded flat, you can actually see the rear window and notice you have a generous amount of cargo capacity. This hatchback is set to shake up the world of compact performance.
Pricing starts at $49,225, which may seem steep for this segment. If you take into account all the safety, entertainment and performance that GLA 45 offers, it’s a bargain. Thank you to Mercedes-Benz of Tampa for an experience we won’t soon forget.