2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic Quick Spin [w/video]
Where Poise And Refinement Are Mutually Exclusive
EngineTurbo 2.0L I4
Power208 HP / 258 LB-FT
0-60 Time7.1 Seconds
Curb Weight3,428 LBS
Cargo11.8 / 42 CU-FT
MPG24 City / 32 HWY
As Tested Price$45,180
This is a car that is deeply confused as to its purpose in life – can it be a proper Mercedes-Benz while still being a reasonably priced, subcompact crossover? After a week behind the wheel, we believe the two are mutually exclusive.
- The exterior styling is similar to the not-for-America A-Class hatchback, with the only major differences found on the rear end. That means that even with its flashy 19-inch AMG wheels and sport body styling – more aggressive front and rear fascias – the GLA is a stylish piece. We might even call it cute.
- Considering our 4Matic model's reasonable $34,225 starting price, the interior treatment is both attractive and uses mostly quality finishes. The matte Satin Light Brown Poplar wood ($325) covers a large portion of the dash, while the real metal found on the air conditioning vents is elegant and handsome. There is a lot of plastic in the cabin: It's soft on the dash, and switches to a piano-black finish in spots, but the center console and door finishers don't feel like they came from the Mercedes parts bin. In general, the GLA's cabin feels roughly equal to that of the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 – nice, but a step lower than what we've come to expect from Mercedes.
- The two-piece, leather-lined seats look great, but even with standard 14-way adjustability, they lack support. The bottom cushion is very flat, and doesn't support the legs. For this author, that's a recipe for near-constant back pain. That said, the chairs do look good, especially in the brown of this test car.
- The GLA250, like a few other models in the Mercedes range, uses a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder, delivering a weak 208 horsepower. It makes up for that shortcoming with 258 pound-feet of torque from 1,250 rpm to 4,000 rpm. On paper, this sounds good, but in the real world, the 2.0T's power is tough to access.
- That's due more to the shortcomings of the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic than the engine itself. With three modes – Eco, Sport, and Manual – we thought we'd find at least one that could serve up precise downshifts. In the automatic modes, the transmission hunts for the right gear, and the reaction speed when using the paddle shifters just isn't quick enough.
- This is exacerbated by the sluggish throttle response, which didn't improve much when we switched the engine out of Eco mode. The 2.0T is smooth, but we imagine it'd be more likable with a better transmission.
- The worst thing about this GLA is its ride quality. We have no idea why, but the 19-inch AMG wheels seen here are shod in low-rolling-resistance, runflat, all-season, 45-series Goodyear EfficientGrip tires. Long story short, the ride is appalling. Impact noises are constant, whether on small expansion joints or larger imperfections, and the tire roar is arguably the worst your author has ever experienced. Conversations weren't difficult, but passengers were forced to speak louder than usual – the noise level was noticed by our copilots, as well. This is where the GLA fails in its attempts at being a real Mercedes.
- Refinement woes aside, the GLA is a genuinely entertaining car to toss around. There's not a lot of roll – even aggressive turns are greeted with a poised, balanced handling response thanks to the relatively low center of gravity (at just 60 inches tall, the GLA is nearly an inch lower than the BMW X1 and 2.5 inches lower than an Audi Q3). In fact, it's the tidy Mercedes' handling character that most reflects its A-Class roots. It genuinely feels more like a small, sporty hatchback than a lifted CUV, when pushed.
Most of these problems can be easily nullified by easing up on the options list. Ditching the Sport Package and Interior Package will drop you down to a smaller wheel/tire fitment and standard seats, and should make for a quieter, more comfortable ride. You'll also save nearly $4,000. Still, the GLA is difficult to recommend. It's agile and entertaining when pushed, but lacks the everyday competence found in rivals like the Audi Q3.
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