What is it?
This is the red hot AMG-prepped version of the new Mercedes GLA. It uses the same monster of a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine you’d find under the bonnet of the CLA 45 AMG and in this form, also gets stiffer springs and beefier anti-roll bars. This one also sits 15mm lower than the standard GLAs.
You’ll also easily be able to tell a GLA 45 apart from the more everyday versions of the GLA by its different grille, more aggressive bumpers, rear diffuser and quad exhausts. And, of course, the bright red calipers that shine through the 19-inch rims. Our test car also came with additional stickering on the doors that could be offered as an option.
On the inside too, the AMG is slightly different. The standard front seats have made way for a sportier and more supportive pair, there’s a new flat-bottomed steering and a proper gear lever (as opposed to a steering-mounted stalk) for the seven-speed gearbox. Sporty, red seatbelts and contrast stitching on the dashboard, seats and steering complete the look.
Like in the standard car, back seat space isn’t all that great. But given that the GLA 45 is all about the experience behind the steering wheel, we’ll gloss over this issue here. In terms of equipment, the AMG gets all that you get in the well-specced standard GLAs with the addition of automatic climate control, a rear air-con vent and a larger screen for the infotainment system.
What is it like to drive?
In a word, fun. Sure, the GLA 45’s 1991cc engine is likely to lose the title of being the world’s most powerful four-cylinder engine to the 444bhp version of Volvo’s Drive-E motor
, but it still delivers big thrills. After all, 355bhp (at 6000rpm) and 45.8kgm (between 2250-5000rpm) are not meek numbers in the least. Performance is strong from just under 2000rpm with a more serious shove at around 3000rpm. Thereon, there’s no let up in power right up till 5500rpm. As four-cylinder motors go, it sounds rather nice too. While that characteristic burble of the V8s in the larger AMGs is missing here, this one still sounds bassy at low revs and growls quite angrily when you press on. In Sport mode, the sounds are amplified, with pops from the exhaust adding to the entertainment quotient.
Simply put, the GLA 45 sounds and gathers speed every bit like a junior AMG should. Mercedes claims a 0-100kph time of 4.8 seconds with the GLA set to its ‘Race Start’ setting. Helping put down all that power on to the road is Mercedes’ 4-Matic all-wheel-drive system. The system transfers up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels when it senses the need.
The thing is, you can’t really escape the front bias of the system around corners. It doesn’t drive with the fluency of a rear-wheel-drive car. That’s not to say it isn’t fun to pilot on a twisty stretch. Grip levels are good, the steering has nice weight to it and turn-in is good too. More often than not, you’ll think you are driving very sporty hatchback. You can add a hint of directness to the steering and firmness to the suspension by tweaking the electronics too. Speaking of which, you’ll like how the electronics let the tail do a little jig before they kick in if you lift-off the throttle mid-corner.
What aids the GLA’s everyday usability is its ride quality. The handling-oriented suspension and those 19-inch tyres do mean the ride is firm, but it’s not jarring at average speeds. Be too adventurous over potholes though and the GLA 45 will thud through. As you might have guessed, this is not an ‘SUV’ in the true sense.
Other niggles centre around the gearbox. The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox occasionally feels hesitant in Comfort mode and at times, doesn’t readily grant downshifts in Manual mode (where the paddle shifters come into play) either. The transmission feels best when left to its own devices in Sport mode.
Should I buy one?
The Mercedes GLA 45 AMG may not be an out and out sports car and correspondingly, won’t be an obvious choice for those looking to buy a performance car. But drive one and you’ll be quite surprised by what it’s capable of. It’s fast enough and furious enough to do justice to the AMG name. The GLA 45 AMG will cost a few lakhs more than the CLA 45 AMG, so expect a price tag in the region of Rs 75 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). For the money, it offers great bang for the buck, won’t have any ground clearance issues and offers the practicality of four doors. In the Indian context, the Mercedes GLA 45 AMG ticks all the right boxes.