First drive review 2015 Mercedes GLA45 AMG: Those crazy Germans are at it again

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class


Every once in awhile Germans show that they aren’t simply stuffed shirts, nose in the air condescending types. They actually like to show the world they have a fun side, like to let go, put their “haar” down and partei wie Rockstars. Ocktoberfest is a perfect example of this. Drink beer, eat too much food and dance like there’s no tomorrow. Mercedes can be like this as well. Most of the time they churn out some of the best luxury sedans the world has to offer. On occasion however they stray off this path, give the world something unexpected, something that may not even have a good reason to exist.

We found this out last year when we drove the Mercedes E63 AMG wagon. Here was a station wagon that cost over $100,000 had 577 horsepower under the hood and did 0-60 in just under 3.5 seconds…faster than such famed vehicles as the Aston Martin Vanquish, Ferrari California, Jaguar F-Type V8 S and even Chevrolet’s new 460-hp C7 Corvette Z51.

We have now found a new example.

Introduced in 2013 the GLA 45 in 2013 the GLA45 is basically a GLA250 on steroids.  It’s seven inches shorter, with a slightly elevated seating position. But it has one major difference over its luxury crossover cousin: Under the hood in is the world’s most powerful four-cylinder production engine.  Rated at 355 horsepower and torque of 332 lb.-ft., combine this twin scroll turbo charged powerplant with the AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive system and you have one hell of an automobile; easily one of the world’s hottest hatchbacks, the hottest of the hot, as in surface of the sun hot.

As with the E63 the exterior is a polarizing one, looking like a more squat version of the 250. Truth be told though most liked the sweeping lines, the AMG “twin blade” radiator grille and the cross member in the AMG front fascia, both painted matte titanium gray.  There are large air inlet ports on the
sides  framed by black winglets that Mercedes says improves air flow to the cooling system behind them. The rear fascia includes stylized side air vents as well as a large diffuser insert and matte titanium gray trim. The conjoined quad-tip chrome tailpipes of the AMG exhaust system however tell you this is not an ordinary hatchback.

Our model for the week had just about all the available options including performance power heated front seats with 4-way lumbar support and 3-position memory by Recaro and an AMG Performance steering wheel, along with a refrigerated/cooled Box Located In The glovebox, and an easy to read screen mounted high in the center of the dash. Listing everything our model had would take up an entire article but the highlights include Bluetooth, Navigation, duel zone climate control, Harman/Kardon LOGIC7® sound system, SiriusXM Radio, auto dimming mirrors, power liftgate and split fold down rear seats. The gauges are easy to read framed beside an extensive driver information center and all the controls are easy to reach and use from the driver’s seat. Of course like all Mercedes, the add ons get pricy.  Our model’s base MSRP was $48,300.00; with options, our model priced out at nearly $63,000.

Of course, none of that matters once you get on the road.  Mercedes says the drive of the GLA45 is one of “dynamic spirit,” however we call it a “blast”.  There are three modes, Manual controlled by the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, a “Controlled Efficiency” mode that makes the engine more efficient and includes an ECO Start/Stop function that kills the engine at full stop. And finally the Sport mode.  Here the seven-speed transmission shifts and engine timing  are  similar to the SLS AMG GT super sports car. The exhaust opens up thanks to a butterfly valve and a momentary suppression of ignition and injection under full load leads to even faster shifts and a very pleasing “bark” under deceleration.  There’s also launch control (pressing the ESP button once while in Sport mode).  In launch mode we took the GLA45 from 0-60 in 4.1 seconds, smiling all the while.  Since we don’t like to confess to speeding, allegedly, a quarter-mile run can be had in 12.2 seconds at 110 mph.

Straight-line speed isn’t the only highlight though.  The 4MATIC all-wheel drive system with its tuned spring / shock absorber units and larger stabilizer bars hold the car to the road in aggressive cornering like the tires were made of glue. The electromechanical sports steering with AMG speed-dependent power assist responds quickly. Combined the GLA45 is something that will make you look forward to curvy roads and leave you smiling at the end of your daily commute.  Unlike some other hatchbacks the four doors give easy access to the rear seats with enough room to carry four adults with surprising comfort.

Like the E63, the GLA45 is a good example of what can happen when the German engineers at Mercedes and AMG go out on the wild side, let their hair down, un-stuff their shirts and lower their noses.  While most of the time they churn out some of the finest luxury cars in the world on occasion they give us something that really has no reason; after all how many among us would plan on spending nearly $63,000 for a hatchback?  Yet there it is, and we are glad for it. Danke Deutschland, danke.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG 4MATIC
MSRP:  $48,300.00
MSRP (as tested): $62,920
Engine: 2.0 liter twin intercooled turbocharged   355.0HP @ 6000,   332.0 ft lb torque @ 2250
Transmission: 7-speed electrically controlled automatic with manual mode
Mileage (EPA estimated):  23 city, 29 highway, 25 combined
Mileage (as tested, combined in mixed conditions with “heavy-foot”): 22
Exterior Dimensions
106.3 in (106.3 min/106.3max)
Length, Overall
173.9 in (173.9 min/173.9max)
Width, Max w/o mirrors
71 in (71.0 min/71.0max)
Height, Overall
60 in (60.0 min/60.0max)
Track Width, Front
61.3 in (61.3 min/61.3max)
Track Width, Rear
Interior Dimensions
Front Head Room
40 in (40.0 min/40.0max)
Front Leg Room
41.9 in (41.9 min/41.9max)
Front Shoulder Room
54.8 in (54.8 min/54.8max)
Second Head Room
38.4 in (38.4 min/38.4max)
Second Leg Room
33.9 in (33.9 min/33.9max)
Second Shoulder Room
53.1 in (53.1 min/53.1max)
61.4 in (61.4 min/61.4max)
Cargo Area Length @ Floor to Seat 1
61.2 in (61.2 min/61.2max)
Cargo Area Length @ Floor to Seat 2
31.8 in (31.8 min/31.8max)
Cargo Box Width @ Wheelhousings
41.3 in (41.3 min/41.3max)
Cargo Box (Area) Height
27.9 in (27.9 min/27.9max)
Liftover Height
23.9 in (23.9 min/23.9max)
Cargo Volume to Seat 1
43.6 ft³ (43.6 min/43.6max)
Cargo Volume to Seat 2
17.2 ft³ (17.2 min/17.2max)
Cargo Volume to Seat 3
17.2 ft³ (17.2 min/17.2max)

Basic: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Corrosion: 4 Years/50,000 Miles
Roadside Assistance: Unlimited Years/Unlimited Miles

Greg Engle