Mercedes-Benz is ramping up a small-car offensive with the introduction of a new compact crossover called the GLA-Class, set to debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September.
It looks very similar to the Concept GLA unveiled at the Shanghai auto show. Much of the 2015 GLA-Class’ underpinnings are shared with the all-new CLA-Class, which hits showrooms also in September.
The small crossover segment is booming, which makes the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA a lynchpin for growth. It will compete with the Audi A3, which goes on sale next year, and the BMW X1, which debuted as a 2013 model and was first to market in this segment. The Land Rover Range Rover Evoque is another potential contender.
The 2015 GLA250 4Matic, set to go on sale in the United States in fall 2014, will use the same 208-horsepower four-cylinder engine and seven-speed, dual-clutch transmission as the CLA250. As the “4Matic” moniker in its name indicates, it will come with all-wheel drive. A front-wheel drive GLA250 will hit showrooms in early 2015.
Together new GLA-Class and its car counterpart, the CLA-Class, comprise the vanguard of a whole new breed of Mercedes, aimed at drivers younger than the brand’s typical buyers. The vehicles represent a paradigm shift in technology, from the company’s long-running rear-wheel drive architecture, to more fuel-efficient front-wheel drive systems, which help make the the vehicles smaller, lighter and less expensive.
Mercedes plays up the GLA-Class’ “light off-road” capabilities in press materials, citing special modes that help the vehicle crawl down steep inclines and negotiate loose surfaces like sand and gravel. But think of it like any other crossover in this segment, as a taller, heavier hatchback that will spend most, if not all of its life on pavement.
Interior photos show design elements such as the dashboard, with its iPad-like center screen and five prominent, round vents, to be identical to those of the CLA-Class. And just like with that car, designers and engineers paid particular attention to aerodynamics on the exterior of the GLA.
The way the hood and fenders flow into the front roof pillars, the position of the side mirrors, and lips along the edges of the taillights were all crafted for optimum aerodynamic efficiency. This is particularly important with crossovers, whose bulkier and taller bodies generally create more wind resistance than cars do. Better aerodynamics translates to better fuel economy.
Even though the 2015 Mercedes GLA250 will be one of the company’s most affordable models, it won’t skimp on advanced technology. For example, it will have truncated self-steering capability, such as being able to counter-steer on its own to help correct a skid or to maintain course when being buffeted by strong crosswinds.
It will also come standard with Mercedes’ drowsy-driver detection and warning system called Attention Assist, and radar-based Collision Prevention Assist, which helps apply the brakes more forcefully if a collision seems imminent. Systems that automatically throw on the brakes all by themselves and help steer you back into your lane will be optional.
Mercedes did not give pricing for the 2015 Mercedes GLA-Class. But based on its competitors and the company’s own model hierarchy, it will likely fall between that of the CLA-Class, which starts at $29,900, and the GLK-Class, formerly the smallest Mercedes sport utility, with a starting price of $37,480. By comparison, the BMW X1 starts at $30,800, while the Range Rover Evoque starts at $42,040.