The game changer

Benz’s SUV prices will be very un­pop­u­lar. With BMW and Audi, that is

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - CRAIG DUFF and PAUL POT­TINGER

PRICES locked and loaded with kit, the GLA is Mercedes-Benz’s first com­pact SUV and its most af­ford­able all-wheel-drive.

Start­ing from less than $48,000, the poster child of the pres­tige car mar­ket is surely go­ing crush the of­fer­ings of its ri­vals and cream off a big help­ing of cus­tom from top‒end Ja­panese brands.

In a pric­ing coup that will im­me­di­ately be mea­sured in sales lost by BMW’s lack­lus­tre X1 and Audi’s Q3, the en­try GLA 200 CDI — a front‒wheel‒drive diesel — is $47,900.

Though a few grand dearer than the en­try mod­els of its ri­vals, the Benz has a more pow­er­ful and ef­fi­cient en­gine and a stan­dard au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. It’s also a price point cal­cu­lated to wrest the at­ten­tion of those in the mar­ket for, say, a top-line Mazda CX-5.

Yet the bulk of cus­tomers will go for the first all‒wheel‒ drive model. At $57,900 the GLA 250 4Matic strad­dles tar­mac and gravel with an AWD setup that di­rects up to 100 per cent of avail­able torque to the rear wheels as driv­ing con­di­tions de­mand.

This is dis­tinct from Benz’s other com­pact cars which — even in AMG form — are pre­dom­i­nantly front-driv­ers with the ca­pa­bil­ity of send­ing aft only half their torque.

A but­ton on the cen­tre con­sole ac­ti­vates the hill de­scent sys­tem, which uses en­gine and/or phys­i­cal brak­ing to mod­er­ate the pace down slopes. That’s abet­ted by an off‒road trans­mis­sion mode on the seven‒speed dual‒clutch auto in 4Matic mod­els to op­ti­mise shift points and ac­cel­er­a­tor re­sponse on loose sur­faces such as gravel or sand.

The en­gines are the same as those found in the A, B and CLA Class ve­hi­cles and spec­i­fi­ca­tion is of the same high level.

At $79,900 the top‒line GLA 45 AMG 4Mac­tic slips be­tween the A45 and CLA 45 but also un­der Audi’s RSQ3 ($81,900). The GLA shares its un­der­pin­nings with Benz’s new and al­ready suc­cess­ful small cars (the A-and B-Class and CLA) and their youth­ful look. Some 75 per cent of these buy­ers are new to the brand and in­vari­ably younger than Benz’s aver­age de­mo­graphic.

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