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