MERCEDES-AMG GLA45 S
Takes previous hi-po small-SUV parameters and sticks them through the shredder. Out pops 310kW/500Nm, a price tag of $107K, and a whiff of loco
KEY THE IGNITION off, let your heart return to something that doesn’t feel like a jackhammer and try to order your thoughts. The MercedesAMG GLA45 S doesn’t always make that easy. Driven as intended, it’s shockingly fierce and searingly rapid. Mentally piece together the road that it’s just demolished and it’s clear that this is a small SUV that rewrites what we thought were the extremes of the genre.
As impressive as the bald facts are – and 310kW/500Nm in a car that weighs less than 1700kg is certainly impressive – we feel it’s incumbent upon us to address the elephant in the room. The Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S is, in all practical considerations, a hot hatch on stilts. However, this GLA will set you back $107,035.
Sit at the wheel of the GLA45 S and the genetic link to a $44,000 A-Class is explicit. Then you prod the silver starter button. Underneath the stubby bonnet of the GLA is one of the world’s great engines. A 1991cc petrolfed four with a single turbo that makes 310kW sounds like the very definition of peaky lag and lunge tedium. It just shouldn’t work. Yet it does. For what is ostensibly an SUV, it’s bonkers. Some context? AMG quotes a 4.3-second 0-100km/h time.
The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission blats through the gears crisply. So quick are the ’box’s reactions in Race mode that it has the ability to kick down two gears upon sharp throttle demand before the pedal reaches the end of its travel.
Power is shuffled between the rear wheels via a pair of electronically controlled clutch packs which, when set into the requisite configuration, will even allow an element of power oversteer. It’s a riot. On road, the AMG GLA45 S corners with little roll, the microfibre-trimmed wheel tipping the car into corners cleanly.
The cabin is otherwise much as you’d expect from an A-Class-derived vehicle: that is glitzy but deeply engaging.
The MBUX infotainment system is fiendishly complex, but extremely clever. There’s an excellent headup display, a fiddly wireless phone charger, decent but fairly firm seats, and multiple drive modes to play with, cycling through Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus and Race.
Annoyingly, keying off defaults the grabby lane-keep assist system back to the engaged setting, which requires a tedious sift through the touch-screen menu system to disengage. Testing revealed other quirks. One was a seatbelt warning that needed to be cleared down every time the car was started and the other was the vehicle’s habit of activating the pre-crash process (grabbing seatbelts, snatching at the steering, activating the hazards
and sounding chimes) whenever the GLA was braked into a particular guardrail-lined right-hand hairpin.
For all of its undoubted attributes, it’s something of a struggle to picture the buyer of a GLA45 S. For it to make sense, you’ve really got to drive it, otherwise, the $25K cheaper GLA35 AMG would seem to deliver a more compelling value proposition. And if you are a really keen driver, you’ll rapidly come to the conclusion that the AMG A45 S hatch delivers a higher-fidelity driving experience. What’s more, I’m not sure that the GLA possesses the requisite bandwidth to be that refined small family SUV which then turns into a backroads brawler when you have a bit of time to yourself.
So the GLA45 S emerges as something of an oddity, albeit a very fierce and crushingly rapid one. It teases at the edge of AMG’s product proliferation plans, but given the demand for Affalterbach’s wares here in Australia, it’ll likely find cashed-up takers for its particular blend of qualities.