Mercedes-Benz has offered the first official glimpse at the coming 2015 GLA-Class SUV, a car-based SUV that will broaden the prestige brand’s portfolio.
As with the CLA sedan with which it shares a platform and powertrain, the GLA is an attempt to reach younger, less-affluent buyers. That strategy is being played out by other upscale brands—such as Audi, BMW, and Buick—seeking to pull new owners into their portfolio, while addressing the consumer demands for upscale, yet compact, transportation.
The GLA dimensions are strikingly similar to those of a vanguard of this vehicular trend, the BMW X1. Both segment-blurring vehicles measure about the same length and width, with the GLA at 174 inches long, 71 inches wide. But the GLA is 2-inches shorter, which is certain to give it a more wagon-like shape. Where the concept vehicle wore dramatic 20-inch wheels, the production GLA will come with 18-inch wheels and offer 19s as optional.
Like the CLA, the GLA is powered by a 208-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a seven-speed automatic transmission. Mercedes claims it can propel the GLA from 0-60 mph in 6.4 seconds. It will be sold initially as the GLA250 4Matic with all-wheel drive, starting in fall 2014. A front-drive variation will join the ranks in early 2015.
The 4Matic system includes an off-road transmission mode that adjusts the shift points and accelerator response to be better suited to light-duty excursions. In a cool, Land Rover-like fashion, the stereo display can be switched to an off-road mode displaying steering angle, roll angle, percent grade, and compass.
Standard safety features include drowsiness detection and radar-based collision prevention systems. Upgrades include autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane assist. There will also be a self-parking feature available.
The GLA promises to package Mercedes goodness in a small, versatile vehicle, but even with it targeting “entry level” prestige customers, the price is likely to be princely.
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