Talk about a loophole. Mercedes-Benz still won’t sell its turbocharged A 45 AMG hot hatch in North America, but judging by this thinly-disguised concept shown at the 2013 Los Angeles auto show, it will sell the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG on our shores.
As the GLA class is little more than an A-Class hatchback with a taller ride height, beefier bumpers, and other minute cosmetic tweaks designed to trick buyers into thinking it’s something other than a C-segment hatch, it’s really no surprise to find the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG is virtually identical to the A 45 AMG that’s already on sale across the pond – or, for that matter, that it’s mechanically a dead ringer for the 2015 CLA 45 AMG currently rolling into North American Mercedes-Benz showrooms.
Power comes from the new M133, AMG’s hand-built, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. In both the A 45 and CLA 45, Mercedes-Benz rates this engine at 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque – and according to early press materials, the new GLA 45 AMG will be just as powerful. Likewise, the GLA 45 AMG also bundles that engine with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and a version of its 4Matic all-wheel drive system, which sends 60 percent of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels until slip is detected. No performance figures have been disclosed to date, but expect the GLA 45 AMG to perform just as well as its siblings, which blast from 0-60 mph in roughly 4.5 seconds and boast an electronically limited top end of 155 mph.
Cosmetically, the GLA 45 AMG is a near-perfect doppelganger of the A 45 AMG. Though its double-domed hood is unique to the GLA line, the rest of the GLA 45 AMG’s front fascia is a carbon copy of the A 45 AMG, even down to the carbon fiber splitter and canards. Although the A 45 wears a red accent just below its lower air intake, it’s moved upwards on the GLA 45, highlighting the lower edge of the four-bar grille.
The GLA 45’s rockers are a bit chunkier, as is its rear fascia and diffuser, several A 45 cues, notably the giant, rally-grade spoiler and rectangular quad exhaust tips, are still carried to the crossover. The thick roof rails, an element unique to the GLA-Class, are painted gloss black on the GLA 45 AMG, as are its C-pillars, providing the illusion of a wrap-around backlight. While the A 45 rides on 18- and 19-inch wheels, the GLA 45 AMG – in concept form, at least -- rides on larger 21-inch forged wheels, shown here in a matte black finish with a contrasting red rim.
AMG purists may question the need to create a performance version of the GLA, a vehicle aimed at first-time Mercedes buyers and crossover shoppers seeking fuel economy, but there is precedent. Neither the BMW X1 xDrive 35i nor the Infiniti QX50 are sold as true performance-oriented machines, but in North America, they still pack a 300- and 325-hp punch, respectively. Adding the 355-hp GLA 45 AMG to Mercedes’ North American lineup might seem a little zany, but in actuality, it allows Mercedes to offer a well-rounded GLA-Class portfolio in our market. Look for the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG to arrive stateside shortly after the GLA-Class goes on sale in late 2014/early 2015.