2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class First Look

You’re looking at the new 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class crossover, which makes its public debut in early September at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show. Look familiar? It should – it’s virtually identical to the Concept GLA Mercedes teased at the Shanghai auto show last year.

Surprising? Hardly. It was no secret that Mercedes was pursuing a compact crossover to fit beneath its GLK-Class range, and the automaker admitted the Concept GLA was a pretty spot-on representation of the finished product. Though it lacks the concept’s rooftop driving lights, swapped giant wheels for slightly more manageable 18-inch rolling stock, and does without the neon-blue headlamps, the 2015 GLA is otherwise identical to what we saw in Shanghai.

Unlike the GLK, the 2015 GLA Class isn’t a shrunken, blocky homage to the venerable Gelandewagen. If anything, it looks like a fortified, butch variant of the A-Class hatchback sold outside of North America. That’s fitting, because the 2015 GLA –Class is exactly that.

To help instill the GLA with a rugged feel, designers added a wide lower air intake, enveloped with a chrome surround that doubles as a faux skid plate at the lower edge of the bumper. Wide rocker sills boast matching chrome accents, while chunky roof rails are also trimmed in chrome. A similar finish is also used to accent the tall diffuser panel that carries into the rear bumper fascia. A panoramic sunroof is available, as is a Sport Package, which replaces much of the chrome with gloss black trim and adds an AMG-esque front fascia. 18-inch wheels are standard, though 19-inch rims are available.

The GLA- / A-Class commonality is more than skin deep. Both vehicles ride atop Mercedes-Benz’s latest front-drive architecture (MFA), which is also shared with the B-Class and the new CLA-Class sedan. Like those vehicles, the 2015 GLA-Class continues to sport MacPherson struts up front and a four-link independent rear suspension arrangement in back, but its structure gains additional reinforcements within the B-pillars, front strut towers, side sills, and underbody.

If that’s not enough sharing for your taste, pop the hood. The 2015 GLA 250 packs the exact same engine as its CLA250 sibling. A turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder provides 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, and is mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but a version of Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive system – again cribbed from the CLA – is optional. The all-wheel-drive system is front-biased, but a transmission power-take off sends power to the rear axle, which applies power as needed by engaging an electrohydraulically-controlled clutch pack. If needed, as much as 90 percent of the engine’s torque can be sent to the rear axle alone.

Adding 4Matic to a 2015 GLA-Class model also lumps in hill descent control, and an off-road transmission mode, which modifies shift points and throttle response to better suit off-road use. Even so, don’t expect to tackle the Rubicon anytime soon – Mercedes says the GLA is best suited for use on “light off-road terrain and loose surfaces.”

No matter; we doubt many GLA-Class owners will ever escape the confines of suburbia. Fortunately, there are a number of systems in place to help drivers tackle urban terrain as well. Adaptive cruise control is available, and can also work with a collision mitigation braking system to system to automatically brake the GLA-Class from speeds up to 124 mph in order to avoid striking a moving vehicle. Other safety options include blind spot detection, lane keep assist, and an automatic parking system.

At 173.9 inches long, the 2015 GLA250 will likely compete against a small number of compact luxury crossovers in North America with similar dimensions, including the Infiniti QX50, BMW X1, and to an extent, the Buick Encore. Pricing has yet to be announced, but Mercedes-Benz aims to have the first 2015 GLA250 4Matic models in dealer showrooms by the end of 2014, with front-wheel drive variants following in the first quarter of 2015.

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