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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class First Look: M-B's Smallest SUV Is All-New

The small luxury SUV looks more substantial and gets more power.

The redesigned 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class rounds out the brand's compact-car family for the U.S. market. Larger and roomier than its predecessor, the 2021 GLA-Class promises more headroom and rear-seat legroom for added practicality despite the vehicle being shorter in overall length. From a design perspective, the smallest Mercedes-Benz SUV gets a significant makeover, looking more like a smaller version of the GLE-Class instead of a raised hatchback.

Available in front- or all-wheel-drive configurations, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 will come with a 2.0-liter turbo-four with 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque paired to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. An Off-Road Engineering package will be standard in all-wheel-drive-equipped models and will come with an Off-Road drive mode that distributes power evenly between the axles, calibrates the anti-lock brakes for easier off-road driving, and changes the way the engine delivers power. Hill-descent control is also added as standard. An updated suspension design, which now features more components made of aluminum, promises improved ride and handling.

Those looking for more power should look to the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA35, which features the same 2.0-liter turbo-four rated for 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gets unique gearing, faster shifts, and a launch-control feature. A performance-oriented all-wheel-drive system comes standard, and takes into account everything from driving speed to steering angle for optimal torque distribution. Meanwhile, the stability-control system gets a Sport setting to allow for more slidey antics. The GLA35 receives Sport+ and Individual drive modes but misses out on the Off-Road mode from the all-wheel-drive GLA250, which only makes sense (if anything about tiny performance SUVs can make sense).

In addition to more power, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA35 comes standard with the AMG sport suspension tuned for improved handling. Adaptive dampers are optional and add three modes to the suspension settings. For added torsional rigidity, the GLA35 gets an aluminum plate under the engine and two additional braces on the front underbody. Large four-piston, 13.8-inch front and single-piston 13.0-inch rear brake pads come standard for better stopping performance. A uniquely tuned variable steering system has been programmed for more direct turn-in and can be set to one of two modes. Rounding out the upgrades to the GLA35 is a multi-mode AMG exhaust system with a loud setting to make things spicier, probably.

All 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class models will come standard with forward collision warning and front automatic emergency braking. The Driver Assistance package adds steering assist, lane-change assist, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear automatic emergency braking, evasive steering assist, cross-traffic function for the front automatic emergency braking system, and a speed-limit assist that can change based on the current speed limit in the area.

Mercedes' MBUX interface will come standard with two 7.0-inch displays, including one touchscreen on the center stack. You can also opt for two larger 10.3-inch units with built-in navigation and a digital personal assistant similar to Google or Siri. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA35 naturally gets special graphics to distinguish it from the GLA250, and it gets the 10.3-inch displays from the get-go. An AMG Track Pace feature, which allows you to see lateral and longitudinal acceleration, pedal position, and steering angle on the main touchscreen—aren't you dying to know these things?—will also be included in the GLA35's infotainment system. Popular race tracks like the Nürburgring and Spa Francorchamps have also been loaded into the system, and it will learn your favorite, too.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class goes on sale in summer 2020. Expect the GLA35 to follow shortly thereafter.