The Mercedes GLA 45 AMG left me feeling slightly cold, but I suspect the problem lies with me, rather than it.
You see, ten years ago I would have loved driving around in a Mercedes AMG with stickers, spoilers, red brake calipers and black 20-inch alloy wheels, but these days I find ostentatious vehicles rather annoying. I might have enjoyed the stares back then, but these days I just want my drive home to be as relaxing, which just isn’t possible when almost every single person that passes you tries to take a photograph of your car with their mobile phone. It’s also impossible to take it anywhere without getting into a discussion about the car, which I’m more than happy to do on most occasions, but not when there’s a crying baby on the back seat who just wants to get home for his afternoon nap.
This then, is a car for attention seekers. I’ve driven many expensive machines and even the odd supercar over the years, but nothing came even remotely close to the amount of attention this car attracted.
I completely understand why. The GLA and the A-Class on which it’s based are very in right now. As I understand it, there’s a fairly long waiting list for one of these vehicles and the 45 AMG is the ultimate version of the ultimate must-have accessory for 2015.
The Edition 1 model is basically a standard GLA 45 AMG with a few cosmetic upgrades to the interior and exterior. It transforms the GLA from a handsome vehicle that blends in rather nicely, to something that will only appeal to a very small group of people. It also costs R75 000, which means the Edition 1 model is playing in dangerous, Porsche infested waters.
But that’s enough about style. This vehicle’s engine is far more important.
It’s AMG’s first attempt at building a four-cylinder engine and there’s no denying the fact that it is a stunning engineering feat.
It has a displacement of just 1991cc, but thanks to a turbocharger and a few other bits and bobs, it produces 265kW and 450Nm of torque. It produces more power for its size than the engine in a Ferrari 458.
It’s mated to Mercedes’ seven-speed dual clutch transmission, which does a decent job when you’re just cruising around town at leisurely speeds.
When the need strikes to step on it, however, it’s much better to put it in manual mode and dial the suspension to its sportiest setting.
Drive it like this and you can get it to 100km/h in less than five seconds. Keep your foot on the accelerator peddle and it will only stop accelerating once it hits 250km/h. It is properly fast, but it has to be said that it doesn’t give you that same exhilarating feeling you get in other AMG tuned Mercs. I suspect it has something to do with the soundtrack, because as good as this engine is, it just doesn’t deliver the same aural delight as the bi-turbo V8 in the ML AMG.
As for the drive, it’s good and bad news. When you drive it like a hooligan, it delivers the goods. It hugs the tarmac nicely and the back will even step out when you lift your foot off the gas mid-corner. It will definitely put a small on your face, but this kind of tarmac performance comes at great cost and that cost is a comfortable ride.
On the day-to-day run it drove me mad. The ride is hard and the bucket seats, while hugging you perfectly when cornering hard, don’t really offer much in the way of comfort when you’re faced with an everyday obstacle like a speed bump.
For some this compromise will be worth it, but I just don’t see the point. Why be uncomfortable for most of the time spent behind the wheel for the few and far between occasions when you can drive like a loon? And why do you have to make this compromise in the first place? I drove a Porsche Macan not that long ago and it manages this balancing act perfectly. It was comfortable most of the time and it put a smile on my face when the mood struck me.
If you’re willing to live with the GLA 45’s uncomfortable ride it would bring unrivalled joy into your life, but for me personally it did nothing.
Yes, I loved the engine and it was deeply impressive at times, but I couldn’t live with it day-to-day.
If I was after a performance SUV, I’d save up and get a Porsche Macan instead, but the GLA 220 CDI already delivers a nice healthy kick. It’s not ridiculously fast, but it’s not underpowered either. Personally, I’d save myself a R350 000 and get one of those instead.