• All-new 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class makes worldwide debut in Frankfurt
  • Highlights include available permanent all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
  • Expected to hit dealerships in the fall of 2014

A luxury brand can never have too many crossover SUVs these days, so the announcement of the compact 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class isn't much of a surprise. Sedans increasingly seem like yesterday's news in the premium segment, superseded by high-riding utility vehicles that look cool, feel secure and add convenience. The new GLA-Class plugs a hole at the bottom of the automaker's crossover lineup, providing a smaller, more fuel-efficient alternative to the C-Class-based GLK.

More than almost any other vehicle in this segment, the new GLA blurs the boundary between "crossover" and "hatchback." Its sleek body sits higher than that of a typical hatchback, but it's clear the GLA was designed for on-road performance, notwithstanding the available 4MATIC permanent all-wheel-drive system. Indeed, Mercedes emphasizes the GLA's "agile handling" in its early press materials -- a claim we look forward to evaluating when we get our hands on a road-ready specimen.

The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, rated at 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, is shared with the similar CLA-Class sedan and should provide plenty of punch. Mercedes estimates that the all-wheel-drive GLA will sprint to 60 miles per hour in just 6.4 seconds. Notably, the transmission is a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, making the GLA the only mainstream crossover thus far to come standard with this traditionally sporty transmission type.

The base, front-wheel-drive GLA will be known as the GLA250, while the all-wheel-drive version will be the GLA250 4MATIC. Look for the latter to hit dealerships by late 2014, while the former should arrive in early 2015. We'll have driving impressions for you as soon as Mercedes tosses us the keys.

What it means to you: The GLA-Class looks cool, goes fast and will likely be appealingly priced. It could be the best new way to put that 3-pointed star in your parking space.

See all Frankfurt Auto Show News

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Josh Sadlier is an automotive journalist based in Los Angeles and has contributed to such publications as Edmunds.com and DriverSide.com. He holds arguably the most unexpected degree in his profession: a master's in Theological Studies.

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