What Is It?

The Mercedes-Benz Concept GLA45 AMG follows a familiar pattern: Take a regular M-B vehicle and get the high-performance AMG division to give it a makeover. Except that the GLA isn't a regular M-B car yet.

Based on the same architecture as the new and already successful CLA250 compact sedan, the GLA is the crossover sibling. Higher driving position, tailgate instead of a trunk ... the usual crossover attributes. And the GLA is set to slot in beneath the GLK compact crossover when it reaches the U.S. during the fall of 2014. It will be in direct competition with the BMW X1 and upcoming Audi Q3.

An AMG version of the GLA, then, would be the whizz-bang model. This concept, unveiled at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, makes that case emphatically and helps create interest in general for the GLA, which is a whole new vehicle from the 3-pointed star.

Let's start with the most powerful 4-cylinder engine in production. It's turbocharged to develop 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. For a vehicle this size, that's a lot of muscle to direct through a 7-speed automatic transmission and drive all four wheels.

Looks-wise, red accents adorn various parts from the nose to the black-painted 21-inch alloy wheels to the rear wing. Just in case the CLA45 badge wasn't enough, there's a big number 45 plastered on the front doors.

Promising to be almost as loud is the sports exhaust system that employs an electronically controlled variable vane system to obtain the right throaty note.

Will They Ever Sell It?

The smart money would be on, yes. Mercedes-Benz has all the ingredients at its disposal. An AMG version of the CLA sedan is already on the way, so it's perfectly logical that this concept will one day be a reality.

Chances are it will also be a hoot to drive. The CLA AMG is a fantastic machine; there's no reason why the GLA equivalent couldn't hit the same standard. The way Mercedes-Benz can tune an all-wheel drive system to get power to the road is nothing short of superb.

Although the company says it wants to appeal to younger buyers with such a car -- and young people's tastes sometimes tend to be overly flashy -- don't be surprised if the production model is toned down from this current car-show attention-getter. But don't worry, it will still have plenty of presence.

Why It's Important

It's a halo car. That's the term given to a highly desirable, range-topping version. The idea is that the Mercedes-Benz Concept GLA45 AMG will radiate some of that gotta-have-it-ness to its less sporty compadres. When the regular GLA hits the showrooms, we will all know what it is because concepts like this have sparked our interest. There's also a section of the car-buying public that just has to have the very best model there is, so Mercedes-Benz would be remiss if the company didn't have something to offer them.

author photo

Colin Ryan has driven hundreds of cars thousands of miles while writing for BBC Top Gear magazine, Popular Mechanics, the Los Angeles Times, European Car, Import Tuner and many other publications, websites, TV shows, etc.

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