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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Colin Ryan November 2014

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG 4MATIC is the go-faster version of the company's new compact crossover SUV, the GLA250, and it really does go fast.

The GLA is based on the same platform as the CLA compact sedan, and most crossovers are built this way. In the case of the GLA45 AMG, ride height is lowered by 1.8 inches compared to the regular GLA250, suspension is stiffened, brakes are uprated and the engine under the hood has been assembled by one technician.

AMG State of Mind

This is the traditional "one man, one engine" AMG method. Once the motor is completed at the facility, a signed plaque goes on. It's been that way since AMG was a separate tuning house that specialized in preparing Mercedes-Benz cars for the track or for making the most of those long, straight stretches of German roads that have no speed limit. It is now under the Mercedes-Benz corporate umbrella.

Some Mercedes-Benz enthusiasts might have heard of the upcoming Mercedes-AMG GT, an all-new sports car set to rival the Porsche 911 and Audi R8. The GT is powered by a turbocharged V8. What AMG has done is cut that motor in half, and the result is this: a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder making 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes-Benz claims it's the world's most powerful series-production turbo 4-cylinder engine.

It propels the GLA45 from 0-to-60 miles per hour in a scant 4.8 seconds. Power hits the pavement through a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission (it's not complex to use -- put it in drive and go, or use the steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles for some extra fun) linked to a standard all-wheel-drive system, which is the 4MATIC part of the name. There's no spin or slip -- only the grip from high-performance tires on 19-in alloy wheels followed by the car dashing forward.

To ensure that such speedy progress is not hindered by too many detours to the gas station, the GLA45 AMG is claimed to achieve 23 miles per gallon in the city, 29 mpg on the highway and 25 mpg combined.

It wouldn't be a Mercedes-Benz without a technical flourish here and there. A sophisticated electronic stability program (ESP) has the ability to brake single wheels to help the car get around corners safely and quickly.

Top of the GLA Class

Let's call it a car, because the GLA45 is similar to a hot hatchback (think VW Golf R) with a slightly higher driving position plus the practicality of 42 cu ft. of cargo volume with the rear seats folded flat. Putting the seats up leaves 11.8 cu ft. of cargo space, and a power lift gate is standard. If adults of average size climb into the rear quarters, they will be fairly happy with the amount of headroom and legroom -- at least for short trips.

Drivers will enjoy special sport seats with side support and cosmetic additions such as a flat-bottomed steering wheel with black Alcantara (a faux suede material often found in racing cars) and carbon-fiber trim pieces.

The ride quality, however, might not please everyone. The sport suspension is certainly sure-footed, but the trade-off to that means that there is a compromise in comfort. This AMG version also lets in more surface noise than its regular GLA250 counterpart.

If that's not an issue, then seek out an AMG and enjoy the rush, along with the Mercedes-Benz build quality, ambiance and styling. Even if you've accepted that looks are purely subjective, it's still hard to make a crossover appear sleek and pretty. Chances are that most people will find the GLA quite easy on the eye. The sporty alloy wheels plus the optional red brake calipers and rear wing make the AMG version even more distinctive.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG 4MATIC starts at $49,225, including destination. Standard equipment includes all-wheel drive, eight airbags, attention assist (a driver drowsiness monitor), and Collision Prevention Assist Plus -- a radar-based system that will warn a driver of an impending forward collision and, eventually, pre-tension seat belts. The "plus" aspect brings autonomous braking.

A rearview camera, navigation, 20-in alloy wheels, heated seats, panoramic sunroof, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-keeping assist and park assist are all on the options list. These things are sometimes bundled in packages, so have a clear idea of your budget and requirements.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA45 AMG: First Drive Review - Autotrader