Mercedes-Benz’ first all-wheel-drive GLA model is here now – the GLA 250 4MATIC. Like the 2WD GLA 200 CDI, the all-paw version is an extraordinary premium compact SUV – without doubt the world’s best in this league.
But wait! There’s still more. As we know, scheduled to land locally in October is the GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC – which will be nothing short of awesome.
The AMG version will be the star of the three-model GLA lineup, but Mercedes-Benz reckons the GLA 250 4MATIC will be the best-seller. We’re not surprised – after two days on and off-road in New Zealand, we’ve seen what the GLA 250 4MATIC can do.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Overview
Mercedes-Benz has the entry-level GLA 200 CDI priced at $47,900 and has launched the GLA 250 4MATIC at $57,900. Those super-sharp prices must have rivals at BMW and Audi giving themselves uppercuts.
Mercedes-Benz being Mercedes-Benz, and the GLA being its vehicle in the burgeoning premium compact SUV segment, even the entry-level 200 CDI is beautifully-equipped and bursting with technology. Of course the GLA 250 4MATIC switches to a petrol engine but on top of that adds 19-inch alloy wheels (18-inch on GLA 200 CDI), Off-Road Engineering Package, Intelligent Light System (which in off-road going points the headlights outwards by six degrees and increases their brightness) and a massive electric panoramic sunroof.
And of course the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC is all-wheel-drive with a different 4MATIC system to the CLA 250 Sport 4MATIC sedan which was launched simultaneously. The GLA’s version adds Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) and an off-road transmission mode (which includes revised throttle mapping) as it does posses more than a little unsealed road ability - as we discovered in wild, wet, gale-whipped New Zealand…read-on
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Engine
Power comes from Mercedes-Benz’ familiar turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine (as fitted to the E250). Kilowatt for kilowatt, this is one of the world’s best engines 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol powerplants.
For the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC output is identical to the E-Class - maximum power is 155kW and peak torque is 350Nm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is rated at 7.0l/100kms.
Drive is to all four wheels via the 7G-DCT twin-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission and the latest 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system.
Mercedes-Benz has worked its considerable ‘smarts’ into the 4MATIC system in the interests of overall fuel consumption. The GLA 250 4MATIC works as a fuel-saving front-wheel-drive vehicle most of the time, but at the rear is a lightweight aluminium axle-mounted variable torque-on-demand system operated by multi-disc clutches.
All vehicle sensors contribute to calculate how much drive to transfer rearwards (it can be up to 50/50) – all in 100 milliseconds. And the propeller shaft from the engine to the rear is a remarkable two-piece design which is more than 2.0-metres in length (longer in fact that the propeller shaft in the Mercedes-Benz S-Class).
The Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC weighs-in just 50kgs heavier than the front-drive GLA 200 CDI.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC The Interior
Mercedes-Benz does interiors very, very well and the A-Class-inspired design for the GLA is a standout. That means the hallmark round air vents, stand-up 14.7cm TFT colour screen, handsome new-design seats and nicely-finished silver trim highlights.
Over the entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI, the most important difference for the GLA 250 4MATIC are the buttons under the audio system to control the off-road operation. The all-paw model also gains heated front seats with full electronic operation and memory function.
Those seats combine with the usual beautifully designed Mercedes-Benz steering wheel to provide an ideal driving position and view of the stylish instruments. To the left, the colour screen governs the six-speaker Audio 20 system and Becker Map Pilot navigation.
Rear seat space is surprisingly good and highlights the family-friendly dimension of the GLA.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Exterior & Styling
The Mercedes-Benz GLA is a head-turner from any angle. Mercedes’ stylists have delivered a compact SUV big on dynamic looks but not too brawny that it would offend.
The front sees the latest ‘corporate’ grille with the large centrally-mounted three-pointed star, large lower air intake, modern bi-xenon lights with terrific-looking DRLs and plenty of sculpturing for the bonnet and fenders.
Side view is highlighted by the prominent character lines and very classy 19-inch alloy wheels.
And the rear features a small glass area and some waist bulges to accentuate width.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC On The Road
It sounded straight-forward – fly to Auckland and over two days drive the CLA 250 Sport 4MATIC sedan and GLA 250 4MATIC compact SUV over the stunning coastal roads to Tauranga and back, including, for the latter, a burst at the Pukerau 4WD Park (about 40kms from Auckland). But on day two we awoke to find a large cruiser had broken its mooring and washed ashore right next to our hotel – such was the strength of the gale force winds and savage rain which arrived overnight.
By the time we got to the 4WD park, being outside was a battle to just stand-up! In fact winds up to 130km/h battered New Zealand’s capital city while we serenely drove our Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC over the (admittedly not too challenging) dirt tracks and admired some spectacular island views.
The deluge also turned the grass into a skating rink and in those circumstances, all-wheel-drive vehicles like the GLA are more governed by their on-road biased tyres than any chassis limitations. Never mind, we kept our GLA on the dirt tracks and even got to try the Downhill Speed Regulation system (DSR).
DSR sees the GLA maintain a fixed speed between 2.0km/h and 18.0km/h which you set using the cruise control stalk. It’s brilliant – slow-speed cruise control for off-road conditions if you like.
On road, the GLA was superb. Better than anyone else, Mercedes-Benz successfully blends sporty dynamics with refinement and comfort.
Over the winding roads heading out towards Tauranga we switched to the various ‘Sport’ and ‘Manual’ settings and the GLA 250 4MATIC responded with snappy manual gear changes courtesy of the steering wheel paddle-shifters and extra tautness and from the suspension for precision and balance. To be honest, even in the comfort setting, the GLA 250 4MATIC was very high standard with great grip, balance and ride even in the slippery going.
Contributing to the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4Matic’s excellent driving dynamics is some specific extra body strength for the all-wheel-drive model. There’s reinforcement in the C-pillars, centre tunnel, floor and roof (the latter to accommodate the panoramic sunroof).
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Issues
Nothing to fix with the GLA – Mercedes-Benz has nailed it…again
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Verdict
This is the premium compact SUV for us (in fact a mate bought a Mercedes-Benz GLA 200 CDI on our recommendation and loves it). Global popularity means you might have to wait a bit for a GLA if you want a specific colour - but it will definitely be worth it.
‘Benz reckons the petrol-powered, all-wheel-drive GLA 250 4MATIC could well become the model’s top-selling variant and it’s easy to see why. The combination of that turbocharged 2.0-litre engine and all-paw grip combined with the already established GLA credentials is an alluring all-round package.
Or looking at it another way – we’d love a CLA 250 Sport 4MATIC but with an 11 year-old and 10 year-old we realistically need the extra space and convenience of the GLA. That will be a familiar refrain for many families in this market segment.
We love the looks inside and out, there’s none better in the driving dynamics department and, at $57,900, the Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC is one of the best buys in any new car segment. Mercedes-Benz is right at the top of the game at the moment and the GLA 250 4MATIC perfectly illustrates the point.
Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC The Competition
BMW’s X1 is the obvious rival for the GLA but you’ll need a bit more coin - $59,900 starting price for the all-wheel-drive xDrive 28i. As always, the X1 is a great steer and as always you need to carefully check the detailed specifications of what’s standard and what’s optional to make a fair comparison.
Audi’s Q3 Quattro is also a rival. Starting price is sharp at $49,450 but you’ll need $56,500 for the 2.0 TFSI Quattro with 155kW (same output as the GLA 250 4MATIC). And again study those specification charts to be ‘crystal’ on standard versus optional kit.