The Mercedes baby SUV, the GLA, has grown not only in size but in attitude too. The low-slung look of the first-generation GLA is gone, and this one is more upright in its styling. The roof is a whole 10cm higher, adding to its stance. Bulking it up further are wheel arches with 18- or 19-inch wheels to fill them out. A steeply raked rear tailgate, tail-lamps that wrap around the sides, a flashy grill with pinheads that catch the sunlight and a strong chin finish a very stylish look.
Apart from the taller roof, the longer wheelbase and wider track add to the space on the inside. Tall individuals can be comfortable here, especially in the rear seat, where there is a good amount of legroom and headroom. The pair of sunroofs enhance the feeling of space in the cabin, and air-con vents for the second row and an armrest ensure passengers are comfortable. The doors, however, are a little small, and the heavy cladding on the inside makes it feel more so. The ingress could have been better, but it is not a deal-breaker.
As I found out after a trip to Ikea, there is a reasonably sized boot, where a long mirror and multiple odd-sized boxes fit quite easily. It isn’t class-leading at 435 litres and the space-saver tyre eating into the storage area, but one can slide the rear seat forward and straighten the backrest to make more room or flip and fold if there aren’t additional passengers.
The cabin’s front is typical Mercedes with a large flat single panel screen that houses the infotainment and instrument cluster. It’s a stylish dash with brushed aluminium and circular vents, splashes of piano black and leather. You get delightful features like kinetic seats that make continuous adjustments to keep you comfortable. The MBUX system is the latest and answers to “Hey Mercedes!”, and has thoughtful touches like reducing the fan speed when you receive a call. You get Google and Alexa integration, which can also pre-start or cool your car from the comfort of your home, and the app will also let you access all the information on the car remotely. While the wireless charger is in a cubby hole tucked into the console in a not-so-easy place to access or see, the screen lets you know if the phone is charging, which is helpful. Some features you have come to expect, like keyless entry or wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, are missing. For charging or connecting, there are only USB C ports so remember to carry an adapter. You get all the kit and safety that you expect from a Mercedes.
The delight factor is really in what’s under the hood. The 2.0L diesel variant that I drove will put a smile on any face. It’s a refined engine that gives you lusty bursts of power when you extend your right foot. Speed builds up effortlessly. Getting through city traffic is a breeze, cruising down a highway is a joy, and if you find a nice section of road, it will make you grin. The 8-speed DCT shifts gears seamlessly, and quick dabs on the paddles bring up delicious surges of power as you kick down the gears.
Attack a winding road in sport mode, and you will realise the GLA is a little soft in its manners. That’s not to say you can’t have a bit of fun. What helps is the meaty steering that weighs up quite nicely, giving you loads of confidence. In comfort, the ride is more supple, but this mode is better used at low speeds. While Sport may let you feel the potholes a little more, overall, it keeps the ride a lot flatter and better on long drives. Bad roads don’t faze the GLA, and it handled the journey to my farmhouse over uneven dirt roads and some rocky surfaces with ease, and it feels at home on the off-road sections too.
The diesel versions of the GLA are a bit more expensive than rivals, with the GLA 220d priced at ₹45.60 lakh and the GLA 220d 4Matic priced at ₹48 lakh (ex-showroom). But if you are on the lookout for a luxury SUV that’s compact enough for the city, can handle the outdoors well enough, has strong performance and will wrap you in a world of luxury, then the GLA is a great choice.
Renuka Kirpalani is the editor of Autocar Show