Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche told the teeming crowd that the highly-anticipated GLA reminded him of royal baby Prince George. "It took a little longer," he said through a translator, though "it has the right family to take on the leadership of the future."
After a trio of GLAs paraded through the packed convention hall, complete with a live soundtrack, we got a peek at the future of Mercedes: younger, smaller, and less expensive. Zetsche said that it's the fourth compact car from the marque (including the A-class and B-class), but it won't be the last.
Expected to go on sale in the US this time next year, the GLA is an entry-luxury, light-duty crossover that's aimed straight at the BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque, and upcoming Audi Q3. It shares its target audience—and it's much of its interior, drivetrain, and platform—with the CLA compact sedan.
It may share a brand with the go-anywhere Unimog and legendary G-Wagen, Zetsche made no pretense about the GLA's off-road ability. "No question about it," he said. "You can't climb Mt. Everest in it. But you don't have to be afraid of driving up on the lawn edge."
The first model on offer will be the GLA250 4Matic, which can do 0-60 mph in just 6.4 seconds, making it one of the quickest vehicles in its class thanks to a 208-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. Zetsche said that it would eventually be offered with more powertrain choices than Germans have in their upcoming elections. Quick—give this guy a late-night talk show, or at least bring back his "Dr. Z" series of animated TV ads!
Inside, it doesn't stray far from the CLA. As with that car, owners will have the option of a fully-featured, built-in navigation system, or they can choose a less-expensive setup that integrates an iPhone into Mercedes' COMAND infotainment environment. Pick that one, and your phone will use its data plan for navigation, streaming audio, and other connected services.
Safety technology includes a system that counter-steers in crosswinds, and a collision mitigation program that improves braking performance in the event of an unavoidable crash. There's the option to add more active safety systems, including those that can automatically stop or steer the car if the driver gets into trouble.
Pricing hasn't been announced, but we expect it to slot somewhere between the $29,900 CLA and the $37,480 GLK. As with all Benzes, options will likely push prices significantly higher.
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Former Editor in Chief, Reviewed Home@itskeithbarry
Keith was the Editor in Chief of Reviewed's appliance and automotive sites. His work has appeared in publications such as Wired, Car & Driver, and CityLab.
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