- Mercedes-AMG has revealed the second generation of its GLA compact crossover, which offers more power and new performance-oriented technology.
- The U.S. will get the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 with a turbocharged inline-four that makes 382 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque; Europe also gets a GLA45 S model making 415 hp.
- The 2021 GLA45 goes on sale in the U.S. late this year.
Mercedes-AMG has not pulled any punches in engineering its offering for the second generation of the GLA-class compact crossover. The automaker boasts that the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 packs the most powerful four-cylinder engine currently made. That engine is coupled to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and variable all-wheel drive. And while the powertrain is identical to that of its CLA sibling, the GLA is both more compact and more versatile; with its raised suspension, it could potentially shine off the road, too, although its capabilities would be limited by the high-performance tires.
The AMG GLA45 comes in two trim levels, although (somewhat inexplicably) the more powerful version isn’t slated for a U.S. launch. Both use the company’s awesome M139 engine, fitted with a low-friction, twin-scroll turbocharger. The U.S.-bound model, the GLA45, makes 382 horsepower at 6500 rpm, with maximum torque rated at 345 lb-ft. The other, the GLA45 S, is rated at 415 horsepower.
Even in standard form, it’s worth noting that the GLA45 comes close to the 400-hp 2.5-liter five in Audi RS Q3, and that power translates into performance: the sprint from zero to 62 mph is claimed to take 4.3 seconds, with a top speed governed to 155 mph.
The power is transmitted to all four wheels through a quick eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, controlled through a column shifter that strikes us as somewhat conservative; specific gears can be selected using steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Torque distribution between front and rear wheels is electromechanically controlled. The rear differential is fitted with two multi-disc clutches that distribute power to each wheel according to road conditions and desired vehicle characteristics.
The GLA45 gets a heavily modified performance suspension with MacPherson struts up front, a suspension geometry designed to minimize torque steer, and a four-link rear suspension. An adaptive damping system, variable-ratio steering and high-performance brakes top off the suite of performance features. Thanks to various body reinforcements, the GLA 45 is considerably stiffer than its less powerful siblings.
The software engineers apparently had a lot of fun with this car: If specified when ordering, there are no fewer than six driving modes that manipulate suspension, exhaust sound, gas-pedal feedback, shifting times and sound effects, torque distribution, steering effort, and stability-control intervention. It also offers different levels of agility, with a Master setting that gives the car a slight oversteering tendency. When we tested the same system in a prototype Mercedes-AMG A45, we were impressed by the ease with with we could both initiate and control a drift.
The GLA45 also has a Track Pace program that lets the vehicle serve as your personal instructor. Beyond stored racetracks, it allows you to record your own, and it will feed data into the instrument cluster or the optional head-up display to help you improve lap times.
There are various way of personalizing your GLA45. Those for whom modesty is not their strong suit will appreciate the aggressive diffuser, the Panamericana grille with vertical teeth, the optional aero package, the available matte colors, and the aggressively styled wheels, sized between 19 and 21 inches. The interior can be enhanced with styling touches alluding to race cars, and we love the MBUX instrument cluster’s Supersport setting: It drops the tubular optics of the regular GLA (which you can still select) in favor of futuristic bar graphs.
When the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 comes to market in late summer 2020, it will occupy a unique niche. Both faster and more compact than its competition, it serves up an absolutely unique combination of capabilities and superlatives.