2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

PHOENIX — There’s a certain metronomic cadence relative to some of Mercedes’ new product introductions that’s reassuringly Germanic. Having previously driven the staggeringly powerful Mercedes-AMG A 45 sedan, I knew it was only a matter of time before the wizards of Affalterbach performance got their hands on Mercedes’s baby GLA SUV (built on the same platform) by fitting it with the hand-built searingly powerful and ridiculously quick 382-horsepower 2.0-liter twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine.


That’s a huge step up from the next-most powerful sub-compact luxury crossover SUV the BMW X2 M35i that makes “just” 302 horsepower from its 4-cylinder.


For the record, the new 2021 GLA comes standard with a base grade 221-horsepower 4-cylinder and there’s also the starter AMG GLA 35 that makes 302-horsepower.

On the road, the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission snaps through the gears lightning quick, launching the GLA 45 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, according to Mercedes. It’s electronically governed to 155 mph top speed.

There’s a choice of six selectable driving modes to choose from including Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, Individual, and Race that allows a wide spread of vehicle characteristics, from comfortable to highly dynamic. That’s a choice of everything but “Subtle.” Mercedes notes that every drive mode alters the GLA's stability control, all-wheel-drive system, transmission behavior, suspension softness, exhaust sound, and throttle response.

Handling and body movement are both technologically and shrewdly controlled with a ride that’s necessarily stiff even in Comfort setting but I sense the experience is so enthralling most buyers won’t mind.

The driving experience is simply astonishing and you’ll need to keep a continuous eye on the speedometer in this “going-faster-than-it-seems” high-performance license loser that addictively flings you down the road easily satisfying your performance driving appetite.

Outside, the GLA 45 with its long power-dome hood, muscular shoulders over the wheel arches and large air intakes on the front fenders, rear roof spoile,r and AMG-specific grille with the vertical slats identifies it as a member of the AMG Performance family. Our test AMG was fitted with the optional 20” 5-spoke wheels (21” wheels are available) and standard dual tailpipes at the rear.

Inside, like all Mercede’s offerings, the GLA 45 is a technological tour-de-force with a vast array of screen views, information, settings, switches, buttons (about the dash, control pad, and steering wheel), commands and a mind-boggling process of figuring out how to operate all of them. It’s fairly easy once you’ve had time to practice and adapt to it all.

The sport seats are comfortable and the back seat isn’t as small as you might expect.  It practicality flips down to more than double cargo capacity when needed. The overall look is defined Mercedes – high quality, impeccable build quality, beautifully designed.

Clearly, the GLA 45 isn’t for everyone and it does come with a premium price tag but for those who cotton to a small SUV with shockingly fierce performance, this unhinged but bewitching luxury crossover will instantly get your heart pounding.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $54,500
Price as Tested: $59,960
What Makes It Go: 382-twin-scroll turbocharged 4-cylinder paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
EPA Fuel Economy: 20/27/23 – mph, City/Highway/Combined
Seating: Five

Crash Test Safety Ratings: Neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2021 Mercedes GLA as of this publication.

Where Built: Rastatt, Germany

Competes With:
BMW X2 M35i
Mercedes – AMG GLA 35
Porsche Macan S

Fab Features
Impressive performance and thrilling driving dynamics
Luxury cabin
Advanced technology and driving assist features

— Jim Prueter