Capsule Review: 2015 Mercedes Benz GLA45 AMG

Kamil Kaluski
by Kamil Kaluski

Per Mercedes-Benz’s own naming strategy, anything with a G is considered an SUV, even if the GLA45 AMG is classified as a car. That would make this GLA45 AMG a hatchback – a hot-hatch if you will. Since no one in United States buys hatchbacks, it’s being called an SUV anyways. I went along with this until I pulled up next to a cross-over SUV called Range Rover at a light and noticed that its door handle was above this cute-ute’s roofline. Truth is that it doesn’t matter what you call it because it’s a blast!

The 2.0-liter 355hp engine sounds mean at startup, letting everyone know that this isn’t a plain olde’ Benzito, but it doesn’t sound like a tuned child’s toy either (Fiat 500 Abarth, I’m looking at you). Select sport mode, start driving and you really wouldn’t know what is under the hood. There is plenty of low-end power and the engine is not screaming in agony on its way to a relatively low 6250rpm redline. It doesn’t feel like any 2.0-liter or turbo motor I have ever experienced; smooth and linear power from idle to redline. Very impressive.

The gear changes from the 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission are fast, accompanied by exotic car-like gurgling backfire noises that were clearly designed in the most sophisticated of anechoic chambers. These noises may not be to everyone’s liking but will let the slower drivers know that they have just been passed by something special. The transmission’s only issues were at very low speeds, where it sometimes couldn’t decide exactly which gear to chose or when to fully disengage the clutch.

The speed and power of this vehicle are really deceptive, especially on the highway where triple-digit speeds are achieved rather effortlessly. Surprisingly, even in sport mode, it doesn’t launch off the line with authority (I didn’t abuse the vehicle by holding both pedals in) but then really takes off once it built up some speed. Buff books say that a quarter mile run can completed in high 12-second range, which was exotic car territory just a few years ago, now accomplished in a four-banger hatchback with a transversely mounted engine.

Toss this SUV wagon hatchback vehicle into a highway on-ramp and it will stick surprisingly well, with minimum body roll. The steering is very quick and direct, and may just be one of the best of FWD/AWD-based cars. On public roads I obviously didn’t drive anywhere near its or my own limits, but even then the little Benz telegraphed its intended part of travel and tire adhesion very well, with safe and predictable intentions toward understeer. There is a downside to all that fancy handling, however. When the smooth pavement ends, the bumpy ride begins. It’s not as bad as some so-called sport sedans with stiff springs and no-profile tires, but it’s certainly worse than any MB I have ever been in – something like GM’s Magnetic Ride Control would make a huge improvement.

The interior will be familiar to anyone who has recently sat in a new MB. The infotainment system is heavy in buttons but generally easy to use, similar to other German makers, with the use of large console mounted knob but with Ford-esque steering wheel buttons. The sports seats are supportive and comfortable, a combination that is not always exclusive. Other AMG cues are visible in big clear gauges, flattened steering wheel, shifter paddles, and a really nice carbonfiber trim.

Forward visibility is not great, with large A-pillars and low sitting position and/or high beltline. The mirrors are rather small, too. From the driver’s seat, the hood has a visible dome in it but I am not sure if it is there to reaffirm that this is a sports, in a WRX sort of way, car or a truck in a 4Runner sort of way. Things get worse looking back; small windows and huge C-pillar make reversing or parallel parking downright challenging. There are sensors and a back-up camera to help assist with this, but the overall process is more difficult than it should be.

To test this vehicle’s abilities to do SUV things I filled up the trunk with week’s worth of groceries, a booster seat and a toddler seat in the back seat, and then instructed everyone to take their seats, with my wife in the front. Shockingly, everyone was comfortable. The back seat is short on legroom but the kids didn’t care. The trunk is small but swallowed up the groceries and a diaper bag. It may not be a large vehicle, but it is functional in a typical hatchback fashion.

The base Mercedes-Benz GLA250 starts at $33,300. But this GLA45 AMG is anything but base and therefore it starts at $48,300. Add to that your choice of packages: Premium Package, Driver’s Assistance Package, Multimedia Package, and/or Aerodynamic Package, and the total price can easily surpass the $60,000 mark. That is a lot of coin for a car that Mercedes representatives themselves referred to as “a Subaru WRX for grownups”, which may just be the best way to classify this vehicle.

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there.

Mercedes-Benz USA, LLC provided the vehicle for this review.

Kamil Kaluski
Kamil Kaluski

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  • Maymar Maymar on Nov 17, 2014

    At a certain point, this just stops making sense. So, crossovers are useful because they're better at dealing with potholes and rough roads? Sure, until you give them massive wheels and tires that utterly fill the wheel wells. Oh, but they're easy to get into, and have a commanding view! Well, yes, but then you make one that's all squat with small windows, and lower it so it's not a total soggy mess. Oh, but they're so much cooler looking than hatchbacks! But in a fugly race, it's probably a dead heat with the roomier B-Class that Benz apparently refuses to sell in the US. But then, honestly, I'm not sure I've ever seen an AMG driven in anger. I'm not entirely sure most use much more of their copious power than I get from my anaemic 100 horses on a daily basis. So maybe just drop the ruse that it's about increased performance, and just acknowledge that people just want to be able to demonstrate they bought the most expensive model available. I mean, Benz has plenty of names they could dust off to make an ultra-luxury model - they keep trying to make Maybach happen, but there's also Pullman, or Grosser, or I'm sure they could come up with something else. So, take our hypothetical GLA Maybach - load it up with an S-Class's range of goodies, give it enough sound deadening that you could sleep through the Blitz, and give it the build quality befitting a $60k vehicle. Hell, maybe encourage the Porsche model of pricey customization options. That seems less goofy than a stonking quick SUV (of varying enormity) sloooooowly drifting into my lane while the driver has a phone pressed to their face (even though, don't they come with Bluetooth?).

    • DeadWeight DeadWeight on Nov 17, 2014

      What!?? A 48k to 60k economy car platform tiny and oddly shaped CUV with a hand grenade motor, lower ride height than most vehicles, the storage space of a Hyundai Accent, an interior not worthy in material quality or assembly of a Buick, that makes fart popping sounds as it crashes over pebbles and ruts while using dizzy logic to grab the correct on of 7 gears - it's not sensible? This is a helluva vehicle as well as great value, and if you don't think so there are many, many people here who derive their living from selling vehicles who will inform you in crystal clear language that all vehicles make sense, at any price, no matter their qualities or lack thereof, and you should not only NOT dare air your critical thoughts about it, you are just obtuse. Buy it! Have fun! Even if it sucks & blows, pay the freight, bend over, and grin and bear it, because no bad choices!

  • TybeeJim TybeeJim on Nov 19, 2014

    At some point these things become truly inane. I have a Q5 2.0T and it works quite well for a CUV with adequate room and a pretense of rally performance. Of course the quality is superb in my book. But, I must admit that this Benz intrigues me. I've read that it is a monster on the track, maybe the sportiest Benz in many moons. I'd like to see a comparo with the Macan which comparably equipped will be 10k more expensive. The thing is, almost no one will ever take these things on the track where they can legally flog the crap out of it. The Macan folks are more likely if they own other P-cars. Let us know when you set up the Macan v GLA45 v WRX Sti duel.

  • Kat Laneaux I get the point that Musk is making. I wouldn't want everyone to know my secrets. If they did, they could or would shout it out to the world. But then, if Musk certified certain folks and had them sign Confidentiality agreements, which would allow them to work on cars that Musk had made, that could allow others to work on his cars and not confine vehicle owners to be charged an arm and a leg for the service. It's a catch 22. People are greedy little buggers. If they can find a way to make money, they will even if it wrong. People...sad.
  • 285exp I have been assured that EVs don’t require maintenance, so this seems pointless.
  • Slavuta "The fuel-economy numbers are solid, especially the 32 mpg on the highway"My v6 Highlander did 31 over 10 hour highway trip
  • Aja8888 As I type this, my 4 months old Equinox's Onstar module that controls the phone is broken. Yep, 4 months (never worked right from day one). Replacement will be a REFURBISHED unit since no new ones can be obtained (from China?). I really don't miss the phone via Bluetooth. And I have a great Garmin that I have used for years for trips which has free lifetime maps and traffic.
  • Bd2 There's a reason why talented American execs have been leaving Stellantis in droves.Tavares seems intent in following "Le Cost Cutter" Ghosn into driving his company into the dirt, whilst "justifying" his ever expanding compensation.