By on December 22, 2017

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45

2.0-liter inline-four, DOHC (375 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 350 lb-ft @ 2,250 rpm)

Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, all-wheel drive

22 city / 28 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

23.2 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $51,595 (U.S.)

As Tested: $71,185 (U.S.)

Prices include $995 freight charge.

26.1 pounds of boost. A seriously stiff suspension. Matte paint finish. Brash red-painted brake calipers. A showy wing. A silly loud exhaust.

Do any of those describe your mental image of a Mercedes-Benz product? Or, when presented with that combination of features, do you conjure a car rejected from one of the early The Fast and the Furious films?

When the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 was revealed a couple of years ago, I recall writing it off as a pretender – after all, it’s a crossover! After spending some time in this absurd vehicle, however, I began to appreciate the magic of AMG.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 profile

The Sticker

Let’s first acknowledge one large elephant – the sticker price:

$71,185.

No, I’m not kidding. Base price of the GLA 45 is $50,600 plus destination charges. This tester has over twenty grand in options, which I’ll discuss shortly.

Forget the obvious all-wheel-drive hatch competitors like the Ford Focus RS ($41,120) and the Volkswagen Golf R ($39,375) – once you option the littlest AMG like my test car, other performance models come into the picture.

Like a new Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport at $66,590. Even looking within the AMG subcategory of Mercedes-Benz, the bonkers C 63 sedan can be had (lightly optioned) for $67,095.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 gauges

The Options

Like I said, this “crossover” (scare quotes because a crossover is just a hatchback with added ride height) starts at about $50,000, but quickly escalates with haphazard clicking of options:

Designo Mountain Grey Magno paint (the magnificent matte grey finish): $2,500

AMG Performance Exhaust: $650

AMG Performance Seats: $2,250

AMG Aerodynamics Package: $1,950

AMG Dynamic Plus Package (adjustable suspension, limited-slip front differential, RACE mode): $2800

Multimedia Package (navigation, smartphone integration, DVD player): $2300

Illuminated Door Sills: $350

Red brake calipers: $300

And so on. Some of these things are frivolous, certainly, but the performance seats, performance exhaust, and dynamic package turn this into a seriously fun car.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 rear

The Interior

We return to preconceptions of what a Mercedes-Benz product should be. I expect wood, metal, and acres of leather when I open the vault-like door. The AMG GLA 45, however, betrays the mass-market crossover beneath, with plenty of hard plastics. The swath of suede-like material across the face of the dash, combined with the same material lining the steering wheel, conveys a racey feeling, and the red-trimmed dash vents and red stitching add to the atmosphere.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 interior

The Recaro-branded AMG performance seats might require acclimatization. As I sat in the perforated leather chair, I was certain my wife would despise riding in this car. The padding is seriously firm, and the high bolsters can be confining. She surprised me, however, by proclaiming these as some of the best seats she’s ever encountered. That firm padding was perfectly supportive, and the bolsters kept her contained as I explored what the GLA 45 could do in the corners.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 front seats

She did complain about those high thigh bolsters, however, when it was time to get out.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 rear seats

The kids had plenty of room behind those sport seats – leg room was plentiful, and the folding armrest helped divide warring sisters. Roomy too was the cargo area. A week’s worth of groceries had plenty of space, as did a weekend’s worth of sports gear for the kids.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 dash

The Styling

Even if you haven’t had the privilege of traveling to Germany, we’ve all heard the stories of Mercedes-Benz sedans being used as taxis in the Fatherland. The idea behind those tales is that they aren’t seen as luxury conveyances – they’re just cars. Max Hoffman, with great effort, made certain that the early Benz models to come to the States were sold as premium, exclusive cars with a price to match, and we’ve taken the bait.

In other words, Americans don’t buy a Mercedes-Benz product to blend in.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 front

The GLA 45 fits that mold, with bold spoilers and big wheels, red brake calipers behind those wheels, and (in the case of my tester) velvety matte grey paint. Mercifully, this car didn’t have the illuminated grille star, which is perhaps the most flamboyant way to tell the neighbors you can spend an extra $450 just because.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 center stack

The GLA 45 is garish. I’m not sure how well the styling will age – the lovely W201 sedan of the Eighties is simple and timeless, while this funky hot hatch has some youth-focused bits that will be dated in a year or two. But I dig it – it’s unapologetically goofy.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 infotainment

The Drive

Want to wake the neighbors? Select Race mode in the GLA 45, and crank the engine. The AMG performance exhaust is decidedly unsubtle. In my week with the car, my wife didn’t need an alarm clock. Yeah, I heard about it when I got home. For the sake of domestic tranquility, consider waiting until you’re down the street to switch modes.

Even when set to the softest setting, the adjustable suspension was rather firm – again, selecting the Race mode on the shocks set my teeth a-rattling on pockmarked Ohio interstates. But when I pulled off the slab to a twisty two-lane, the firm setting eliminated any hint of body roll, letting me enjoy every bit of the road.

No, I never got this car up to impolite speeds, but even when enjoying the back roads, I could feel the very effective limited-slip differential help pull the car through the corners. The rear felt like it wanted to step out a bit, but the all-wheel drive kept everything in check even on wet roads.

375 horsepower is incredibly addictive in such a small car. Launching from a stop was a cliché-inducing affair – neck-snapping, jaw-dropping, etc. One just doesn’t expect to get off the line so rapidly. I did notice a bit of turbo lag when between gears, as the dual-clutch transmission doesn’t have a torque converter to absorb some of that lag. Still, it’s only noticeable when driving aggressively.

That transmission shifts very quickly, and perhaps a bit more harshly than other dual-clutch units I’ve sampled, though it works beautifully in automatic mode. Choosing your own ratio with the column-mounted paddles yields quick shifts that slam home at full throttle, but otherwise are nice and smooth.

2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 rear quarter

The Verdict

Silly. Absurd. Bonkers. I’ve used some adjectives here that I typically wouldn’t when describing a rather expensive car.

But I’m glad Mercedes-AMG offers this insane GLA 45. It’s a sign that, even though every car maker has shifted its focus to the dreaded crossover, there are companies willing to make driving those crossovers enjoyable.

The price is steep, though I’m sure with judicious option choices the sticker might become more palatable. But the sheer joy of driving this vehicle, knowing that it is fundamentally a crossover, makes me seriously consider what it would take to put it in my driveway for good.

[Images: © 2017 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

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48 Comments on “2018 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 Review – A Manic German...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    That price is absurd. Will a stand-in for JP Morgan himself be the spokesperson? (Much like the long dead Colonel Sanders for KFC.)

    “If you have to ask you can’t afford it.”

    The styling looks like the ba$tard child of a BMW X1 and a Mazda 3 hatch.

    The backwards baseball cap wearing tuner community just had a collective big O over this monstrosity.

    • 0 avatar
      tylanner

      I agree that the price is the most garish part of the whole thing. The styling, while decidedly less German, is still top notch in my opinion…and as always, the MB cockpit is nearly without flaw.

      But we ought to try to maintain some perspective on the whole price thing…There is an entire global market for cars with budgets ranging from month to month leases to multi-million dollar bespoke masterpieces. We should be careful in presuming that an apples-to-apples value comparison is even possible in this context given the wide range of use and preference that these machines are intended to fulfill. In general the higher up the price scale you go the more personal preference becomes the overriding factor. In the market where Mercedes Benz makes its hay the choice of buying one model or make over another is anything but the result of a rational Kepner-Tregoe like analysis. The day one decides to make the purchase is no more than the unconscious culmination of the visual/aural/tactile stimulus that the specific automobile provides in the showroom or test drive and all of your lives experiences involving cars, Motorsport, driving, road trips, media consumption….all experiences in which the Mercedes Benz brand and reputation plays a role…and despite the appeal of the MB brand being more abstract than most I think the results speak for themselves.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Bleh. I bet you liked the Caliber SRT4 too.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I absolutely cannot imagine buying this, even at base price, when the GLC43 AMG starts at $56k. No one asked Mercedes to build a Civic Type R with less refinement.

    Now that GLC43… that’s a Mercedes crossover I could live with. The interior is actually nice, it doesn’t look like a WRX STI on a red paint bender, and the engine sounds smooth instead of neighbors-yell-at-you obnoxious.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    No.

  • avatar
    brandloyalty

    “26.1 pounds of boost. A seriously stiff suspension. Matte paint finish. Brash red-painted brake calipers. A showy wing. A silly loud exhaust.”

    Etc. etc.

    And folks accuse ev and hybrid drivers of virtue signalling.

  • avatar
    NoID

    When I first saw this car at the 2017 (or 2016…) NAIAS I was immediately struck by how hatch-backish were its proportions. It is truly a crossover in name only, and thus one I’d not mind having in my driveway.

    But not for $71k. That’s so out of this world that I suspect it will become a button the dash of the next Tesla, to indicate the latest launch settings.

    “Dude, you think that’s cool, try the $71k MSRP GLA45 AMG Mode!”

    • 0 avatar
      Maymar

      Fun fact – the GLA is 1cm less tall than my Mazda2, and less than 2cm taller than a VW Golf. It is pretty firmly in hot hatch territory.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        “Fun fact – the GLA is 1cm less tall than my Mazda2, and less than 2cm taller than a VW Golf. It is pretty firmly in hot hatch territory.”

        Came here to say this.

        Other than the M-B being 7.5″ longer, and other than the Golf having MORE interior space with seats folded, the M-B piece is virtually the dimensions of a Golf.

        My GTI Autobahn cost $30K, period. And it has actual leather. That thing will be more than 2X that once it’s outfitted properly.

        Yes, it’s probably more appropriate to compare it to a Golf R. But AWD notwithstanding, is it 2X the car of a GTI? What else could I do with that extra $30K-$35K?

        Well, I could spend maybe $2000 and give the GTI a tune to 312bhp and beef up the suspension a bit.

        Or I could go buy a 2018 Golf S for $20K (now includes all 220bhp plus the big brakes), and throw $15K of stuff into it to make it a weekend warrior–and still have the Autobahn for daily driver duties.

        For those who want to tune the GTI to death, I say just go ahead and get the M-B. It’ll end up being cheaper, once you factor in the factory warranty.

    • 0 avatar
      focus-ed

      I also didn’t mind the looks of the AMG version (every CUV deserves to be lowered, though it won’t be sufficient to fix some;), but – besides the pricetag – the thing is heavy, has no MT option and no 2 door variant (sadly these options are pretty much gone in US) and while the front is OK, the butt looks like crap (them tail lights in particular). With the single engine option offered, I can see no reason to buy it over Golf R. Even plain GTI delivers both better looks and sufficient performance.

  • avatar
    Rick T.

    Well, my mental image of the E Class was not a taxicab. Yet I still had one in the garage for a few years until I learned better.

  • avatar
    NoID

    I don’t think what you’re describing is turbo lag in the classic sense of the term. It sounds like it’s downshifting to an RPM below the boost threshold, which seems like an oversight in the transmission calibration for a sporty automobile.

    Anyone smarter than me pick up on that nuance, and if so care to validate my comprehension or tear me down to build me back up again in my understanding of boosted engine performance?

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one slightly confused by that part of the review.

      I’m too lazy to look up exactly how a dual clutch shifts, but in a manual transmission, boost lag is a factor on shifts because you have to let off the gas, killing boost, for each shift, whereupon you definitely can experience lag once getting back on the gas. As I understand it, race cars sometimes use anti-lag measures like injecting gas into the exhaust stream, afterburner-style, to keep the turbo spinning when you get off the gas.

      Automatic transmissions play nicely with turbos because the planetary gearsets don’t require the engine to decrease load in order to change gears, and the torque converter (the “slush” part of a slush box) smooths out peaks and valleys in an engine’s torque output.

      Again, I’m not sure exactly how this plays out with dual clutches. I imagine that the lag is less of an issue than with a clutch-pedal-manual and maybe a bit more than with a torque converter automatic, because it might still need to cut output for a split second while the clutches swap and there’s no torque converter to smooth out any torque dips.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        Then you best hit Youtube to find out how a dual clutch transmission works. There’s no letting off the gas; there’s just a few millisecond moment while one shaft declutches and the next shaft–with the next gear already selected and spinning–simultaneously clutches.

  • avatar
    tallguy130

    This is beyond insane. It’s a $75k knock-off of a GTI!!! I’m super open minded about what different people like for cars but as a brand what in the flat brimmed hat is merc thinking!?

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “This is beyond insane. It’s a $75k knock-off of a GTI!!!”

      hehehe See my post above.

      One GTI Autobahn for DD/family hauling plus one GTI S modded up for weekend warrior duties, and you’ll spend no more than what the M-B costs.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m going to be the devil’s advocate here and praise this thing – not because the car itself is all that praiseworthy, but because Mercedes actually builds something this beserk. Good on ’em.

    • 0 avatar
      TonyJZX

      Although this thing is objectionable, you can get the same drivetrain in the CLA45 sedan wagon etc. etc.

      While I dont like the handling of these things I do get the ‘pull’ of these.

      They are blistering in a straight line and the rapid fire DCT and the ability to exceed the speed limit in 1.5 secs and the noise… I get it.

      They also have the prestige of the star and the shoutiness of the performance.

      You can buy lesser cars that are just as fast but you won’t “get away” with using that performance in urban areas.

      Its like the BMW ///M badge but better.

  • avatar
    Opus

    Grey paint, whether matte or not, is ineligible for “magnificent”. This ugly thing got shipped out after the primer and they never applied the final paint. It’s only MB that would have the nerve to charge extra for omitting a finishing step. This is a PT Barnum special.

  • avatar
    Null Set

    Sounds like a very expensive TransAm, without the screaming hood chicken.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    The Porsche Macan S is cheaper than this. The new BMW x3m40 is cheaper than this. The new Audi SQ5 is cheaper than this. The MB GLC63 is about the same price as this. All look better, all ride better, all have more space and nicer interiors, and all will have better resale value. You would really have to be a “unique” individual to pop for this overpriced hatchback CUV wannabe.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    What does this do that hot hatches half its price can’t, besides glow the MB emblem on the grill in the dark?

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “What does this do that hot hatches half its price can’t”

      At those power levels? Have a factory warranty.

      Sometimes, you look at all the mods and say, “yeah, well, if I’m going to spend THAT much…” and start looking around.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        I said earlier today “Horsepower is no substitute for character/response”. This thing is already boosted within an inch of its life with a transmission that can’t keep up… I can’t even imagine how awful these things are tuned lmao.

        I’d gladly sacrifice the 0.4s to 60 or whatever to pocket like $30K for a Golf R.

  • avatar
    carguy

    I test drove the CLA45 about a year ago and didn’t come away impressed. While the engine and brakes were excellent, the slow shifting gearbox and dim-witted AWD system are deal breakers.

    Mid corner throttle just yields under-steer and tranny is so slow that you have to hit upshift before 6K to avoid hitting the rev-limiter.

    I have been told that MB has made some improvement to these short comings but I still wouldn’t pay $70K for it. For that money, a Cayman 718 is better in nearly every way if you want to go fast and for a quick CUV the Macan/M40 X3/SQ5/GLC43 are way more car for your money.

  • avatar
    V16

    This Mercedes is a dead ringer for the current Mazda 3 hatch, from the side.
    For $71,000, I’d rather have three 3’s and keep the change.

  • avatar
    scott25

    I can’t help but feel if MB sold the A45 AMG here instead which is basically the same car but without the tiny lift and cladding, and with a manual option, it wouldn’t be made fun of so much. It also wouldn’t have the 10k crossover tax and might more directly compete with the RS, R and Type R like it does overseas.

    • 0 avatar
      baconator

      If they brought in the A45 it would probably be roughly the same price, and people would whinge about a $65k “hatchback.”

      As it stands, this thing probably competes with the Land Rover Evoque – it’s for very rich, very young people. It’s definitely not my thing, but it sounds like it drives well. They’ll sell all 2500 or however many they’re bringing to the US.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    It’d be cheaper to throw a Hellcat crate engine into a Mazda 3.

  • avatar
    maxdr1ver

    I love it…and I also own one. I’m not a fan of the rear wing on the test car and would never get one that way. I also would not buy one new.(agree 70k is nuts for this car new)

    For me the only must have options are the AMG exhaust, seats and HK stereo. Mine has those options, plus a few others.

    The engine is a work of art…absolutely insane! I considered a Macan, but after driving both it was no contest, the AMG is way more fun to drive. I bought my 2016 with 7k miles for 20k off sticker. Incredible value that way…!

  • avatar
    Ion

    When these first came out it wasn’t uncommon to see these ultra loaded examples roll out of the dealer in quick fashion. Nowadays we mostly sell examples in the mid 50’s, which is still GT350 or C7 territory. This car has an odd choice of options in that it looks like it has Distronic but it lacks a panoroof.
    Those AMG seats have no shoulder support and I hate driving in them

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    At this price level it all comes down to personal preferences. Perhaps this car offers something that its rivals or similar cars do not. Price may not be the deciding factor, especially since at this level a few thousand Dollars for this and that feature won’t really matter.

    For someone out there this thing is worth the asking price – and that’s really all that matters. Don’t like the car? Then don’t buy it.

    That beinf said, I would never buy a GLA. The GLC is prettier and offers more versatility.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      “Perhaps this car offers something that its rivals or similar cars do not.”

      You mean, like vinyl seats?

      And I’m talking vinyl on the M-B, while the Golf R (and even lowly GTI) has leather.

      GTI for $30K, tune and add mods–what do you have? More importantly, how much did you spend to get EXACTLY what you wanted?

  • avatar
    snakebit

    Please, M-B, let’s sell the rights to both the CLA and GLA to Acura, which they really more resemble, and get back the business of making Mercedes-Benz.Pleeze. For $50K-$70K, I don’t want a German-engineered TLX or MDX.

  • avatar
    John R

    Yeah…how much is the M2 again? Hell, this is nearly M3 money. Hard pass.

  • avatar
    Sundance

    This car is a joke and I tell that as a German Benz-owner. The whole A-class thing is meant as an answer to the Golf. So this thing is nothing but a Benz-Golf, based on a front-scratcher platform (no real Benz has front wheel drive, that’s for sure). They added rear wheel drive and some bling-bling and chip-tuned the tiny engine to the max. Ready is your over 70k $ so-called Benz. Real Benz-owners do not acknowledge this as a member of the family. It is for Golf-drivers who want to upscale with another badge on the hood. By the way – this thing is ugly as hell.

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