2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA: Once More, With Purpose

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
2021 mercedes benz gla once more with purpose

Mercedes-Benz wants to take you higher. Not just in terms of social strata, but also in terms of distance from terra firma.

See, in the subcompact GLA-Class, a model line that purported to be a crossover, driver and passengers could have been fooled into believing they were riding in a regular hatchback. Not so for 2021. Mercedes-Benz has done everything in its power to turn the GLA into a bonafide crossover, and height has everything to do with it.

Riding atop the brand’s MFA small car platform (found beneath the new A- and CLA-Class), this latest GLA arriving in mid-2020 is shorter than the outgoing model by 0.6 inches. Wheelbase increases by 1.1 inches, affording rear-seat passengers an extra 4.5 inches of legroom. Cargo volume behind the backseat grows by half a cube.

Track is up 1.6 inches; ground clearance, should that be of concern to anyone, rises to 5.6 inches — a boost born of increased wheel size. Choice ranges from the standard 17-inchers to uplevel 20-inch jobs.

As for height, both driver and vehicle have that in spades. Eager to offer a profile and seating position “more typical of an SUV,” Mercedes-Benz seated the front-row occupants 5.5 inches higher than before. With standard roof rails in place, the GLA’s height grows 4.1 inches. Coupled with the decreased overall length and new body, the GLA now looks like the crossover it was supposed to be.

Should the rear-seat environment feel too car-like (and cargo volume too lacking), the backseat offers 5.5 inches of up-down movement, with a seatback that can stand upright if luggage considerations call for it.

As for power, buyers of the entry-level GLA 250 and GLA 250 4Matic can expect a modest upgrade in horsepower from their 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and no extra twist. Output is 221 hp and 258 lb-ft, routed through an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic to the front or all four wheels. Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 buyers can expect a much more potent experience, however.

In the performance-tuned version, output rises to 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. An eight-speed Speedshift DCT manages the power, and the 4Matic all-wheel drive system will offer that all-important 50:50 torque split for impromptu drifting. Regular GLA buyers can access the same fore-aft ratio by selecting off-road mode on their drive selector, though just how many drivers will ever utilize Downhill Speed Regulation remains to be seen.

Available adaptive damping, trim specific wheels measuring 19 to 21 inches, five AMG Dynamic Select drive modes, and upgraded brakes (13.8-inch discs up front, 13 inches in the rear) sets the GLA 35 apart from its vanilla sibling.

Inside, the GLA incorporates the tech-heavy trappings found in its Millennial-chasing platform mates. Drivers face two 7-inch displays, or two 10.25-inch ones should they choose to spend more money. MBUX infotainment offers a voice prompt feature, thus allowing users to boss around their own car by saying “Hey Mercedes…”

While Mercedes-Benz doesn’t detail exactly what standard safety equipment can be found on the new GLA, it does tout the wonders of its available Driver Assistance Package, which brings steering, following, and brake assist to the table (among other niceties).

Pricing will be announced closer to the 2021 GLA’s on-sale date.

[Images: Daimler AG]

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  • Jeff S Jeff S on Dec 12, 2019

    I took one look at this and I thought Buick Encore. Offer a turbo I3 with a CVT and you have the new Buick Encore. Make it in China and you have a true Mercedes based on GM.

  • Conundrum Conundrum on Dec 13, 2019

    Well, no doubt some idiot will try this thing out on a rock-strewn backwoods trail and find that 5.6 inches of ground clearance and all-seasons just doesn't cut the mustard. Kinda like the Mach-E and its 5.5 inches of heady clearance. Hell, my Mazda 6 sedan has 6.5 inches and doesn't come across as a cheap-ass two box runt. But it doesn't have a four inch stretch in the driver seat height department to give easily-fooled people the ersatz CUV view. Boo hoo.

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.