By on December 12, 2019


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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