First Look – 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and Mercedes-AMG GLA 35
Small Crossover Grows a Bit and Gains a Tweener AMG Model
Bigger Benz, But Still Compact
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 will be a bit larger than the swoopy crossover it replaces, but don't expect it to grow a size class. At 173.6 inches long, it's actually 0.6-inch shorter from bumper to bumper than the vehicle it replaces. However, wheelbase goes up 1.1 inches to 107.4, while body width goes up 1.2 inches to 72.2. Overall width between the mirrors is actually smaller, and height goes up 4.1 inches to 63.4.
The dimensional changes mean the GLA is more spacious in most metrics than its predecessorârear legroom in particular goes up a significant amount, curing the outgoing GLA 250's most serious interior drawback. Cargo space rises by half a cube to 15.4 cubic feet. That's still not a lot, but the longer GLB-Class platform-mate offers more if space is what you're after.
By expanding in key areas (body width, height, and wheelbase) while reining in others (overall length and overall width), the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA should be as maneuverable and city-friendly as ever, but with a nice dose of interior room as well.
While the outgoing GLA-Class compact crossover was more of a tall hatch, the new one is much more SUV-ish, for better and worse. Taller and slightly shorter than its predecessor, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 is much more conventional than its slightly funky, coupe-like predecessor.
Its front end borrows liberally from the CLA four-door, which is a good thing in our book. Squinting headlamps bookend the grille that features a large Mercedes star, leaving no mystery as to the GLA's lineage. The side profile is smooth, but it borrows little from other Mercedes SUVs. Its overall shape is like that of the GLE, but its window openings and surface details are ever-so-slightly akin to the GLC. And the rear view looks very much like the A-Class hatchback that we don't get in the United States. Overall, it's inoffensive and handsome, but it does lack the personality of its Audi Q3 and BMW X2 competition.
Two styling themes are available. The standard GLA gets an oval-shaped grille opening, a smooth rear bumper, and smaller (but still quite large) bumper-mounted faux air inlets. An AMG styling package includes a new bumper and grille opening inspired by the AMG GT supercar, plus larger faux air intakes and a sculpted rear bumper.
Inside is the most futuristic take on Mercedes' new styling language yet. The massive flat-panel display remains, with one half of the screen's real estate dedicated to the instruments and the other to the infotainment display. The GLA also includes a similar three-vent styling feature as its A-Class, GLB-Class, and CLA-Class siblings. The dashboard in front of the passenger, however, is much more sculpted than other Mercedes, and we really like the placement of the ambient lighting strips. We suspect most customers will be sold on the interior alone, that's how nice it is.
Nuts and Bolts
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 should have more than enough power for its smallish footprint thanks to a turbocharged 2.0L I-4 that produces 221 hp at 5,500 rpm and 258 lb-ft between 1,620 and 4,000 rpm. This same engine in the GLB is more than adequate, so we predict it'll be even better in the smaller (and likely lighter) GLA. Like the GLB, the entry-level Mercedes SUV will feature an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
A MacPherson strut front and four-link rear suspension are inexpensive and relatively simple to produce, while still providing an adequate (if not exactly thrilling) driving experience. Cast aluminum bits in the suspension reduce unsprung mass for a better ride and more responsive handling, and a 1.6-inch-wider front and rear track should likewise improve stability in corners.
Of course, if maximum performance on a budget is the goal, then the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 might be the machine you're looking for. Joining the CLA 35 and GLB 35, the 2021 GLA 35 will boast an impressive 302 hp and 295 lb-ft for a 0-60 time of just 5.0 seconds. The AMG-optimized 2.0L I-4 is twin-scroll turbocharged, with a cast aluminum crankcase, variable valve timing, intelligent thermal management for the coolant, precision piezo injectors, and multispark ignition. Furthermore, the little four-banger is equipped with Mercedes-patented Conicshape cylinder honing, reducing friction and improving both performance and efficiency.
The GLA 35 comes with an AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, incorporating a "Race Start" launch control feature and a manual mode courtesy of shift paddles. The standard GLA's suspension is optimized with an AMG-specific front steering knuckle, and the four-link rear axle is rigidly mounted without a suspension bushing (the standard GLA has one), improving response at the expense of some harshness. Four-piston front calipers clamp down on 13.8-inch drilled brake discs, while the rear gets 13.0-inch drilled discs and one-pot calipers.