2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Click image to enlarge

Preview by Michael Bettencourt, photos by Mercedes-Benz

Stepping out of the airport in Frankfurt, billboards featuring the Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover already show off its form and German arrival date. In March. This is two days before its official “world debut,” a full year before the GLA lands in Canada, and about a month after Mercedes-Benz globally released the full particulars about what will become the luxury firm’s smallest and first front-wheel-drive crossover.

There’s no doubt that Daimler has major hopes for this vehicle. In terms of sales, volume and market share, in North America and especially in Canada, the Mercedes-Benz GLA small crossover was likely the most significant vehicle to debut this week at the Frankfurt motor show. Granted all the early info didn’t do much for its measure of pre-buzz before the official ‘unveiling,’ but there’s little doubt that there will be many showgoers interested in the idea of a small, fuel efficient and relatively inexpensive Mercedes-Benz crossover.

As its name implies, it is based on a similar architecture to the CLA four-door not-really-a-‘coupe,’ and will nudge itself underneath the boxy GLK in size and price. It will become the first Mercedes-Benz crossover/SUV to come with front-wheel drive, for those who don’t opt for the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. The first GLAs will be 250s, using the same turbocharged 2.0L engine as in the B 250 and CLA 250, while a pumped up GLA 45 AMG version looks almost certain to arrive soon after, suggests a Mercedes-Benz insider.

Mercedes-Benz says the GLA will be amongst the most aerodynamic of any crossover, with a coefficient of drag of 0.29 and a relatively small frontal area, for an SUV. That should provide benefits in fuel efficiency and low noise levels, the latter also helped by extensive underbody paneling and a diffuser to improve the flow of air beneath the underbody.

2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class. Click image to enlarge

But with the CLA, B and now GLA all pushing new Mercedes-Benz products downmarket, into the hands of more and more drivers, doesn’t that dilute some of the exclusivity that has made it such a strong brand? Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche has heard that argument before, but in a small media roundtable, said at the Frankfurt show that even S-Class buyers like to feel excitement and buzz about the brand, its growth and success.

“The S-Class buyer ultimately wants to feel young, so it’s important to have smaller, less expensive designs,” said Zetsche. “I’m not sure that all buyers individually will see it like this, but directionally, yes, I believe the majority do.”

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Manufacturer’s Website:
Mercedes-Benz Canada

Photo Gallery:
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

A similar drivetrain to the turbocharged four in the CLA 250 will lie under the GLA 250’s hood, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic can send all power to either axle in 4Matic models, or just the front. That all-wheel traction may help prevent the use of its other varied collision prevention safety systems, such as the useful blind spot assist and somewhat less so lane keeping assist.

Once it arrives in either late summer or early next fall, the GLA will go up against vehicles like the Buick Encore, BMW X1 and upcoming Audi Q3. It may also likely compete with an upcoming Infiniti vehicle that uses the next generation of this modular platform, as compact cars are one of the shared areas both Daimler and Nissan/Renault have leveraged in their partnership announced last year.

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