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2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class: First Look

  • Competes with: Audi Q3, BMW X1
  • Looks like: the swanky concept version lost some exterior edginess and interior out-there features to become the production GLA
  • Drivetrain: 208-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual
  • Hits dealerships: Fall 2014

Good things often come in small packages, so it makes sense that premium compacts are a growing trend. Luxury carmaker Mercedes-Benz just announced a new crossover even smaller than its compact GLK. The 2015 GLA-Class will meet the public this September at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt and go on sale in the fall of 2014.

The GLA-Class is unmistakably Mercedes, with an upright front end, bold grille and the brand's star badge prominently showcased. The automaker calls the GLA's styling a "bridge between modernity and the avant-garde," but to me it looks more like a blend of two style paradigms — the crisp creases and right angles of Mercedes' SUVs and the sweeping curves of its coupes.

Unlike its stocky, blocky GLK sibling, the GLA's lines are softer and more flowing for an overall aerodynamic silhouette. Although it doesn't look nearly as aggressive as the concept version, its tall ride height and large wheel arches combined with standard chrome roof rails still give it a masculine air. At 173.9 inches long and 58.8 inches tall, the new crossover is about 4 inches smaller and about 8 inches lower than the GLK. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard; 19s are optional.

Under the hood is a version of the new CLA sedan's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder; in the GLA horsepower is rated at 208 and torque at 258 pounds-feet. A seven-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission is standard, and Mercedes says the setup is good for a zero-to-60 sprint of 6.4 seconds and top speed of 145 miles per hour. Fuel economy figures haven't been released, but an Eco mode with stop/start functionality is standard.  

Power gets to the pavement through the front wheels or Mercedes' optional 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Mercedes says the GLA-Class is the first to use the next generation of the 4Matic permanent all-wheel-drive system, which is lighter and more efficient than the previous version and offers fully variable torque distribution.

Inside, a glossy black multimedia panel is front and center (just like the concept version), powered by the Comand entertainment system and mbrace2 connectivity system. Also vying for attention are the brand's hallmark air vents, integrated into a matte-finish, burled-wood multilayered dash. Alas, the production version ditched the concept's temperature-dependent color-changing air vents.

Standard features include the Attention Assist drowsy driver detection system, a radar-based collision prevention assist system and the brake assist system. Newly available is the Collision Prevention Assist Plus system; if a collision is detected, it can automatically brake the car at speeds up to 124 mph. Also optional are blind spot and lane keeping assist systems along with the Parktronic With Park Assist auto parking device.

Pricing has not yet been announced. The all-wheel-drive 4Matic version will go on sale first next fall; the front-wheel-drive GLA250 will be available in early 2015.

Check out the photo gallery below.

Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept at the 2013 Shanghai Auto Show
Research the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
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