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Unveiling the Mercedes-Benz SUV Range

The compact car Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) family from Mercedes-Benz now consists of eight models globally that cover all bases: three wheelbase lengths, front and all-wheel drive, as well as petrol and diesel models.

I attended the Mercedes-Benz South Africa SUV range media launch at the AMG Driving Academy, Zwartkops Raceway on Wednesday 04 November. The vehicle lineup included:

  • Mercedes-Benz GLA

We were given an opportunity to experience each of these models, both on-road and off-road. I’ve already reviewed the GLX 400d, so the Coupé is a new addition to this model. There’s a lot to report about each model, and I’ll do that as a series, but for this article, I’m going to focus on the all-new GLA.

The new Mercedes-Benz GLA

During the launch, Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off its biggest, most luxurious GLA to date, ensuring the entry-level model in the brand’s successful family of SUV models rounds off its current compact-car generation in style.

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During the media presentation, Johannes Fritz, Co-CEO Mercedes-Benz South Africa and Executive Director of Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa said that around a million units of this compact SUV have been sold across the world since the GLA made its debut in 2014.

“The high demand for our SUVs shows that we can offer the right model for all of our customers here. These include two off-road models, the GLB and GLA, which complement each other perfectly: the GLB is the most functional and most spacious representative of our compact class family, while the new GLA is positioned as its sporty brother and as a lifestyle-oriented SUV,” he said.

The new GLA stands 10cm taller than its predecessor, at 1611 millimetres, although 1.5cm shorter than its predecessor on the outside. It also offers more legroom in the rear and more space in the boot. The new GLA is also safer than ever, courtesy of its driving assistance systems with cooperative driver support. But more about that later.

Under the GLA Hood

South African customers will be able to choose from the GLA 200 and the GLA 200d at launch. The GLA 200’s 1332cc engine puts out 120kW and 250Nm of torque, with combined fuel consumption of 6.0–5.7 1/100 km. By comparison, the GLA 200d’s 1950cc diesel engine generates 110kW and 320Nm of torque, with combined fuel consumption of 5.2–4.9 l/100 km. The engines were completely modernised for the new edition of the compact model series, with significantly increased performance and improved efficiency and emissions.

Commenting at the launch presentation, Selvin Govender, Marketing Director for Mercedes-Benz Cars South Africa said that the new GLA combines the best from the two highest-volume segments, the compact cars and the SUVs.

“The SUVs are a major structural pillar in the Mercedes-Benz product portfolio and now represent the highest-volume segment for Mercedes-Benz. To date, more than six and a half million customers around the world have opted for a Mercedes-Benz SUV,” he said.

The GLA Exterior

The GLA features powerful overall proportions, with short overhangs front and rear. Typical of the GLA is the powerful shoulders of the bodywork and the coupé-like lines of the side windows, giving the car its dynamically elegant flair. The doors reach over the sills, thereby improving ease of access, keeping the door frames (and the occupants’ trousers) free of dirt, and improving impact protection in the event of a side collision. All-round protective cladding adds structure to the overall proportions and emphasises the vehicle’s off-road character, as does the simulated underride guard at the front and rear.

The rear lights are in two parts, with the reflectors positioned separately in the bumper. The makes it possible to open the load compartment wider, making loading easier and the rear end appear wider. As with the other Mercedes-Benz SUV models, the radiator grille features distinctive openings, with a single louvre and a central star.

Mercedes-Benz GLA front grille
Mercedes-Benz GLA front grille

Where the rubber hits earth, the track width, at 1605 and 1606mm (front/rear), is more than 4cm wider than the previous model. The bigger wheel arches and the wider diameter of the wheels, at 17 to 20 inches, result in higher ground clearance (143mm/+9 mm). The GLA features a sophisticated 4-link rear axle for maximum driving stability, ride quality and longitudinal/lateral dynamics.

Contemporary Interior

The instrument panel on the driver’s side is dominated by a free-standing display unit, which is available with two 7-inch displays (17.78 cm), a 7- and 10.25-inch display (26 cm) and, in the Widescreen version, with two 10.25-inch displays. The five, round ventilation outlets feature a high-quality turbine look, and the door centre panel flows seamlessly over into the armrest.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA Dashboard
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLA Dashboard

Included as standard is the intuitively operated MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system. The system can be individually configured, and features a powerful computer, brilliant screens and graphics, customisable presentation, full-colour head-up display, optional navigation with augmented reality, learning software, and voice control activated with the prompt “Hey Mercedes”.

The front seating positions are higher and more upright than before, and thus more typical of an SUV: both the driver and front passenger sits 140 mm higher than in the A-Class and 50 mm higher than in the B-Class. As you’d expect from an SUV, all-round visibility has also been improved. The rear seats can be optionally adjusted by 14 centimetres and the rear seat backrest set to a steeper rake, making room for such items as bulky sports goods. There is still plenty of room for one or two people in the rear since these backrest variants come with a 40:60 split. The rear seat backrest can be split 40:20:40, with each section folding down individually.

Meredes-Benz GLA rear seats
Meredes-Benz GLA rear seats

Also in the rear, the height-adjustable load floor, which comes as standard, offers considerable variability. When the rear seat backrests are folded down and the load floor is in the upper position, an almost flat loading area extending to the front seats can be created. For very bulky objects, the load floor can be put in the lower position, the cross member behind the rear seats can be removed and the rear seats with optional fore/aft adjustment can be moved forward.

The GLAs Eagle Eye in the Sky

Driving assistance systems have also been enhanced in the new GLA and if you opt for the optional Driving Assistance Package, features include turning manoeuvre function, emergency corridor function, exit warning, pedestrian warning, Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Steer Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, route-based speed adjustment, evasive steering assist, active lane-keeping assist, active blind-spot assist, active brake assist, traffic sign assist and pre-safe plus which detects a potential rear impact.

Blind Spot Assist warns of vehicles, including bicycles, in the danger area — even when the vehicle is stationary. Traffic Sign Assist recognises posted speed limits and no-overtaking signs, and when selected, gives a signal when the speed limit is exceeded. No-entry restrictions are also recognised.

GLA Car Wash Function

I kid you not. The GLA is the first model in its class to feature a car wash function: with just one command, the exterior mirrors are folded in and the side windows and sliding roof closed. The climate control switches to the air-recirculation mode and, after a few seconds, the front image from the 360° camera (if fitted) is displayed to assist the driver when driving into the car wash. These settings are automatically deactivated when the driver drives out of the car wash.

The GLA Models at a Glance

Mercedes-Benz South Africa GLA Model Spec Sheet
Mercedes-Benz South Africa GLA Model Spec Sheet

Travel & Motoring Journalist specialising in Africa.

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