Test drive: Mercedes GLA
Ian Lamming heads home in style in Mercedes’ latest SUV
IF you had a quick flit around the block in the new Mercedes GLA you might think so what – but that would be missing the point.
Short sorties tell you very little and you would come away feeling that it’s got a diesel engine, hard seats and a stiff ride.
I don’t do short sorties and as I sit outside the venue where I’ve just finished work it’s 10pm on a Saturday, I’ve missed Strictly and it’s 85 miles home across mixed roads of dual carriageway, fast A roads and twisty Bs.
Ninety minutes later I’m in my jim jams, having had a bath, contemplating the excellent ride home.
As soon as I switch on the new GLA in the car park at journey’s start the dash and trim issue a comforting blue glow, putting you in a calm mood for the trip ahead. The new dash in the GLA runs across the Mercedes range and is dominated by glass on to which all manner of info and graphics are projected. It’s a delight, it is intuitive to use and you can operate a lot of it from the steering wheel. It’s a fabulous interior, make no mistake.
The 2.0 diesel thrums into life. I know we have been retrained by electric shock treatment to consider diesels persona non grata but there is a stalwart quality to the old oil burner that offers comfort. It quickly smooths out at speed and is refined and powerful. You can virtually hear every heartbeat so relaxed is its nature. At the legal limit it is only revolving at 1,500 times per minute – now that is chilled.
Half way into the journey, made all the easier by the simply stunning hi-fi that Bluetooths to my favourite tunes, and those hard seats come into their own. They are not firm and unforgiving, they are orthopaedically sound and the benefits to flesh and bone become clear. Normally the muscles around my shoulders and neck become taut on long journeys yet they remain soft and squidgy in the GLA.
At this point the GLA enters the abyss, a 10 miles stretch of wilderness so remote that there is no traffic, no light, no 4G, no mobile reception, not even radio signal, so hidden is it from the nearest mast. I swear I have seen velociraptor on this section which is why we call it Jurassic Park. Break down here and there is no option but to walk. City dwellers would be completely freaked by it but I revel in its isolation and its darkness.
That said, the GLA’s LED lights cut through the blackness so precisely that there is little need to slow down and even though it seems a long way ten minutes sees the M6 come into view. When motorway gives way to dual carriageway, then B roads, the lights are brilliant at illuminating verges and the wildlife, the badgers and deer, that often make the roads their night-time playground near my house.
Crunching over the gravel at home the only thing that is strained is my voice – I’ve been singing too long, too loudly again. When will I learn?
Old GLA was a pumped-up hatchback but the new one mirrors the design of the GL range, albeit in slightly shrunken form. It’s much more of an SUV than its predecessor and internal space is good including the load bay. The new look is classy, smart and well thought out and those who value the three-pointed star of Mercedes will love it – even more so if they take it for a good long drive.
GLA 200 d 4MATIC AMG Line Premium Plus
Engine: 2.0 diesel
0-62mph: 8.6 secs
Top speed: 129mph
Combined MPG: 53.3
Transmission: eight-speed automatic
CO2 g/km: 130