Wagon-schmagon; the GLA250 rawks
small SUVs wagons keep on rollin’ out from high-end automakers. Why now?
Because automakers are anxious to snag millennials who think of full-size SUVs, so the million-dollar marketing surveys reveal, like they think of dial-up – as something Mom and Pop roll in. Forget that Mom and Pop might actually have the coin to throw down for a new whip – aim at the kids, man.
Whatever its marketing angle, this particular wagon is one of the most badass rides of its sort you’ll ever roll in – and also one of the sweetest Benzes, based on a recent week’s test.
The GLA is more or less a cousin of Benz’s CLA class introduced last year, but it’s far handsomer, with a gorgeous black front apron (optional) and a smart rear spoiler, implying this wagon has balls when you want or need them. And does it have balls? A decent amount, yes. You’re powered by a choice of two turbocharged four-cylinder engines. Mine, the GLA250 4Matic, was equipped with 2.0-liter turbo I-4 making 208 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Fine by me. But the other trim, the AMG, gets a hand-built 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 making a stupidly powerful 355 hp and 332 lb-ft of torque. That’s the one you want, man – that’s the one you’ll go to Home Depot in on Saturday morning, then blast off in the afternoon to wherever. That’s the one you pound, kick and punish while she says “Mmmmmm.”
Each engine’s paired with a seven-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission. Even with my “lesser” trim, I still managed to blast from zero to 60 in about 8 seconds, though Mercedes-Benz claims 6.9. In “Sport” mode, you’ll have loads of fun, taking the corners at speed, enjoying minimal body roll, and pretending you’re a sport coupe. In the base “Eco” mode – meaning “gas-saving, no fun and no power,” it’s a far more tame experience but it’s great to have when you’re stuck in traffic, have your mom in the car or otherwise need to go a fair distance without using the power available. There’s a surprising amount of wind noise at speed, given Benz’s reputation for squelching the outside world in its rides. There is also a fair amount of plastic here and there, and that’s nobody’s friend in a ride whose flagship trim comes in near 50K.
18-inch wheels come standard as well as hill descent control, both welcome. Surprisingly, the list of other standard equipment has head-scratching gaps considering what others in the same class offer. You don’t get a garage door opener, auto-dimming mirrors or dual-climate controls, for example; they come with a $2,400 Premium Package that also includes a better sound system. Options like bi-xenon headlights, a blind spot detection system and a nav system bump your sticker up to $41,625.
Beefs and petty gripes aside, I thoroughly enjoyed this ride, and I don’t enjoy all the Mercedes-Benz cars I get to test. If you’re set on a wagon, whatever your reason, the GLA will deliver practicality, economy of mileage, style and velocity when you need it.