A production version of the striking Mercedes-Benz Concept GLA is poised to enter the booming compact SUV segment.
The Concept GLA is one of the stars of the Shanghai motor show that gets under way on Saturday, and is described by insiders as being as much as 90 per cent representative of the GLA production car that will go on sale early next year.
It's also the latest model to be spun off Mercedes’ latest front-drive MFA architecture, following the latest A-class and B-class models and the CLA saloon.
The concept is 4383mm long, 1978mm wide and 1579mm high — dimensions that are understood to be almost identical to those of the production car. The wheelbase of the concept has not been given, but it’s believed to be the same 2699mm employed by its siblings.
These dimensions closely match the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Range Rover Evoque — the three chief rivals that the GLA will face when it reaches the UK market next year. We’ll get to see the finished production car either at the tail end of this year or at the Detroit motor show early next year.
Mercedes’ sales and marketing chief, Joachim Schmidt, describes the GLA’s role in the compact SUV segment as “a sporty and more coupé-like evolution of this category of vehicle”.
The front end features perhaps the most modern treatment yet of Mercedes’ familiar core design, with just two horizontal bars used for the front grille, which places the marque’s three-pointed star logo at its centre.
The front headlights are among the more outlandish concept car features. They feature laser beam projectors that act as headlights in the first instance, but can also project pictures or films controlled through Mercedes’ interior Comand Online infotainment system, or work in real time to project sat-nav functions on to the road ahead.
This feature is not due to make production in the near future, let alone on the GLA, but the core exterior design of the car is tipped to make it over from concept to production relatively unchanged.
The five-door Concept GLA’s gently sloping roofline flows into the tailgate to give a sleek and sporty silhouette. This profile is enhanced by a glasshouse that uses frameless doors and narrows towards the rear, a ‘dropping line’ that runs from the front headlights to the rear wheelarches and a beltline that rises towards the C-pillars.
The C-pillars wrap around to the rear over slim tail-lights to visually widen the rear of the car at the bottom, giving a sporty, squat stance. Only the large alloys and some of the detailing on the bumpers and lights will be toned down for production.
That’s despite the fact that test mules of the GLA have hinted that it will have the look of a raised A-class. Insiders now insist there will be much more Concept GLA design than A-class in the production car.
At first glance, the car’s four-seat cabin offers the outlandish look that you’d expect of a concept car, but look past some of the material and trim details and it’s easy to spot the links that the production GLA will have to the A-class, B-class and CLA.
The layout on the centre console and the positioning of the round air vents, multimedia screen and instrument binnacle are recognisable from the other MFA models and will feature in the production GLA.
A turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine — also familiar from the other MFA cars — offers 208bhp in the Concept GLA. Drive is channelled to all four wheels through a seven-speed, dual-clutch, automatic transmission and Mercedes’ proprietary 4Matic system.
The engine line-up of the production car is not yet known, but it’s likely Mercedes UK will cherry-pick units from the German market’s wider line-up rather than taking all options, as it has done with the CLA.
If the exclusively four-cylinder engine line-up of the CLA is reflected in the GLA, a 120bhp 1.6-litre petrol will be used in the base GLA180, a 134bhp 1.8-litre diesel in the GLA200 CDI, a 168bhp 2.1-litre diesel in the GLA220 CDI and the concept’s 208bhp 2.0-litre petrol in the GLA250.
The four-wheel drive system should be offered with the more potent engines, including the GLA250, with front-wheel drive supplied as standard.
Later next year the Mercedes-Benz GLA range will be crowned by a GLA45 AMG version. The hot range-topper will use the same running gear as the A45 and CLA45 models, meaning power will be sent to all four wheels by a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 335bhp.