2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Test Drive Review: AMG's Young Gun

The entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLA crossover was such a success here in the United States, it warranted a second-generation for the 2021 model year. In addition to the GLA 250 and AMG-tuned GLA 45 models offered in the first generation, this new model adds a third variant called the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35. As with other 35-badged models like the A35, CLA 35, and GLB 35, the GLA 35 is not a fully-fledged AMG model, though it does offer a significant power boost over the standard GLA 250.

A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sends 302 horsepower out through a new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. That's more than the 208-hp GLA 250, but less than the 382-hp GLA 45, holding a one-horsepower advantage over its key competitor, the 301-hp BMW X2 M35i. As an entry point into the world of AMG-tuned crossovers, the little GLA 35 has some big shoes to fill. With hot hatchback-inspired handling, handsome styling, and a well-crafted cabin, the GLA 35 looks like it may have what it takes to live up to its AMG billing.

Read in this review:

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 AMG GLA 35?

The latest Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is a classy subcompact SUV, and the all-new GLA 35 provides some spicier performance without resorting to the fury of the full-AMG GLA 45. There was no '35' version of the previous-generation GLA, so this one provides a more subtle entry into the world of Mercedes-AMG. It uses an AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that's good for 302 horsepower, enabling a 0-60 mph sprint time of 5.1 seconds. This power plant is paired with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

Together with its impressive powertrain, the new GLA 35 looks markedly different from the previous GLA - it's less of an awkward, raised hatchback and more of a cohesive, aggressive SUV. An AMG-specific grille and 19-inch wheels add to its appeal. It's much more up-to-date inside, thanks to the fitment of the brand's latest MBUX infotainment system as well as a standard digital gauge cluster.

Pros and Cons

  • Looks a lot better than outgoing GLA
  • Potent acceleration
  • Responsive dual-clutch gearbox
  • Well-executed technology
  • Modern interior design
  • Firm ride on larger wheels
  • Some materials feel cheap
  • Not the largest crossover around
  • Infotainment can be tricky to learn
  • Pricey with options

Best Deals on AMG GLA 35

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
AMG GLA 35 4MATIC
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
All-Wheel Drive
$45,000

AMG GLA 35 Exterior

The previous GLA was far from an iconic piece of Mercedes design, and while the new one probably won't win any awards, it's a much more resolved product. It's moved away from the odd hatchback-like appearance of the previous GLA and is now more of a proper SUV. In AMG GLA 35 guise, the looks are bolstered by the vertical-bar grille, 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, and dual exhaust outlets at the back. LED daytime running lamps, LED headlamps, and LED taillights are standard. A panorama roof can be specified optionally, as can the AMG Night Package that darkens many of the exterior trim elements.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Front View CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Rear View CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

This remains one of the smallest AMG-badged Mercedes models you can buy. Its key dimensions include a length of 174.6 inches, a height of 62.5 inches, a width of 79.5 inches including the mirrors, and a 107.4-inch wheelbase. One of the Merc's closest rivals, the BMW X2 M35i, is both shorter and lower. Despite this, it's the GLA that is lighter with a curb weight of 3,653 pounds, nearly 100 lbs less than the X2 M35i.

  • Length 173.6 in
  • Wheelbase 107.4 in
  • Height 63.6 in
  • Max Width 72.2 in
  • Front Width 63.2 in
  • Rear Width 63.2 in

Exterior Colors

Mercedes offers a choice of eight different colors for the AMG GLA 35, but only Polar White and Night Black won't cost anything extra. All other colors are metallics at a cost of $720 each and they are Digital White, Cosmos Black, Iridium Silver, Mountain Grey, Denim Blue, and Patagonia Red. Various Jet Black accents can be applied to the exterior by opting for the AMG Night Package. It has to be said that the combination of white and this package looks pretty neat.

  • Digital White Metallic
  • Cosmos Black Metallic
  • Iridium Silver Metallic
  • Mountain Grey Metallic
  • Denim Blue Metallic
  • Patagonia Red Metallic
  • designo Mountain Grey Magno (Matte Finish)
  • Polar White
  • Night Black

AMG GLA 35 Performance

The Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 is a genuinely rapid performance SUV, but not so fast that it'll scare you. Its 2.0-liter turbo-four produces 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, channeled to all four corners via an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The combination allows for a 0 to 60 mph sprint time of 5.1 seconds and a limited top speed of 155 mph. While it's fast, it's not the quickest SUV in its segment. The cheaper BMW X2 M35i will reach 60 mph in only 4.7 seconds despite weighing more than the GLA. Then again, you can go for the pricier GLA 45, which will reach 60 in just 4.3 seconds. In isolation, though, the GLA 35 never feels underpowered and the slick DCT gearbox makes blasting from one traffic light to the next a satisfying experience.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Engine CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Steering Wheel Details CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Rim CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

There's only one powertrain on offer for the GLA 35. It's an AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with peak outputs of 302 hp and 295 lb-ft. The twin-scroll turbocharger has the dual benefit of offering sharp responses at lower speeds, but it doesn't run out of breath when stretched, either. There is noticeable turbo-lag off the line, but the engine quickly spools up to deliver hair-raising performance. Most four-cylinder turbo engines sound pretty uncharacteristic, but this one delivers a throaty roar and can quiet down in traffic.

This engine is paired with an AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The transmission does an excellent job mimicking a traditional automatic in traffic, with smooth, imperceptible shifts. This is a huge improvement over the outgoing seven-speed DCT, which felt clunky. When asked for quick shifts, the DCT swaps personalities to rip off impressive gear changes. We especially enjoyed driving this car in manual mode, much like we'd enjoy driving a hot hatchback such as a Volkswagen Golf R.

  • Engine
    2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
  • Transmission
    8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    AWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The GLA 35 may suggest "crossover" from the outside, but it screams "hot hatchback" from behind the wheel. AMG clearly designed the GLA 35 to appeal to former hot hatchback owners looking for a more premium experience. There is considerable turbo lag, which is to be expected from a small displacement engine, but the acceleration feels spry once the engine reaches its sweet spot. The snappy eight-speed DCT sends power to all four wheels, split 50-50 to the front and rear. This power split results in slight understeer when pushed hard, though we doubt too many GLA 35 owners will reach the limits of grip in this car. The truly spirited enthusiasts will want to spend up for the GLA 45.

AMG 35 models do not include a race driving mode, but the comfort, sport, and sport plus modes have a dramatic effect on how the car drives. The drivetrain feels outright sleepy in comfort mode, which is favorable for stop-and-go commutes. Sport mode gives the car its first sip of coffee in the morning, while sport plus places the GLA 35 into a caffeine frenzy. We giggled every time we drove the GLA in sport plus mode, as it reminded us of the hot hatchbacks that we grew up loving. This may not be a focused enthusiast's car, but it's more impressive than a front-wheel-drive-based crossover has any right to be.

AMG GLA 35 Gas Mileage

The GLA 35 isn't much heavier on fuel than the much less powerful GLA 250, which we review separately. With its AMG-enhanced power plant, the 35 will return 23/29/25 mpg across the city/highway/combined cycles, relative to the GLA 250 4Matic's 24/33/27 mpg. Once again, though, the BMW X2 M35i is a bit better than the GLA 35; the Bimmer's EPA-rated estimates are 23/30/26 mpg. The GLA 35 has a 13.5-gallon gas tank and should manage a mixed driving range of around 337 miles.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    13.5 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 23/29 mpg
* 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class AMG GLA 35 4MATIC SUV

AMG GLA 35 Interior

The outgoing GLA-Class's cabin was rather lackluster by Mercedes' standards, so we're happy to report that the new one is much improved. Not only have the materials taken a step up in quality, but the sporty design works well, and the infotainment system is better-integrated than before, even if it still takes some getting used to. There are standard dual screens ahead of the driver, with the one to the right being a touchscreen. As this is the high-spec GLA 35, it comes with MB-Tex upholstery, power-adjustable front seats with memory settings, and a 64-color LED ambient lighting system - these LED lighting strips are even visible during the day. Another upside to the new cabin is much more interior space than in the previous GLA, and rear-seat passengers will appreciate the extra legroom.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Cockpit CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Central Control Panel CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Gauge Cluster CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

The GLA is sold only in five-seater configuration, meaning it lacks the third-row option found in its platform stablemate, the GLB. Space in the front is comparable to the GLB, though the GLA's coupe-like roofline dramatically decreases rear comfort. Headroom up front is 39.0 inches (compared to 40.7 inches in the GLB), while rear occupants only receive around 38 inches of headroom (compared to 39.3 inches in the GLB). Rear legroom is comparable though with 38 inches, but we wouldn't want to be the occupant riding in the middle seat.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater
  • Front Leg Room 41.1 in
  • Front Head Room 40.8 in
  • Rear Leg Room 38.4 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.1 in

Interior Colors and Materials

As standard, the GLA 35 gets MB-Tex upholstery in a Neva Grey/Black color scheme. At no additional cost, black MB-Tex/Dinamica upholstery with red stitching is available. For an additional $1,450, genuine leather upholstery is available, but this is only possible when also speccing heated front seats for another $500. The leather color choices are Black, Bahia Brown, Classic Red/Black, or Titanium Grey/Black. Carbon Structure inlays are equipped by default, but you can also go for brushed aluminum or either Natural Grain Black Linden wood and Natural Grain Brown Walnut wood for $325 as well. The standard leather-wrapped steering wheel with perforated side grips can be replaced by an AMG Performance steering wheel in one of three material choices: Nappa leather ($400), Nappa leather/Dinamica ($500), or Dinamica on its own ($600). Finally, the red seat belts can be had in less shouty black for no additional cost if you select Black MB-Tex/Dinamica upholstery.

AMG GLA 35 Trunk and Cargo Space

With the back seats up, the GLA 35 offers 15.4 cubic feet of space. That falls short of the 21.6 cubes in the BMW X2 as well as the 23.7 cubes in the Audi Q3. The GLB trumps it as well with 24 cubes. At least there is a low liftover height and enough space for around six carry-ons. The rear seats fold in a 40/20/40 split and, when lying flat, there are 50.5 cubes available for transporting large items.

In the cabin, odds and ends can be accommodated in the reasonably well-sized door bins. The usual center armrest doubles as a covered storage compartment, and there are well-designed cupholders. A small net in the front passenger footwell can be used to secure loose items.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Maximum Trunk Space CarBuzz
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Rear Passenger Seats CarBuzz

AMG GLA 35 Infotainment and Features

Features

While the GLA 35 isn't badly equipped, there are a few essentials lurking on the options list that will raise the already high price. For instance, you have to pay extra for heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, keyless-go, and parking sensors. It's not all bad news though, as the Mercedes still enjoys power-adjustable front seats with a three-position memory system, push-button ignition, heated side mirrors, dual-zone automatic climate control, and remote start. Regular cruise control takes some of the strain out of longer trips. Most will appreciate the SUV's various safety systems like a rearview camera, attention assist, blind-spot assist, crosswind assist, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. For an added cost, most of the advanced safety items available to more expensive Mercedes models can be equipped here, like adaptive cruise control, evasive steering assist, and a surround-view camera system.

Infotainment

Unlike the GLA 250, the GLA 35 comes standard with dual 10.25-inch screens housed under a single piece of glass on the dashboard. A Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system controls various aspects of the car, including the multimedia. We enjoy MBUX because it offers multiple control methods, including a touchscreen, touchpad, "Hey Mercedes" voice command, and steering wheel-mounted controls. It's worth noting that MBUX is intuitive for the initiated, but tricky for beginners. A $1,295 Multimedia Package adds augmented reality navigation, but Android Auto and Apple CarPlay come standard, though not wirelessly. Sirius XM radio is a surprising $460 option and a Burmester Surround Sound System with 12 high-quality speakers and a 590-watt nine-channel digital amplifier is a worthwhile addition for $850.

AMG GLA 35 Problems and Reliability

It's early into the new AMG GLA 35's life, but J.D. Power's rating for the SUV of 74 out of 100 isn't remarkable. Specifically, the 35 has a quality and reliability rating of just 70/100. According to the NHTSA, the 2021 GLA-Class was recalled for an issue where the eCall system would send out the wrong vehicle location in the event of a crash - this issue has been widespread across the Mercedes-Benz lineup.

As standard, the GLA 35 comes with the brand's four-year/50,000-mile limited warranty, along with powertrain coverage for the same duration and time period. Unfortunately, complimentary scheduled maintenance is not covered, whereas rivals like BMW do offer this.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles

AMG GLA 35 Safety

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, and by extension the AMG GLA 35, has yet to be tested for crashworthiness by either the NHTSA or the IIHS.

Key Safety Features

Offering 10-way occupant protection in the event of a crash is the GLA's suite of seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and curtain airbags for occupants in all outboard seating positions. In a performance-oriented vehicle like this one, electronic stability control, traction control, and ABS brakes are more important than ever, and all are standard.

Along with these features, the GLA 35 comes with a rearview camera, active brake assist, attention assist, blind-spot monitoring, crosswind assist, downhill speed regulation, tire-pressure monitoring, and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Optional safety items include parking sensors with parking assistance, evasive steering assist, pre-safe plus, active lane-change assist, active lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and a surround-view camera system. A dashcam is an increasingly useful safety feature being made available on modern vehicles, especially in the event of an accident, and can also be equipped as an option.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 a good car?

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 is a fantastic addition to the GLA family. It's more exciting than the standard GLA 250, but less pricey and extreme than the GLA 45. Think of it as the Goldilocks of the GLA lineup. We think former hot hatchback owners with budding families will appreciate the GLA's classy styling, premium interior, and slightly raised ride height that differentiates it from mainstream models like the Honda Civic Type R or Volkswagen Golf R. It may not be quite as fun to drive as those cars, but it's closer than you might think.

Mercedes faces the most direct competition from the BMW X2 M35i, but we prefer the engine and transmission in the GLA 35. BMW has easier-to-use technology and the cabin materials are slightly more upscale, but we think the GLA 35 is the more compelling overall package. Audi and Volvo do not offer subcompact crossovers with this much power, and the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works doesn't boast the same prestigious badge up front. The GLA 35 exists in a niche category, and we think it deserves high consideration.

🚘What's the Price of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35?

Slotting in below the GLA 45, the GLA 35 begins at an MSRP of $47,550, a price that excludes a destination charge of $1,050. The Mercedes isn't cheap as the BMW X2 M35i starts at $46,450, and while the cheaper Audi Q3 would be considered a rival, there is no Q3 currently on sale that can match the GLA 35 performance-wise. When fully loaded, the GLA 35 will cost over $73,000, a ridiculous sum of money that could almost get you behind the wheel of an AMG GLC 63.

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Models

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 is a standalone model within the GLC-Class lineup. Offered in just one trim, it is powered by an AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot producing 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive will help this hot SUV accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.1 seconds.

Outside, the GLA 35's highlights include a set of 19-inch AMG alloy wheels along with LED lighting, twin exhaust outlets, and an AMG-specific grille. The cabin is both luxurious and high-tech, combining MB-Tex upholstery with dual 10.25-inch screens ahead of the driver. As standard, the SUV comes with dual-zone automatic climate control, power-adjustable front seats with memory settings, remote start, over-the-air updates, a 64-color LED ambient lighting system, attention assist, and blind-spot assist.

A long options list will dramatically inflate the GLA's price, but by exercising some restraint, you can choose from desirable extras like a head-up display, genuine leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, and ventilated front seats.

See All 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

Mercedes-Benz is known for its vast options list and its baby AMG SUV is no exception. The fun starts with the exterior, which can be enhanced with the AMG Aerodynamics package for $1,550 - this adds a more aggressive splitter, an AMG wing at the back, and gloss-black trim elements. However, this package also requires the $750 AMG Night package that darkens much of the chrome trim on the standard model.

Moving inside, there are two AMG Performance Seat packages, with the more Advanced one costing $3,470. This adds multi-contour, AMG Performance front seats, but requires other extras like heated front seats ($500) and black leather ($1,450). The Premium package costs $800 and includes hands-free access, power-folding side mirrors, and more. For $1,700, the Driver Assistance package adds no less than 12 advanced driver-safety aids like active blind-spot assist and evasive steering assist. However, to access this package, you'll need to add the Multimedia package ($1,295) and the Premium package ($800). As you can see, it's very easy to quickly raise the GLA 35's price by ticking just a few boxes.

🚗What Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Model Should I Buy?

A $47,550 starting MSRP makes the GLA 35 seem like a reasonable crossover, but expensive options can quickly add up. We'd save some money on the exterior, only opting for a more exciting paint color, one of the no-cost wheel options, and the $1,500 panoramic roof to brighten up the interior. Real leather costs $1,450, heated/ventilated front seats are a laughable $950, adjustable rear seats are a reasonable $360, and we'd easily spend $800 for the AMG performance steering wheel with the AMG drive unit mode selectors. The $1,295 multimedia package, and $800 premium package are both must-haves, as is the $850 Burmester audio system. If you want all the safety equipment, it comes as part of a $1,700 driver assistance and $1,090 parking assistance package. A $200 built-in dash camera seems too good to pass up, bringing the price to just under $60,000.

Check out other Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class Styles

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Comparisons

BMW X1 BMW
Audi Q3 CarBuzz
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Mercedes-AMG GLA 35302 hp23/29 mpg$47,550
BMW X1 228 hp24/33 mpg$35,400
Audi Q3 228 hp19/27 mpg$34,700

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 vs BMW X1

The X1 is BMW's own small SUV, providing a better-priced entry-point for buyers who want luxury and a premium badge on the nose. At $37,400 for the X1 xDrive28i, it's considerably cheaper than the GLA 35 but doesn't offer the same level of performance; this X1 will hit 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, some way behind the GLA 35's 5.1-second effort. However, the X1 is a better SUV to live with. It has a far larger trunk and more headroom, although the GLA actually has more legroom for those at the back. The X1 has good handling for a small SUV, but the GLA is more exciting thanks to its added power and looks a lot more interesting, both inside and out. Keener drivers will prefer the GLA 35, although it does come at a price. Perhaps the more evocatively styled BMW X2 is a better match for the GLA 35.

See BMW X1 Review

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 vs Audi Q3

Like the BMW X1, the Audi Q3 lacks a performance variant to really challenge the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35. Even the quickest Q3 only makes 228 hp and takes seven seconds to reach 60 mph. However, like many Audis, the Q3 rewards a more relaxed approach. It's quiet, smooth, and effortless to drive. We also loved the styling both inside and out, as well as the technology on board. On the downside, the Q3's interior feels rather cramped, but its trunk is bigger than the GLA's. At under $40,000, the priciest Q3 is still over $7k cheaper than the GLA 35 yet offers quattro all-wheel drive, adaptive cruise control, and a lot more. However, the Mercedes is now the more desirable product, even if it isn't better than the Audi in every metric.

See Audi Q3 Review

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