2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 First Look Review: Baby AMG Gets Taller

First Look / Comments

AMG's quick crossover now arrives in a second flavor.

Mercedes-Benz has been on a product onslaught recently, revealing a slew of all-new sub-compact models, including the A-Class sedan, CLA-Class Coupe, and GLB SUV. The all-new 2021 GLA-Class is the latest to join the pack.

The new GLA is larger than its predecessor in every dimension except length and like its sub-compact stablemates, will be available with a potent AMG 35 variant. Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 is a pseudo-AMG model that will sit below a future 45 model, much like the 43- and 53-badged cars that sit below the fully AMG'd 63 variants.

This means the GLA 35 is not a direct replacement for the outgoing GLA 45 (that will likely come later) but it should be less expensive. With sexy new looks, a stunning interior, and tons of power under the hood, the GLA 35 should take the sub-compact luxury crossover segment by storm.

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Exterior: Coupe, Swoop, & Bling

The 2021 GLA looks vastly different than the outgoing model and retains a unique design that differentiates it from the A, CLA, and GLB. Mercedes says this new model is shorter than the outgoing GLA but it has grown in every other dimension. We always felt the last-generation GLA never looked as nice as the Europe-only A-Class hatchback but this new model is much sleeker. It is far more curvaceous than the boxy three-row GLB and should attract a different type of buyer. While the GLB has more of a square shape, the GLA is actually taller, giving it more interior space.

It will be easy to spot the AMG 35 model from the outside thanks to its AMG-specific radiator grille, unique silver chrome trim elements, and larger wheels available in 19, 20, or 21-inch size. From the back, the AMG model can be spotted via its aggressive rear bumper, new diffuser insert, roof spoiler, and two round tailpipes.

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Interior: Sport & Tech Collide

Like its fellow Mercedes models, the GLA benefits from the company's latest MBUX infotainment system in the cabin. Two 10.25-inch screens are housed under one piece of glass to provide the infotainment and gauge displays. These screens can be controlled using touch, voice command, gesture control, and touchpad, or smaller controllers on the steering wheel. Speaking of the steering wheel, the GLA 35 gets the flat bottom AMG wheel with perforated leather in and red contrasting stitching. The wheel also features galvanized paddle shifters and integrated drive mode selectors.

Elsewhere in the cabin, the GLA 35 is set apart from the standard model with AMG-style gauges, stainless steel sports pedals, and optional sport bucket seats. There is nothing entry-level about the interior of this "entry-level" Mercedes SUV.

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Engine & Performance: 35 Means Hot

Under the hood of the GLA 35 sits the same 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo found in the A35, CLA 35, and GLB 35. It produces 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque going out to all-wheel-drive through an eight-speed AMG Speedshift dual-clutch automatic transmission. With a twin-scroll turbocharger optimizing performance at low RPMs, the GLA 35 can rip off a 0-60 mph run in around five seconds flat. This is slower than the outgoing GLA 45 but as we mentioned before, the GLA 35 is not a direct replacement for the outgoing 45 model.

AMG has also fettled the suspension to be more fun while also remaining safe and predictable - this is a crossover after all. McPherson suspension struts sit at the front with a four-link rear axle at the back. Optional AMG Ride Control adaptive damping can be added optionally for greater ride comfort and agility.

The GLA 35 will also stop quicker courtesy of four-piston fixed calipers and 13.8-inch brake discs up front and one-piston sliding calipers with 13-inch brake discs in the back. It also has a speed-sensitive, electro-mechanical sports power steering rack with variable ratios for better steering feel. And as you'd expect from an AMG, the exhaust is adjustable.

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Pricing & Competition: Look Out BMW

Since the GLA 35 is a performance sub-compact luxury crossover, it faces very little competition in the marketplace. Audi, Cadillac, Lexus, and Volvo all compete in this space but none offer a model with anywhere near 300 hp on tap. Only the BMW X2 in M235i guise and the Jaguar E-Pace in R-Dynamic S trim come close to approaching the GLA 35's power and performance figures. And since the GLA is newer than either of these models, it should make short work of them.

Pricing for the GLA 250 and GLA 35 has yet to be revealed but we expect it to slot below the GLB, which starts at $36,600 for the 250 variant. The outgoing GLA 45 was priced at $53,350, so expect this new, less powerful 35 model to come in below that. The GLA 35's closest competitor, the X2 M35i, starts at $46,450, which could be a fair estimate for AMG's baby crossover.

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