With the 2021 model year, the GLA is all new, catching up with much of the rest of the Mercedes lineup. It now has more style and luxury added to the compact package and we found it would make a beautiful entry point for a Mercedes SUV.
In the past, we have driven some great Mercedes products with awesome technology; however, they came with a price point that may be beyond some folks’ means. This new GLA starts at only $36,000, making it a great choice for most and an awesome way to get into a Mercedes Benz.
This new model comes with a very spirited turbocharged, four-cylinder engine that produces a genuinely nice 221 horsepower with 259 foot-pounds of torque. Mated with a new eight-speed transmission, it would propel the GLA to 60 in a nice 6.3 seconds. It is also up from 208 ponies last year and more gears with the outgoing model sporting only seven speeds.
If that were not enough for the average driver, there will also be available an AMG version of the GLA that makes just over 300 horsepower and gets to 60 in just five seconds.
We were able to get out in the GLA and take a Friday night trip down into Sanpete County via Nephi Canyon to attend the open house of the new Fountain Green City Hall. The new Mercedes handled very well on the trip and took the 80-mph speed limit on I-15 with ease, eager to please us and keep up with the traffic.
Even with the less expensive Mercedes, it was amazing as to how many folks noticed us driving the smaller SUV. We were questioned many times as to the price, handling and availability of our ride — a testament to the new design that compared to last year’s model gives the vehicle a real SUV grown-up look.
In the past, the GLA had more of a sedan-like appearance that was fit into an SUV body. Not a bad thing at all, as it still had all the Mercedes DNA and was a great choice. Now it will just slot better into consumers’ mindset as SUVs continue to grow in daily importance for the motoring public.
Our favorite part now with any Mercedes is its ability to speak with us and recognize our voice. Not that other vehicles do not have voice recognition systems, but Mercedes was the first to take voice recognition one step further and allow the diver to say the command “Hey, Mercedes” to get that assistant’s attention.
From there, it is almost exactly like having an Amazon Alexa or Goggle Assistant, with the Mercedes assistant willing to try and work out any of the given commands. So, things like changing the climate control, radio station or setting navigation are made super simple.
Getting used to the system is extremely easy, and if it cannot figure out what the diver wants to accomplish, it simply asks them to say it again or perhaps in a different way. Pretty much any function that was controlled by the buttons and infotainment system up front is available.
With the addition of the Multimedia Package ($1,295) that came with our test ride, we got restaurant suggestions, new ways to get places and other information on the drive route.
This system also included Mercedes Augmented Reality for Navigation which will project the forward-facing camera on the infotainment screen when approaching junctions or when we were stopped at red lights. It will indicate which way to turn, go straight or even which route to take out of a roundabout. It can be quite a handy option with the navigation set.
We especially liked it if we were driving west and the sun was setting; it would display the traffic lights when we stopped. No longer did we have to adjust visors or find a new seating position just to see the light, as it was front and center on the huge 10.25-inch screen. The sun was there also, but easy to look at using the camera instead of trying to view the traffic lights with the sun as a background.
This system also came with the Mercedes Speed Limit Assist that would increase and decrease the SUV’s speed according to the posted limit with the assist engaged and the cruise control set.
An addition that would be wanted by everyone who gets into the GLA, will be the Premium Package ($1,750), which took that the standard two screens, infotainment and driver information, from 7 inches to 10.25 inches. This makes the entire space form the driver’s door to the passenger’s seat become what feels like one huge driving cluster all in high-resolution video.
This setup really ads that extra touch of luxury to the interior environment of the GLA that makes it well worth the extra money in the long run, and an investment in technology that will turn the everyday drive into a work of art.
After that, the addition of the 64-color ambient lighting is a must with any Mercedes as it can add so much to the mood of the vehicle after dark, and the Mercedes assistant can quickly make the adjustment to any hue by just asking. “Hey, Mercedes, set ambient lighting to pink” makes it happen; no more stumbling through menus and sub-menus to find where to change the color.
The new 2021 GLA proved to be the perfect entry point into the luxury SUV market and with very few additions from Mercedes proved to be just as exciting and user-friendly as many of its siblings.
Craig and Deanne Conover have been test-driving vehicles for over eight years and have had the opportunity to drive many makes and models. They receive a new car each week for a weeklong test drive and adventure. They both love having the unique opportunity of trying out new cars. They reside in Springville.