Car review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA35

By Larry Lark, contributor

The new 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA35, the eighth model to join the line-up globally, rounds out the current compact-car generation from the German automaker. At the same time, it is the entry-level model in the brand’s large SUV lineup.

“The new GLA embodies the perfect synergy between sheer beauty and robust off-road elements,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of the Daimler Group. “With it, we are carrying the dynamic SUV forward into the future of modern luxury.”

With a powerful and efficient four-cylinder engine, the latest driver assistance systems with cooperative driver support, the MBUX infotainment system with intuitive operation, the GLA makes for the perfect SUV for families on the go.

The GLA35 features a hallmark off-road design that includes an upright front section, short overhangs at the front and rear, and protective cladding all round. 4MATIC models feature the Off-Road Engineering Package as standard, which comprises an additional driving program, a downhill driving assist function and an off-road animation in the media display.

The model seats up to five adults without fear of crowding. If you need room for seven, check out the GLB. Seats are comfortable and roomy, both front and back, with a rear cargo area large enough to accommodate the needs of a family. My tester delivered more than enough room for a pair of golf bags and overnight bags for my brother and I on an overnight golf trip to Leavenworth.

The AMG-enhanced 2.0-liter inline turbocharged engine make quick work of pretenders in the provided passing lanes. The engine is complemented by an AMG eight-speed automatic transmission and performance, 4MATIC, all-wheel drive. The combination generates 302 horsepower, 295 lb-ft of torque, and 29 miles per gallon fuel economy down the highway.

GLA features a comfort suspension with steel springs, and all versions have a multi-link rear suspension as standard. The suspension with adaptive damping system (optionally available) enables the driver to choose the preferred damping characteristics. On request, the GLA comes equipped with the permanently available all-wheel drive system 4MATIC with fully variable torque distribution.

All of which makes the GLA35 responsive, agile, safe, and fun to drive.

My tester came with several options including a performance Nappa leather steering wheel ($500), 19-inch AMG 10-spoke matte black whees ($300), Multimedia package ($1,295) that adds MB navigation and services along with speed limit assist, AMG night package ($750) with front splitter, grille trim and louvres in the outer air intakes, AMG side-panel inserts, and black tailpipe trim. And a premium package ($800) includes keyless-go, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and side mirrors with power fold-in.

Standard creature comforts included a digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, ambient lighting (set to Husky purple), dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing windshield wipers, heads up display, and powerful, premium audio system.

GLA offers the latest driver assistance systems, offering the driver cooperative support and one of the highest standards of active safety in the compact SUV segment.

The available driver assistance package includes: active distance assist, active steering assist, active speed limit assist, evasive steering assist, active lane-keeping assist, active blind spot assist, active brake assist, and pre-safe plus which can detect a potential rear impact and react

to minimize the risk of whiplash injuries.

Another feature worthy of note is the GLA35’s car wash function. With just one command, the exterior mirrors are folded in, the information from the rain sensor is suppressed so that the windscreen wipers remain switched off in the car wash, and the air conditioning system switches to air recirculation mode. If the vehicle has a 360° camera, its front image is switched on after a few seconds to assist entry into the car wash.

These settings are automatically deactivated when the driver drives out of the car wash and accelerates to a speed above approx. 12 mph.

There’s plenty more to write about, but a test drive is in order to you can begin your mission of discovery. You won’t be disappointed.

Base Price: $48,555

Price As Driven: $53,630

Destination charge is included in base price. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.