We’ve seen the revamped Mercedes-Benz GLA in the brand’s camouflage teasers and sketches, but now it’s time to see the real deal. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA officially unveiled Wednesday, but not during an auto show or even at a traditional standalone event. This time, Mercedes revealed the car in an online-only event, which is a first.
In this digital world premiere, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA forgoes showing itself in the world’s press, showing a fresh face and features for the brand’s smallest crossover it introduced for the 2014 model year. Since it first went on sale, Mercedes sold around 1 million examples, in a market that includes luxury rivals like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Volvo XC40 and Lexus UX. The GLA has been aging against that competition for the past few years now, so this newest example aims to tip the scales back in its favor.
It’s 4.1 inches taller and 0.6 inches shorter in length than the previous generation, giving the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA a more upright SUV stance than its predecessor. It’s not nearly as boxy as the small three-row GLB, but it does lose some of its swooping design in this generation. As the GLB is a miniature version of the GLB, this definitely looks like a mini-GLE in terms of both its exterior and interior design. This GLA is also 1.2 inches wider, which helps the new model in terms of both front headroom, elbow room and rear legroom.
It’s not just the GLA-Class that makes its debut, either. Down the line in 2020, head of Mercedes-Benz Ola Källenius announced the all-electric EQA will also debut, expanding Mercedes’ electric EQ sub-brand beyond the compact EQC.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz launches in two versions. On the ordinary end, there’s the GLA 250, then there’s also the AMG GLA 35 variant that leans toward the performance end of the spectrum. Both use the same 2.0-liter engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, with the GLA 250 tuned to offer 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The AMG GLA 35, on the other hand, manages 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.
As with previous models, both the GLA 250 and GLA 35 are available with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system. In the GLA 250, the system is designed to send 80 percent of the power to the front wheels and 20 percent to the rear in normal driving conditions. Putting it in “Sport” mode changes that split to 70:30 between the front and rear, although it can also split torque 50:50, according to Mercedes. The GLA, on the other hand, can change from front-wheel drive only operation to a 50:50 torque split. Naturally, the AMG model also offers stiffer-tuned suspension, bigger brakes, a bespoke steering rack and louder exhaust to go with the bump in performance.
Subtle tweaks = big difference?
Apart from the powertrains, which mirror the available options on the GLA’s passenger car cousin, the CLA-Class, the new GLA also moves forward with new technology on board. As with the rest of Mercedes’ revamped lineup, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA gets the MBUX infotainment system, which has made it to most of the brand’s lineup at this point. That includes two 7.0-inch displays, or 10.25-inch displays if you go for the Widescreen version.
The tech goes a step farther by way of extending the Driver Assistance Package to include an exit warning function. That alerts the driver if there are any approaching cyclists or vehicles when they get out of the car, beyond the GLA’s usual safety equipment like automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot assist and so on.
Mercedes plans to bring the 2021 GLA to market in the summer of 2020, with the AMG model likely coming later in the year. The company didn’t announce pricing, but it shouldn’t be a major shift from the current car’s $34,250 starting price, where it needs to stay to remain competitive against its luxury rivals.