It’s perhaps best to start this review with a statistic: according to an insider at Mercedes the new GLA 45 took just 8.11 minutes to lap the Nurburgring.
That’s just a couple of seconds slower than the lower and lighter A45 AMG did the 14.25-mile course. This means that on the road it will be all but impossible for mere mortals to notice a difference in performance. Really, it will be…
What you will notice though is the GLA 45’s improved comfort. You can thank the higher ride height and larger tyres for that. That said, with firmer suspension, stronger front knuckle and a 15mm lower ride height than the standard GLA, it can get a bit bumpy especially at slower speeds, but it’s usefully les jarring than the A45.
But the reward is massively increased agility. Turn into a corner and the GLA 45 responds faithfully with almost no body roll the steering sharp, well weighted and a big improvement over that of the standard car.
Don’t be tempted to select the optional performance suspension though because despite the lower ride height you won’t get any discernable improvement in handling but you will notice the loss in comfort.
There are a few options worth having though. The AMG sports steering wheel is nice addition as its Alcantara covering feels suitably sporty to the touch. Another must is the performance exhaust. With it the 4-cylinder engine becomes more vocal popping and banging on the overrun and gets closer to the aural extravagance you get from an 8-cylinder AMG.
The GLA 45 shares its 2.0-litre 355bhp turbo and AMG programmed DCT 7-Speed sports transmission with the A45.
And because the so-called SUV is slightly heavier by 40kg it’s 0-62mph sprint time of 4.8 seconds is 0.2 seconds ‘slower’, though once again, this a number that’s hard to appreciate on the road.
Anyway, in reality the car feels faster than the numbers suggest, though you do need to rev the engine to get the most out of it. While not exactly laggy, it’s not until around 3,000rpm the engine really comes on song. But when it does the power surges all the way to the red line and never runs out of puff like some other four-cylinder turbos.
If there is one complaint about the drive train its that the gap between second and third gears seems a little too wide. This means there are occasioning when you want to change down a cog but find the transmission won’t let you.
It’s not too annoying though and most of the time there is sufficient punch to slingshot you out of a corner, the all-wheel drive system sending up to 50 per cent of the engines torque to the rear wheels for superior traction.
That said the car still always feels like a front wheel drive car just one that seems to have more grip. And in the event you manage to find its limits the car gives way with mild understeer. Backing off the throttle will have the nose tucking back into line, though not with quite the enthusiasm of a Renaultsport Megane.
Actually, the GLA 45 isn’t the most playful performance car in the world, but most people won’t care about this. Its blistering point-to-point pace will be far more important. The bigger question is whether you should spend the extra £4,000 it costs over the A45.
Well, it’s definitely going to be easier to live with. Just forget about what Mercedes say about it being an SUV. Instead think of GLA 45 being to the A45 what an E63 Estate is to the E63. More useful and more distinctive, but, really, no less fun.