Audi Q7 VS Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
Audi's Q7 burst on to the scene at the 2002 Frankfurt Motor Show. A big, bluff unit, it went into production in 2005 and hung around for what seemed like an eternity. Like many first-generation German premium SUVs, it was compromised, heavy and heavily US-market focused.
The second-generation arrived in 2015. Its styling polarised opinion but its shift in focus has - arguably - made it more appealing to more people. Lower, better-packaged and with a very impressive interior, the Q7 transformed into a proper, premium SUV.
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead.
In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.
The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.
The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.
The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.
And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.
But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
It's difficult to pick between the 160 and the 200. Neither are particularly cheap but this is another of those occasions where it would be a waste of money to bring in a comparatively stripped-out entry level that nobody would buy.
If pressed, I'd say spend the extra on the 200 - it's got a fair bit more gear for the extra outlay and in both the theoretical and real worlds, it doesn't really use that much more fuel for the decent performance boost.
The e-tron is a long shot for a bigger wad of cash and is really only for those keen on a plug-in hybrid Q7. The limited competition isn't any better.
The Q7 is a belter of a large SUV - quiet, refined and reasonably capable off-road, despite its decidedly on-road focus. It goes about its business quietly, confidently and with a minimum of fuss . You know it's big, but it doesn't shout about it and, crucially, it doesn't feel like it from behind the wheel. That's a neat trick.
Do you agree with Peter's assessment that the Q7 is a suave city-dweller or is it just Another SUV? Tell us in the comments below.
You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.
It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.
Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.
The second-generation Q7 is a familiar sight on our roads. I remember the change from the first to second iterations clearly - I wasn't a fan of the old one's overbearing looks and it always looked as though it rode too high, especially on smaller wheels. As its long model cycle wore on, it became ever more bejewelled and the basic shape was lost in bling.
Thankfully, the second generation went light on the chrome and flashiness. Always riding on big rims, it looks less imposing than the original. There are some off-road nods, like vestigial wheelarch extensions, but anything with a rear diffuser is meant more for tarmac than gravel.
This Q7 is more a high-riding wagon (or higher-riding of you take the A6 Allroad into account) and seems more optimised for passenger space and utility rather than shouting 'Look at my massive car!'. Like the bulk of the current Audi SUV range, it's quietly elegant.
And inside, it's tremendous. The now de rigueur 'widescreen' feel to the interior means an airy, light space. Materials are spot on, the design coherent and sensible and the ergonomics are close to faultless. You'll want for nothing in here, with plenty of space, gadgets and style.
I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.
I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.
The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.
While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.
The size of this car is undeniable - interior images confirm loads of space and comfort for passengers and cargo. The interior dimensions match the huge exterior (the Q7 measures 5052mm long, 1968mm wide, and 1740mm high).
The diesel-only Q7s are seven-seaters, with access to third-row seating provided by tumbling the middle row forward. You can change how many seats by specifying it with just five as a no-cost option. The e-tron is available as a five-seater only.
Rear legroom in the middle row ranges from almost zero if you slide the seats all the way forward, to 'limousine', and that obviously affects the back row. The four-zone climate control (optional in the 160) also means third row passengers don't have to sweat it out when it's hot, which is a nice touch.
Boot space starts at an already-massive 770 litres with the third row stowed, and up to 1955 litres with the middle row down. The e-tron, with its underfloor gubbins, has a slightly reduced capacity with 650/1835 litres. The bottom line is, luggage capacity is excellent when the third row is out of the way.
The car comes standard with a cargo cover, roof rails (but no roof rack, although I'm certain a dealer will sell you one from an extensive accessories list). A net-style cargo-barrier can be erected either behind the middle or front rows of seats.
Storage space is good - the interior features a shallow centre console up front, a cupholder each for up to six passengers, a good glove box and bottle holders in each door.
Gross vehicle weight is rated at 2940kg for the 160 and 200 while the e-tron, with its higher kerb weight as a result of the electric gear, is rated at 3185kg. Double the turning radius and you have a turning circle of 12.4 metres. Ground clearance is 245mm unladen and wading depth, if you're game, is 535mm.
The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.
So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).
Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.
What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out.
With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent.
There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.
There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.
While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.
The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.
The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.
The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.
Price and features
There are three Q7s in our model comparison, excluding the V8-powered triple-turbo SQ7. The range starts with the 160 at $97,800, with the 160 designation referring to the engine output in kilowatts.
The 160 starts the range with 19-inch alloys wheels, dual-zone climate control air-conditioning, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, bi-xenon headlights, LED daytime running lights, Wi-Fi hotspot, keyless entry and push button start via smart key, electric power steering, cruise control, hill-descent control, quattro all-wheel drive, power tailgate, floor mats, chrome exhaust tips, electric front seats, leather trim, air-quality sensor, park assist, electric everything, auto wipers and headlights and a comprehensive safety package.
Read More: Audi Q7 e-tron 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 160 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Audi Q7 3.0 TDI 200 2018 review: snapshot
Rather than supplying a spare tyre, Audi gives you a tyre-repair kit.
Stepping up to the 200, the price increases to $106,900, with an attendant increase in horsepower. The basic specification is roughly the same between the two versions, with detail differences.
The 200 adds four-zone climate control, a self-parking system, full body paint finish (body colour applied to the lower extremities of the car) and Audi's excellent 'Virtual Cockpit' digital dashboard.
The difference between the 160 and the 200 is small but useful. The diesel fuel economy is barely different, you get the same transmission, 4x4 system and overall comfort.
Both 160 and 200 buyers have a wide choice of colours: 'Night Black' and 'Carrara White' are free. 'Orca Black', 'Galaxy Blue', 'Ink Blue', 'Cobra Beige' (more gold, really), 'Argus Brown', 'Graphite Grey', 'Temperament Red' and 'Florett Silver' are all $2250. 'Sepang Blue' and 'Daytona Grey' are $7050.
The e-tron adds the hybrid electric unit, loses the third row of seating and some cargo capacity and comes with a full suite of safety systems, heated front seats, 'Audi Connect', LED headlights, e-tron styling and adaptive air suspension. The options list is way shorter, however, but few e-trons find their way into customers' hands.
Audi e-tron buyers are down to seven colours: Night Black, Carrara White, Orca Black, Ink Blue, Graphite Grey and Florett Silver are all freebies.
The many iPhone users out there will be very pleased that Apple CarPlay is standard on the Q7, while Android Auto is also available. As always, Audi's MMI mutlimedia system is excellent. The big 8.3-inch screen is run by a console-mounted rotary dial and touchpad, but it's not yet a touch screen.
GPS sat nav is available across the range. The navigation system can also have a Google Earth overlay. Obviously there is a mobile-phone bluetooth connection in addition to the USB. The multimedia gadgets include a CD player, DVD player, MP3 functionality and the usual AM/FM radio as well as DAB.
As it's an Audi, there's a huge options list as well as various packages to add to the lengthy standard features list.
The $6200 'Technik' technology pack adds the excellent head-up display, plus nine speakers to the stereo (19 in total, including sub-woofer) and wireless phone charging.
The Assistance package includes additions to the safety list (see below).
Of course, the drive-away price can be significantly affected by options choice. The standard price list is just the start, and the amount you can choose to spend on options is breathtaking.
You can upgrade the sound system to a thumping Bang & Olufsen with 23 speakers (including sub-woofer) for a whopping $13,990 (it's a good one), a panoramic sunroof for $3990, four-wheel steering for $2650, air suspension ($4690), 'Matrix LED' headlights ($4850), rear seat entertainment system, side steps, - you get the idea. If I have this right, you can almost double the cost of the Q7 with options.
The S-Line options are more an exterior design pack than the dynamic pack they used to be, offering ever-bigger alloy wheels, side skirts, darker tinted windows, subtle front spoiler and LED headlights.
Ceramic brakes with red brake calipers aren't available in 'standard' Q7s but are available on the sport edition SQ7.
Unavailable are autopilot self driving, tool kit, nudge bar, bull bar, auxiliary heater, heated steering wheel, sunglass holder, carbon fiber trim, 'Homelink', specific premium package and cargo liner.
I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).
There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.
While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.
Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.
And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
Engine & trans
All Q7s are available with same engine size - a turbo-diesel 3.0-litre V6. In the base model it spins up 160kW/500Nm. Step up to the second spec and with a bit of extra turbo boost and some software tweaks you have 200kW/600Nm.
The e-tron plug-in hybrid runs the same diesel engine with an electric motor added. The diesel specs come in at 190kW/600Nm while the electric motor brings 94kW/350Nm to the party. It's not as simple as adding the figures together, however - Audi quotes the combined specifications as 275kW/700Nm. The battery is a 17.3kW/h lithium-ion pack under the boot floor.
Charging times vary from 2.5 hours from a 400V/16-amp supply to 10.5 hours from a household socket.
All Q7s ship with an eight-speed automatic transmission (from ZF) with power going through all four wheels. All Australian Q7s are all-wheel drive.
Towing capacity is 750kg for unbraked trailers and 3500kg braked - the ratings are identical across the three trim levels. A tow bar is on the optional features list.
The 0-100km/h acceleration times are an impressive 6.2 seconds for the e-tron, 7.3 for the 160 and 6.5 for the 200. These are good performance numbers for a 2000kg-plus SUV with decent fuel mileage.
The question of whether the engines use a timing belt or chain has a simple answer - the Q7's engines all use a chain. The engine also features a diesel particulate filter and the turbocharger is inside the engine V for quick response. The oil type is listed in the owner's manual.
There is no manual transmission or LPG version.
The GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.
Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.
The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.
For the 160kW, claimed consumption is listed at 5.8L/100km, while the 200kW is barely more at 5.9L/100km. Our time with a 200kW with a few options on board resulted in an average of 8.2L/100km.
On pure electric, Audi says you can shift the e-tron Q7 up to 56km with a top speed of 135km/h. This is purely academic - after a full charge we managed about 20km on pure electric, which isn't terrible but a fair way off the claimed range.
The e-tron's claimed combined consumption figure is 1.9L/100km but we got 4.5L/100km.
The fuel-tank capacity is a hefty 85 litres with the exception of the e-tron, which carries 10 fewer litres at 75.
As the Q7 is available only as a diesel or diesel PHEV, petrol consumption is a non-issue.
Hit the start stop button (like most cars, carefully hidden from view behind the steering wheel) and the 3.0-litre V6 starts quietly (or not at all in the e-tron). As soon as you're out driving, you realise how little road noise invades the cabin, even with the fat tyres all Q7s wear.
Acceleration is good in all of them, even the 160 feels quick. At speed, the cabin is super-quiet and with the air suspension the ride is almost supernaturally good. With the steel springs, you do feel the weight of the car more than with the air suspension, but it handles the bumps and grates of Sydney roads very well indeed.
The e-tron feels heavier, but the standard air suspension copes nicely with the extra bulk. In all other ways it feels extraordinarily similar to the 160 and 200, with the predictable penalty in handling. While the pure EV range might be a little disappointing, the stats tell a rosier story. Around town, you might see 0km in the digital display for electric range, but stepping off from a standstill - a big contributor to city fuel consumption - is electric, with the diesel quietly intervening at around 20km/h. All up, the MMI system told us electric drive accounted for half of city running.
From the day this Q7 landed on our roads, we've praised it for its overall refinement, good steering and handy chassis. Ride is excellent on the standard and air suspension, although the latter is clearly better but does add weight (and cost).
This isn't an off-road review, but the capability of Audi's SUV range surprised me last year on a trip to the Audi Driving Experience where I put Q5s and Q7s through a reasonably tricky set of obstacles and alarming angles, all without the aid of off-road tyres.
With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it.
But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.
While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.
The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.
Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.
Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.
Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.
Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.
As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.
Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.
Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.
The Q7 arrives with six airbags, reverse cross traffic alert, traction and stability controls (aka ESP), forward (up to 85km/h) and reverse AEB, around-view cameras as well as forward and side, blind-spot sensor and lane-departure warning.
The 'Assistance' package ($3850) adds active lane assist and adaptive cruise control.
Oddly, traffic-sign recognition isn't available.
You can fix your ISOFIX baby car seat with the supplied two anchor points or three top-tether points in the middle row and a further two in the third row where fitted.
All of these combine for a five-star ANCAP safety rating, awarded in December 2015.
The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.
You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.
In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.
But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty along with roadside assist. An extended warranty is available from your dealer.
The maintenance cost of the Q7 is controllable if you purchase an Audi service plan. This covers the basic service costs for three years/45,000km and at the time of writing costs $1900.
The stocks of Q7s appear reasonable, particularly during the current dip in the luxury market, so unless you have a weird set of options, your waiting time will be short.
Second-hand resale value stats appear strong. Audi certainly got on top of the common problems, complaints, faults and issues of the first-gen and the new car appears free of major reliability issues. The automatic-gearbox problems and diesel-engine problems of the past seem absent during my usual sweep of prominent internet forums.
Where is the Audi Q7 built? Same place as the forthcoming Q8 - Audi's Slovakian factory in Bratislava.
Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good.
In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing.
The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250).
Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.