Lexus NX 2015 review: road test
When you’re last in to the world’s fastest-growing segment, you need to be best dressed. Is the Lexus NX good enough to reclaim lost ground?
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In a surprise move, Mercedes-Benz has cancelled the GLA 250 Sport front-wheel-drive model in favour of the 4Matic all-wheel-drive version. Those who put down a deposit on the front wheeler will now get an all-wheeler at no extra cost, a saving of $1500. Not bad for a tad inconvenient change of mind by Mercedes-Benz Australia.
As we found at the GLA 4Matic launch those buyers should be well pleased as their new all-wheeler handles the tarmac beautifully and is capable of climbing rough-track mountains, as long as there is no rock-hopping or washouts. It’s an ideal snow slogger and weekend-at-the-farm mud spinner.
Mercedes-Benz selected an ideal location to show off GLA 4Matic’s assets – the sublime roads between Auckland and Tauranga in New Zealand’s North Island, with a visit to a 4WD park about 40 km from Auckland to test the AWD system on real world tracks used by local farmers.
This is an important vehicle for Mercedes-Benz with the small SUV luxury segment hotly contested by rivals BMW with the X1 AWD, Audi Q3 quattro and the larger Range Rover Evoque.
The GLA 250 4Matic looks the part sitting as it does on 19-inch five-twin-spoke alloys. The body shape is aggressive and while the car shares a similar drivetrain to the rather stunning CLA 250 Sport 4Matic, the GLA does not have one body panel the same.
Besides the allure of the three-pointed star, the Mercedes GLA 4Matic has a lot going for it. It challenges the format of the traditional SUV by sitting roughly 140 mm off the tarmac – very low for an SUV. This means you sit lower and the vehicle is more car-like. Yet, like a traditional small SUV is looks like a jacked up hatchback or wagon. In that sense it’s a crossover. It also means in styling the GLA stands apart from rivals.
The GLA shares a lot in common on the inside with the AWD CLA 250 Sport 4Matic launched in NZ at the same time. The dash is dominated by five large air conditioning vents – three in the centre and one at either side – that are a little over the top. But the overall feel is of a cheaper Mercedes – which is exactly what it is.
Comfort levels are good and the fit and finish what you expect from Mercedes. We liked the red-stitched man-made ‘leather’ upholstery. The seatbelts come standard in red, but black is a no-cost option if you want to tone things down.
The decision by Mercedes-Benz to opt for the AWD came as a result of a few factors, not the least that it could get the AWD into the country well before the 2WD. Secondly, although the GLA 4Matic is not an AMG vehicle, it was engineered by the Mercedes-Benz performance division. “This is not just the inclusion of an AMG kit,” said Mercedes-Benz manager of corporate communications, David McCarthy. “AMG engineered the suspension, brakes, engine and suspension.”
Twenty-four examples of GLA 4Matic were subjected to 1.8-million kilometres of track and field endurance testing and then dismantled with component parts measured for wear.
The is the first Mercedes in this style and features the latest generation of the 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system, with fully variable torque delivered between the front and rear wheels as required.
In most tarmac driving conditions the vehicle remains in front wheel mode – but at the mere sniff of traction loss some torque is transferred to the rear wheels. This automatic engagement is taken in milliseconds and is seamless.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
GLA 250 4Matic is powered by a 1991 cc four cylinder engine that develops 155 kW of power and a not insubstantial 350 Nm of torque hooked up to a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. It’s the same drivetrain as the CLA 250 mentioned above. Mercedes claim 7.0 litres per 100 km fuel consumption.
On road the GLA 4Matic is impressive: little body roll even during hard cornering, plenty of poke from the 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that covers the 0-100 km/h sprint in a little more than 7.0 seconds.
In addition GLA 250 4Matic also comes standard with Mercedes-Benz off-road engineering pack that includes descent speed regulation (DSR) set from 2 km/h to 18 km/h, and modified accelerator response, transmission shifts and points.
|GLA250 4MATIC||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$31,777 – 48,770||2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 2014 GLA250 4MATIC Pricing and Specs|
|GLA45 AMG 4MATIC||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$41,990 – 49,990||2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 2014 GLA45 AMG 4MATIC Pricing and Specs|
|GLA200 CDI||2.1L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$26,000 – 39,900||2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class 2014 GLA200 CDI Pricing and Specs|