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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The Mercedes-Benz GLA is the German giant’s first entry into the small-medium SUV class in Australia. It’s already doing well in the sales race as buyers look for the prestige of the three-pointed star in a practical easy to drive machine.
Mercedes GLA sits midway between an SUV and a station wagon in its shape. The bold frontal style is very A-Class, with which it shares underbody components, and there’s a real emphasis on the aforementioned three-pointed star. There are strong swage lines in the sides. The taillights share a strong family line with the latest Merc E-Class range.
We aren’t sure the bumpy bits along the door sills are to our taste, but there’s no denying they are something out of the ordinary, which is important in this day and age. The big rear diffuser gives the GLA a purposeful appearance, as do the roof racks.
Though the body is completely different, the interior is obviously borrowed from the Mercedes A-Class hatch. The centre screen looks like a bit of an afterthought but is easy to see and use with a minimum of driver inattention.
Due to long waiting lists in Europe the only model coming to Australia at this stage is the $47,900 turbo-diesel GLA 200 CDI, naturally it’s the subject of our review. The $57,900 turbo-petrol GLA 250 4Matic is due within a few weeks. Australians are the biggest buyers of AMG models in the world on a per capita basis, so the local Mercedes guys are doing their corporate best to hurry the GLA 45 AMG onto the ships heading downunder. It is to be priced at $79,900 and it’s no surprise that deposits are being paid as I write.
The turbo-diesel has a capacity of 2.1 litres (Mercedes uses different mathematical rounding up then we do, and calls it a 2.2-litre). It produces 100 kW of power, and 300 Nm of torque between 1400 and 3000 revs. It comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission and drives only through the front wheels.
The standard turbo-petrol displaces 2.0 litres and puts out 155 kW and 350 Nm. It too has a seven-speed auto, but has all-wheel-drive.
The upcoming AMG turbo-petrol is a highly modified 2.0-litre unit that produces an astonishing 265 kilowatts and 450 Newton metres. It drives all four wheels through the high-performance AMG seven-speed Speedshift double-clutch auto. Naturally the emphasis from the AWD setup is better on-road grip rather an off-road work.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA range has no fewer than nine airbags, including units providing knee protection for both front seat occupants. It’s a given that it breezed through crash testing to gain five stars.
Access is easy as the seats are at just the right height for most people, which is one reason why many are opting for SUV wagons instead of low slung sedans. The front seats are well-shaped and provide good comfort. The rear seats have good legroom even with the fronts well back. There is space for three teenagers in the rear, but only just.
Boot space is good and the area is well shaped and easy to load.
The GLA 200 turbo-diesel was noisier than expected in an upmarket vehicle when cold, though it did become noticeably quieter once up to normal operating temperature. The standard Eco setting makes the engine reluctant to get the GLA moving and we found ourselves going for the Sport button almost as soon as we began driving. And, no, we weren’t driving this the way a revhead would, simply using the sort of acceleration most owners would opt for.
Torque is good and turbo lag is seldom a hassle. Once the engine is on song there’s strong pull through all the normal rev range.
Even using Sport mode the fuel consumption was impressively low. Typically the GLA diesel used six to seven litres per hundred kilometres on the open road and motorways, and eight to ten litres around town.
The Merc SUV’s suspension is well-balanced and the steering gives good feedback. It’s no sports car, indeed not even a sports SUV but will do everything most want while keeping them very safe.
Comfort is good and the extra suspension travel when compared with the Mercedes A-Class means the GLA is possibly even better than the hatch. Road noise is well isolated and coarse-chip surfaces didn’t intrude as much as in many small to medium European cars.
|GLA250 4MATIC||2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$32,200 – 42,990||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|
“The Mercedes-Benz GLA offers an excellent combination of prestige, practicality and price. The latter puts it into the top end of the affordable class so it’s no surprise that initial sales have been so strong. If you’re halfway interested it might be worthwhile making enquiries at your local dealer sooner rather than later.”