Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 2014 review
Peter Barnwell road tests and reviews the 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
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Porsche purists are still whining, but the fact of the matter is that if Porsche doesn't do SUVs, the purists are unlikely to get machines like the 918 Spyder or Cayman GTS. So that argument is pretty much over for the rest of the internet, thank goodness.
Porsche's challenge now is to continue to grow its SUV line-up while maintaining the balance between sporty and utility. It's started from a good base, both technologically and financially - you can have either the diesel or petrol Macan S for a long way south of $100,000.
The Macan's current range starts with the $84,900 six-cylinder turbodiesel and then the two twin-turbo petrol V6s, the 3.0-litre S and the strangely-named 3.6-litre $122,400 Turbo.
Our car was the mid-spec $86,700 petrol-powered S. Standard on board is an eleven-speaker stereo with Bluetooth, USB and inbuilt hard disc, dual-zone climate-control, alarm with motion sensor, rear-view camera and front and rear parking sensors, trailer sway control, hill descent control, electric front seats with memory, satnav, auto bi-xenon headlights, power mirrors, auto wipers and active ride suspension.
Added to the S, and from a substantial options list, was a panoramic sunroof ($3790), full leather ($3720), sport chrono package ($2690), handsome 20-inch wheels ($2130), side skirts ($1920), brushed aluminium interior package ($1090), front heated seats ($890), triple zone climate control ($830) and black roof rails ($750).
While this brings the price up to a whopping $104,510, it doesn't make the Macan any faster because it's all cosmetic apart from the sport chrono package. This little lot adds a stopwatch to your dashboard but also adds the Sport Plus button which brings faster, sharper shifts and throttle response. It may not make you faster, but it will feel it.
The Cayenne is a bit of a mess stylistically, and the Macan's front end is probably a little too close to big brother's bloated bonce. Move to the side, however, and things improve immeasurably. The falling roofline lands in a very cool homage to the 911, with slim LED lights and all the right angles to make the Macan look quick.
Naturally, this bites into the boot space and also appears to shift the rear seats a little further forward than might be ideal, rendering rear leg room marginal for anyone over about five and a half feet.
The front of the cabin is very Porsche, so you have to take the good with the bad. It does look terrific (good) but there seems to have been a nasty accident at a button factory (bad). There are buttons everywhere across the dash and down the console and it takes a while to learn what they all do and mean.
Some people like the technical feel of lots of buttons, others don't, but once you learn what they all do, it's not a bad place to be at all. The leather is smooth and soft, the big steering wheel is perfectly sized if a little flat in the face for some tastes and the seats fantastically comfortable.
The central console is high to give the impression you're sitting lower than you might expect. It makes the Macan feel low and snug.
The three-dial dash is very clever, with a traditional speedo and tachometer and a third screen that can be changed around to suit your needs - trip computer, satnav, whatever takes your fancy.
A 7.8-inch screen sits in the middle of the Festival of Buttons and controls everything from your phone and music through to satnav. The eleven-speaker stereo is a good one, with great sound and was very easy to set up, despite the controls being shared between console and steering wheel.
The Porsche V6 is quite a thing - from 3.0 litres and two turbos comes 250kW and 460Nm (the Turbo ups the figures to 294kW and 550Nm). With stop-start and a seven-speed DPK (dual-clutch) transmission, the Macan S sprints to 100km/h in 5.4 seconds.
It uses a claimed 8.7L/100km. In the real world, you'll see low double figures fuel consumption.
Drive is to all four wheels through the seven-speed transmission, with a clear bias to the rear wheels.
The Macan is home to eight airbags, stability and traction control, load-limited and pre-tensioned seat belts, ABS, EBS and brake force distribution.
There is no ANCAP safety rating for the Macan.
Straight away this feels different to your average fast SUV. It doesn't have a lumpy ride or feel compromised through the steering. While its close relative, the Audi SQ5, is a great car, there are a few things about it that might not appeal, the ride in particular.
Porsche's active ride system irons everything out in Comfort mode, giving a firm but compliant urban ride quality while never stuttering on the fast or high-frequency stuff.
Switch everything up to Sport and the car's character changes considerably. The engine becomes a lot more vocal and the shifts become super-fast, almost imperceptible. What's most impressive is that free-spinning twin-turbo V6 - it cheerfully winds out to the redline without the hesitation in that last few hundred rpm many forced induction engines suffer from.
It's terrific fun in the fast stuff, too - always willing, with little understeer and a proper slingshot feel out of the bends.
Nobody has a fast SUV as complete as the Macan. BMW has nothing in this size, Mercedes tries to straddle size and price with the hard-as-nails GLA 45 and the only thing that comes close is Audi's diesel-only SQ5. Japan, Korea and Britain are yet to fire their weapons.
What none of those have is Porsche's engineering prowess (Stuttgart says the Macan is 70 per cent their own, and feels it too) and for many people that badge is going to be super-important (even if total cost of ownership isn't).
As is that price - at well under $90,000 before on-roads, the petrol Macan S is a performance bargain and a cracker of an entry into Porsche ownership.
|GTS||3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$62,800 – 79,420||2015 Porsche Macan 2015 GTS Pricing and Specs|
|S||3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$50,500 – 63,800||2015 Porsche Macan 2015 S Pricing and Specs|
|S Diesel||3.0L, Diesel, 7 SP AUTO||$48,700 – 61,600||2015 Porsche Macan 2015 S Diesel Pricing and Specs|
|Turbo||3.6L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO||$70,200 – 88,770||2015 Porsche Macan 2015 Turbo Pricing and Specs|