Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Audi Q2
- Better in every way than the A45
- Terrific front seats
- Relatively restrained looks
- Expensive servicing
- Some interior bits are cheap
- Getting old
- Decent levels of equipment
- New petrol AWD model is a peach
- A fairly charming thing overall
- Limited boot space in quattro models
- Back seat isn't massive
- Lacks some storage
Buuuuuuuur, parp, buuuuuuuuuuuur, parp. Anyone who knows anything about cars immediately recognises the sound of a 45-engined A-class derivative. It's the sound you hear in a tunnel as old mate blasts past with a giant carbon-fibre wing atop his hatchback. It's the sound you hear at 3:00am on a summer morning (if your suburb has no speed bumps, of course).
Sure, the GLA compact SUV is probably a slightly unexpected source of all that noise. But then, Merc's Ingolstadt rivals stuffed Audi's stupendous five-cylinder engine into a Q3 to make the hugely improbable RSQ3, so why not do the same with their skirts-lifted A-Class?
To be honest, my expectations for this car were low. So do I owe Mercedes a grovelling apology? Or can I still claim the moral high ground after a week of GLA 45 "ownership"?
This is the 'Eureka!' moment for the Audi Q2. Finally, I get what they're going for, because this flagship performance-oriented petrol all-wheel drive (AWD) model is everything a fun, urban SUV should be.
When the Audi Q2 arrived in Australia earlier in 2017, it had the choice of a front-wheel drive (FWD) petrol or a pricey diesel version with AWD. But neither of those were as characterful or charming as perhaps we'd come to hope for when this boxy little bugger was unboxed.
But, finally, the 2018 Audi Q2 2.0 TFSI Quattro has arrived, and it all makes sense. And there have been a couple of extra little tweaks to the Audi Q2 2018 range - read on to find out more.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
My wonderful wife, who is not really into this kind of car, admitted to me in a quiet voice that she really liked the GLA45 as long as it was in Sport + mode. And I have to agree. While I'm very fond of the ridiculous Audi RSQ3 (that turbo five-cylinder sounds amazing), I think I'd stump up the extra for the GLA.
Importantly, it can be comfortable, it can be quiet and it's a better fit for most humans than the A or CLA. It is getting on a bit and could do with a further clean-out of the poor ergonomics, but in what is likely its final year on sale, it's still a belter.
Has Peter finally lost it? Can the GLA45 be the best of the A-side 45 trio? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
There is no denying the Audi Q2 2018 model range is all the better for introduction of the 2.0 TFSI variant, which is the best of the bunch in this writer's humble opinion.
Just keep in mind that competition in the small SUV segment is fierce, and with a lot of options boxes to be ticked to get the ideal Q2, it may be worth looking at your options in the market, particularly if you need something practical.
Would you choose the Audi Q2? Or would another small SUV suit you better? Let us know in the comments section below.
The GLA45 isn't a looker, but then, none of the GLAs are. There's a certain blobbiness to it. A bit of Teletubby mixed with...um, another Teletubby. It's not ugly, it's just not particularly attractive. The 20-inch wheels do much to lift the appearance and negate the effect of the raised ride height compared to the A45/CLA45.
The body kit stops just short of lairy, which is heartening. So if you want to stand out, venture out into the aftermarket world.
Inside was a mild surprise. The last time I drove a CLA 45 I used the word "gaudy". While the GLA isn't amazingly better, the texture of the Alcantara replacing the brushed metal-look plastic, or the carbon of the option pack, was much more pleasant. The brightwork in the cabin is still a bit odd looking, and it's still overcooked with its red detailing, but it is an otherwise beautifully built and well-detailed interior.
Ummm, have you seen the Audi Q2? It looks pretty much unlike all of the other Audi SUVs you can buy, and you'll either be a fan of that, or you won't.
There isn't much major visual differentiation between the newly added 2.0 TFSI Quattro version and the more affordable petrol model aside from this version rolling on 18-inch wheels as opposed to the 17s of the base petrol, and the entry-level model misses out on body-colour mouldings around the wheels, side skirts and bumpers. Both the quattro models look identical to one another.
Like all Q2s (and arguably all Audis) you need to option the S-line styling package to make it look how you probably want it to. You can get 19-inch wheels if you want that extra tough appearance, plus there are optional C-pillar blade colours ('Manhattan' grey metallic, 'Titanium' grey matt, 'Ice' silver metallic, or body colour), and buyers have 12 body colours to choose from.
The front seats are utterly brilliant and feel as good as they look. On first acquaintance they may feel under-padded, but once you've adjusted them to your liking, you never want to leave. The AMG cars also feature one vast improvement over a normal GLA - the ergonomic disaster of a column-mounted shifter is removed, with a console-mounted shifter added where a small cubby once lived. It's so much better, although the Park button is oddly difficult to press.
When luxuriating in those snug front seats, you'll have access to two cupholders and door-mounted bottle holders, as well as a console bin (where the USB ports are) and a tray under the climate controls. Rear seat passengers will find legroom tight but headroom good, even with the huge sunroof.
The GLA's boot holds an entirely reasonable 421 litres, rising to 1235 when you drop both rear seats.
Well, let's put it this way - if you want the most pragmatic and thoughtful small SUV out there, you should be looking at the Mini Countryman or BMW X1, both of which offer supreme space for their size.
That isn't to say that the Q2 is impractical - it still has a 355-litre boot space in quattro models (405-litre for the FWD version), and you could fit five adults in at a squeeze, provided they aren't big boppers. If you have children, the dual ISOFIX points and three top-tether hooks will be of note, and there are rear seat air-vents in all Q2 models.
Storage is reasonably well sorted up front, with cupholders between the seats and decent door pockets, as well as a few little trinket cubbies here and there. In the back, though, there is no fold-down armrest (meaning no cupholders), but you can fit a bottle in each of the doors. Map pockets aren't standard, either.
There are plenty of tricks Audi has employed with the interior styling of the Q2 - at a glance, it looks pretty smart and funky. But there are cost-cutting measures evident, like the scratchy plastics on the doors and hard plastics down below your eye-line.
Price and features
The GLA 45 lightens your wallet by no less than $89,211 - more than double the GLA 180 front-wheel drive, and about $5000 more than the bonkers (and ancient) RS Q3.
Packed into the GLA's kit bag are 20-inch alloy wheels, a 12-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, comprehensive safety gear, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric and heated front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, auto wipers, leather trim (some real, some not), auto parking, powered and heated folding mirrors, a massive sunroof and dynamic dampers. There's no spare tyre, just a tyre-repair kit.
The multimedia system is Mercedes' COMAND unit and it is as user-unfriendly as ever. It does, however, power a very decent stereo, and also offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Thankfully our car was bereft of both the carbon-fibre package ($990) and the aerodynamics package ($1990).
The range kicks off from $41,800 for the 1.4 TFSI Design model (up $700 since its early 2017 launch), while the quattro AWD models include the new 2.0 TFSI sport model at $48,500 and the range-topping 2.0 TDI sport, which lists at $49,100 (previously $47,900).
There is a good amount of standard kit fitted to all Q2 models, including the addition of new LED headlights, which are far more attractive, not to mention more illuminating, than the existing halogens. The brand's 'MMI' multimedia controller with sat nav and 'Audi Connect' makes use of a 7.0-inch dash-top screen, and the car comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard in all models, too.
There is dual-zone climate control across the range, while the quattro models get an electric tailgate as standard. All models have an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and the entry-grade model sports 17-inch wheels, where the quattro versions score 18s.
Leather seat trim is standard across the line-up, with the quattro models adopting sports seats for extra support, though seat heating is an option on all versions, and manual seat adjustment is the norm, too.
There is a good deal of standard gear, sure - but if you want to make your Audi Q2 a bit more special, there is a range of optional packs that may be of interest to you: it has sort of become the norm for premium brands, offering strong standard kit but a bunch of enhancement packages for those who want a little more to brag about.
For the safety-conscious there's the 'Assistance Pack' ($990 - see the safety section below for details of what's in the pack, and what's new for 2018), and a lot of people are likely to want to go for the 'Comfort Pack', a $1900 option that includes keyless entry and start, electric lumbar adjustment, heated and folding side mirrors with dimming, heated front seats, luggage nets on the front seat backs, a luggage net in the boot (and a light back there... can't believe that's not standard?), and drawers under the front seats.
The 'Technik Pack' is appealing, too, with Audi's 'Virtual Cockpit' 12.3-inch driver info display, an upgraded media screen (8.3-inch) and a flat-bottom steering wheel. It costs $2500. And if you want more street cred, you might want to consider one of the S-line styling packs (there is a base version for the entry-level model, and a more comprehensive pack for the quattro variants).
Engine & trans
AMG's fabled 2.0-litre turbo four lurks under that higher bonnet, still kicking out an improbable 280kW and 475Nm. Drive reaches the road via Merc's own seven-speed twin-clutch transmission and all four of its wheels.
All that power and grip translates to a 4.4-second dash to 100km/h for the slightly tubby (over 1600kg) GLA, but just between you and me, anything under five seconds feels scorchingly quick.
The new 2.0 TFSI turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine is considerably punchier than the existing 1.4 turbo-petrol, with 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque. That turns this litter jigger into something like a boxy hot hatch on stilts.
Audi claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of 6.5 seconds, so finally it has the performance muscle to match those chiseled exterior panels.
Unlike the other, more affordable petrol model the 2.0 TFSI has quattro AWD. The 1.4 TFSI persists with 110kW/250Nm and a sprint time of 8.5sec, while the 2.0 TDI retains its 110kW/320Nm outputs and can shuffle to highway pace in 8.1sec. All Q2 models have seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmissions.
The official combined-cycle figure suggests the GLA45 will consume 7.5L/100km. Obviously that figure is largely irrelevant, and not just for the usual reasons, but because you don't buy a GLA45 to potter about in. I got, uh, 12.5L/100km, so you can imagine how much I was enjoying it.
As you might expect, you'll need to feed it 98RON.
Audi claims fuel consumption for this flagship petrol model is 6.5L/100km. That makes it 1.2L/100km thirstier than the front-drive petrol, and 1.5L higher than the diesel - but you get a lot more performance from this model.
On the launch loop, which involved high-speed country roads, dirt tracks and some minor urban chicanery, we saw a figure of 7.6L/100km in the top-spec petrol - pretty respectable.
When the 45-badged cars first launched, they were something of a revelation. BMW's turbo six-cylinder fans sniffed at the 2.0-litre's staggering outputs and all-wheel-drive chassis, but this car really captured the imagination. The GLA45 might be slightly unexpected, but it's better in almost every way as a daily driver than the A or CLA.
For a start, its higher ride height seems to translate to a much better ride quality. Anything on 20-inch wheels should have an appalling ride, but the GLA45 manages to be firm yet comfortable. Put the other two in Race mode and you'll need to up your private health insurance extras to include osteo, physio and whatever "o"-ending specialist fixes your back.
The improved ride quality meant I was far happier to chuck this car around. While it doesn't have the same ultimate overall performance of the lower cars, it's far more comfortable whether you're on it or just driving around. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, and the steering is excellent.
As for the engine...well, it still farts like toddler during a moment of silence at a funeral, but you can't deny its technical brilliance and huge power outputs. I remember the CLA45's engine as being a bit highly strung. Perhaps I couldn't separate the overall high-strung nature of the car from the engine, but I felt the same engine in this car wasn't as jumpy.
The way it propels this car into triple figures is tremendous fun. It's not as charismatic as the Audi five-cylinder, perhaps, but that doesn't matter in the end - it's properly fast, attached to a better chassis and offers a cabin with a driving position fit for humans.
There is no doubt in my mind that the 2.0 TFSI was the Q2 we've been waiting for. With its balance of extra grunt and better traction, it makes for a pretty involving and entertaining drive experience. You need to option drive mode selection, with five drive modes including an individual set-up, if you want to tailor the car to your desires. Adaptive dampers are available at a cost, too.
There's good response when you shove your right foot to the floor, with just a hint of turbo lag if you catch the car off-guard. Flick the shifter to the sport mode and that won't be an issue, and indeed the Q2 will eagerly hold on to gears in anticipation.
While dual-clutch transmissions are known for their low-speed foibles, this one seems to have most of those lurching movements ironed out - though it still takes a bit of getting used to, and there isn't a very nice sound from the drivetrain in most situations. A more raucous exhaust note would be welcomed.
The so-called 'progressive' steering doesn't have the best feel to it, but it is quick and accurate, which makes it feel like you're part of the action. The ride - even in our test car, clad with optional 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres, while going without adaptive dampers - was mostly very good, particularly considering some of the surfaces we encountered (parts of the country roads in the Barrington Tops, in north-east NSW, consist more a patchwork of pothole repairs rather than an actual level surface). That said, really sharp edges can upset the front axle a touch.
The quattro AWD system comes into its own on sweeping country back roads, though, and the short gravel stint suggested there was good grip and traction on offer.
The GLA comes with nine airbags (including driver's knee), blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning and mitigation and driver-attention detection.
The Audi Q2 range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP score, and comes fitted with a decent array of safety gear as standard. The goodies list comprises a reversing camera, parking sensors, auto emergency braking with pedestrian detection (up to 65km/h), blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
There is an optional ($990) 'Assistance Pack' available across the range, which adds adaptive cruise control with high-speed AEB (up to 200km/h), lane keeping assist, Audi's traffic jam assist (which can accelerate, brake and steer at speeds up to 65km/h), semi-automated parking, automated high-beam lights and a system known as 'Emergency Assist', which can pull the car off the road if the driver is non-compliant with impulses sent to them (beeps, vibrations etc).
A head-up display is now optional on all variants, too, but at $1050, you'd just get the Technik Pack and make the speedo as big as it can be, right?
The Mercedes standard warranty is three years/unlimited kilometres with roadside assist to match. Service intervals are a very reasonable 12 months/20,000km.
The company also offers capped-price servicing - first service is $576 but the second and third are a whopping $1152 each. Three years will set you back $2880.
Audi offers a three-year/unlimited km warranty on all of its new models, and servicing is due every 12 months/15,000km. Roadside assist is included for the length of the warranty period.
The brand has a pre-purchase service pack, which covers the first 36 months/45,000km of maintenance, which costs $1590.