Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Audi Q7
- Better in every way than the A45
- Terrific front seats
- Relatively restrained looks
- Expensive servicing
- Some interior bits are cheap
- Getting old
- Huge interior space
- Tonnes of tech and standard features
- It's really loooong at 5 metres
- Sometimes wild options prices
- A bit on the heavy side
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"?
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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-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.