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Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class


Audi SQ5

Summary

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class

Apparently there is an ugly Kardashian, but you don’t care, or if you do, you shouldn’t, so let’s talk about the Hemsworth brothers instead. 

In any other family, Luke Hemsworth would probably be called handsome, if a little short. Unfortunately for him, standing next to Liam and the God who walks amongst us that is Chris (I had to interview him once, he really is dreamy), Luke looks like he’s barely keeping his chin above the water line at the shallow end of the gene pool.

The Mercedes-Benz SUV range has quite a variation of lookers in its family tree as well, but I would argue that the new, entry-level GLA is pretty much the Chris of the range, or at least the Liam. The unfortunate, slightly large-foreheaded GLB would obviously be the Luke.

The only problem with all this, of course, is that the car that originally gave birth to the GLA - the A-Class - is more attractive than all of them, and Craig  Hemsworth, sire of the family, doesn’t quite pull that off.

The point is that the new GLA is going to be even more popular than the original one, which sold a staggering one million units worldwide, because it is not only bigger and taller, but better looking, inside and out.

And let’s face it, no one is buying an urban SUV like this for the way it can climb a snow-covered alpine pass. Even all-wheel drive is optional.

But the GLA has this niche nailed, and the new one - thanks to its style, space and the effortless way it rides - is going to be an even bigger success.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.5L/100km
Seating5 seats

Audi SQ5

Audi makes some mind-blowing cars. There’s the R8 which comes up to my knees and has a V10, or the RS6 wagon which is like a missile with generous boot space. The model, however, most Audi buyers purchase is the Q5.

It’s a mid-sized SUV, which means it’s basically the shopping trolley in the carmaker’s range. But like all things Audi, there’s a performance version, and that’s the SQ5. Audi launched its updated Q5 mid-sized SUV a couple of months ago and now the revised sporty SQ5 has thundered in.

Safety rating
Engine Type3.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.7L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

You can tell that this car is going to be a success just by looking at it. For a lot of people, to see one will be to want one, and when they sit in that hugely high driving position and gaze upon the future-fabulous interior they’ll be even more sold.

It’s fair to say the GLA 250 does everything well - aside from providing boot space - and with great comfort, and in terms of looks, inside and out, it reaches the level of outstanding.

Personally, I’d take the lower and sleeker A Class every time.

 


Audi SQ57.5/10

The SQ5 is the best version of a hugely popular SUV, and the turbo-diesel V6 provides a thunderously enjoyable and easy driving experience. The update has brought little in the way of new looks, and practicality remains an area where the SQ5 could be improved, but it’s hard not to appreciate this excellent SUV.     

Design

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class9/10

I have to say that it’s quite an effort for a car company to get me interested in the look of an SUV, but from its tough, bold and yet stylish grille to its taut back end and BMW-aping rear light cluster, the new GLA really is a looker.

I had the good fortune to bring our GLA 250 test vehicle home and park it right next to the previous model, in the same colour, thus properly ruining the day of one of my neighbours.

The growth in size is clear - the new car is 12cm taller, 30mm wider and has a 30mm-longer wheelbase, yet overall it is 14mm shorter, which makes it look neater as well as stronger - but it’s the little tucks and tweaks of design that have really improved the look. The rear-light cluster is worth mentioning again, as it's just so much nicer.

While the original GLA was simply a case of making an A Class on stilettos, its success has encouraged Benz to really pour some effort into its successor, and the result is clear. This thing is a real looker.

 


Audi SQ58/10

It might just be me but the Q5 seems to be the best looking SUV in Audi’s range. It doesn’t have the overly large and cumbersome appearance of the Q7, but it has more heft than a Q3. That ‘Tornado line’ which twists itself down the side of the car, with the wheels appearing to push up into the body at the guards, adds to the dynamic look.

The SQ5 looks even more athletic with its S body kit, red brake calipers and 21-inch Audi Sport alloy wheels.

The update has seen the grille restyled to be lower and wider, with a more complex honeycomb design, while the side sill trim has been redesigned, too.

SQ5 colours include, 'Mythos Black', 'Ultra Blue', 'Glacier White', 'Floret Silver', 'Quantum Grey', and 'Navarra Blue.'

The cabin is much the same as before, with the addition of Nappa leather upholstery as standard. While prestigious and well-appointed, the cabin styling has been the same since the arrival of this second-generation Q5 in 2017, and is beginning to show its age.

The SQ5 is 4682mm end-to-end, 2140mm wide and 1653mm tall.

Want more coupe in your SQ5? You’re in luck, Audi has announced that an SQ5 Sportback will be coming soon.

Practicality

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

The main goal of the GLA’s new, more SUV-like shape, in practicality terms, seems to have been to lift the driver even further off the ground, because the command-seating position is obviously a big selling point for someone who finds the A Class too ground-hugging.

So, while some of that growth in height has been used to increase head room to the point where I could easily wear Abraham Lincoln’s hat while driving, much of it has gone to making the driving position a full 10cm higher than in the previous GLA (it’s also 14cm higher than in an A Class).

Personally, the height of the seat drove me slightly spare, and every time I got in I tried to lower it, only to find it doesn’t go any lower, but, tellingly, my wife - who is not far off being an elf - loved it.

What I did like was the back seat, which is truly voluminous. Through clever packaging, Benz has managed to liberate no less than 12cm of extra legroom back there, and I could properly stretch out. 

With its standard double-paned panoramic roof and huge windows (part of huge doors, which do come close to scraping on any gutter higher than a match box), it’s a very glassy interior indeed, and visibility is excellent. 

There are two cupholders between the front seats, and there’s storage for big bottles in each door. Oddment storage is plentiful, although they could have more if they did away with the now redundant mouse pad and the so-called “arm rest” behind that, which feels more like a gear-shift lever they forgot to remove when they put the shifting functions up on a column stalk.

There’s no need for the track pad any more because the giant and truly very lovely 10.25-inch touch screen does everything via touch, and sits next to another screen the same size that acts as your dash readout, making the whole thing look like a particularly long iPad.

While other car companies, including Audi, which has long been the winner in any interior-design conversation, are still just jamming big screens on top of dashboards, Benz has turned its entire dash into a digital display, and it looks amazing, and futuristic. Like a concept car you can actually buy.

The overall feeling of quality and tech - particularly at night when it all lights up beautifully in a colour of your choosing - in this alluring interior is one of the main reasons buyers will flock to the new GLA.

The seats are not as sporty as some, but they’re comfortable enough.

The one letdown, however, which comes as a shock with all that space in the rear, is the boot, which is just 435 litres, compared to the Audi Q3’s far more practical 530 litres. It really is a surprise when you open the back and see so little there, and that really does lower the practicality mark.

 


Audi SQ57/10

This mid-size, five-seater SUV could do a better job on the practicality. There’s no third-row, seven-seater option, but that isn’t our main gripe. Nope, the SQ5 is short on rear legroom, and cabin storage isn’t great.

Sure, I’m 191cm (6'3") tall and almost 75 per cent of that is legs, but I can sit pretty comfortably behind my driving position in most mid-sized SUVs. Not the SQ5, which is getting tight back there.

As for cabin storage, yes, there’s a decent-sized console box under the centre armrest and slots for keys and wallets, plus the front door pockets are big, but rear passengers again don’t get the best treatment with small door pockets. There are two cup holders back there, though, in the fold-down armrest and another two up front.   

The boot’s 510 litres of luggage capacity is almost 50 litres less than the cargo space of the BMW X3 and Mercedes-Benz GLC.

Four USB ports (two in the front and two in the second row) are useful and so is the wireless phone charger in the dashboard.

Privacy glass, directional air vents for the third row and roof racks that now have cross members are great to see.

Price and features

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class7/10

I find it hard to believe I’m saying this about a Benz, but at a starting price of $66,500, the GLA 250 4MATIC does seem like quite a lot of car for the money. This might be influenced by the fact that I know a couple who recently dropped more than $70K on the smaller A Class (they actually went shopping for a GLA, but then fell in love with the look of the little hatch).

There, are of course, always issues with the Germans when it comes to what you do and don’t get for your tempting entry price, and in the case of our test vehicle it would stick in my craw quite badly to pay $385 extra for its Polar White paint. Yes, white paint costs extra.

While the Titan Grey Pearl and Black Lugano Leather is nice, it’s only in the car as part of the $2838 AMG Exclusive Package. Throw in the Sports Package at $1915, which gets us the sexy 19-inch AMG alloys, and the Driving Assistance Package for $1531 worth of extra active safety, drop on a dollop of LCT at $1329 and the asking price for our urban SUV hits a less-enticing-sounding $74,498.

Your standard inclusions for the $66,500 are a very lovely panoramic electric sunroof, heated and electronically adjustable front seats, with memory function, lowered comfort suspension and sports-direct steering, plus the Off-Road Engineering Package, while the standard, non AMG wheels are also 19-inch alloys, presumably just less sexy ones.

And you don't have to pay extra for Apple CarPlay, which is nice.


Audi SQ58/10

The SQ5 lists for $104,900, making it $35K more than the entry-grade Q5 40 TFSI. Still, the value is good considering this king-of-the-range is loaded with features, including an armful of new ones coming with this update.

New standard features include, matrix LED headlights, metallic paint, a panoramic sunroof, acoustic glazing, Nappa leather upholstery, an electrically adjustable steering column, a head-up display, a 19-speaker Bang and Olufsen stereo, and the roof racks now come with cross members.

That’s along with the standard features which came on the SQ5 previously such as, LED DRLs, three-zone climate control, a 10.1-inch media display, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, 30-colour ambient lighting, digital radio, power adjustable and heated front seats, privacy glass, 360-degree view camera, adaptive cruise, and auto parking.

The SQ5 also gets the sporty S exterior body kit with red brake calipers, and the interior also has S features such as sports seats with diamond stitching.

Of course, the SQ5 is more than just a cosmetic pack. There’s sports suspension and that magnificent V6, which we’ll get to soon.

Engine & trans

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

The GLA 250 comes with 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that makes a handy 165kW and 350Nm, which is sent to all four wheels using 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The claimed 0 to 100km/h time is 6.7 seconds.

Your silky smooth gearbox is an eight-speed, or 8G-DCT automatic, in Benz speak.

The engine feels powerful enough, without being exciting, and sounds pleasant enough, without sounding sporty - it's pretty much Goldilocks for an urban SUV.


Audi SQ58/10

The SQ5's 3.0-litre, turbo-diesel V6 is a development of the engine that was in the Special Edition SQ5 from the previous model, now producing 251kW from 3800-3950rpm, and 700Nm from 1750-3250rpm.

This diesel engine uses what’s called a mild-hybrid system. Don’t mistake this for a petrol-electric hybrid or a plug-in hybrid because it’s nothing like them, but more an auxiliary system for electrical storage which can restart the engine, which shuts down during coasting.

Shifting gears is an eight-speed automatic, and of course drive goes to all four wheels. Claimed 0-100km/h for the SQ5 is 5.1 seconds, which should be more than enough to help you out when that lane ahead runs out. And towing capacity is 2000kg for a braked trailer.

Is there a petrol variant? There was one in the previous model, but for this update Audi has only released this diesel version so far. That’s not to say a petrol SQ5 won’t appear later. We’ll keep our ear to the ground for you.

Fuel consumption

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

The GLA will require 95 RON fuel and claims to drink 7.5 litres per 100km, while producing 170g/km of CO2. 

Our slightly rushed launch drive didn't allow us to check that figure, sadly, but we will on our next, longer test.


Audi SQ57/10

The Aussie launch didn’t give us a chance to test the SQ5's fuel consumption, but Audi reckons after a combination of open and urban roads the 3.0-litre TDI should return 7.0L/100km. That sounds like ridiculously good economy, but it’s all we have to go on for now. We’ll put the SQ5 through some real-world testing soon.

While the mild-hybrid system does contribute to fuel saving it would be much better to see a plug-in hybrid Q5 on sale in Australia. An e-tron EV version would be even better. So, while the diesel is efficient, consumers need more environmentally sound choices for this popular mid-sized SUV.  

Driving

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

With such a high driving position, the worry is that you’re going to feel like you’re sitting on the new GLA rather than in it. 

But the fact is that, once I became accustomed to the fact that I couldn’t get the seat as low as I wanted to, it all became comfortable enough, and I could get on with fully appreciating the ride quality.

While the GLA has a good, Germanic solidity to the way the interior is bolted together - the doors are almost too heavy, I fact, and can be tough for little people to close - it’s the way it sits on the road that really impresses.

The little Benz soaks up the bumps, particularly in Comfort mode, and provides the kind of ride and handling quality that you’d expect in a six-figure German car. Or a Benz of old, you might say.

Critics of A Classes past were heard to complain that they just didn’t ride as softly or richly as a Mercedes should, but the company has put things to rights with its smaller cars in recent years and you really feel like you’re getting the badge you paid for here.

Step out of the cruisy, snoozy Comfort setting into Sport, however, and the CLA feels out of its, well, comfort zone. It’s almost too toey for its own good, wanting to lurch around, holding each gear desperately and making noises that are merely loud rather than sexy.

Engine noise is a little intrusive whenever you try and accelerate fiercely in the GLA, in fact, but there is some handy pace there if you really need it.

Fast driving does feel out of character for the GLA 250 variant, however, and those who want that kind of thing should wait for the AMG-fettled version that will arrive in the next month or so, bringing 225kW and 400Nm.

As a cornering weapon, this car is more of a butter knife, smoothing its way around bends with minimal bodyroll. It’s an urban SUV, and it drives like one, albeit a very good one.

Typically, the steering is also light and easy to use rather than heavy and talkative.

Being the 4-MATIC variant, the GLA 250 also offers an Off-Road mode, which takes full advantage of its torque-on-demand all-wheel-drive system, but sadly our slightly brief introduction to the car didn’t provide us with the chance to hurl it down a scree-covered mountain side, nor to test out its version of hill-descent control.


Audi SQ58/10

If I had to choose the best thing about the SQ5, it’s the way it drives. This is one of those cars that feels like you’re wearing it rather than driving it with the way it steers, the smooth eight-speed auto shifts, and the engine responds.

Like a low-flying army helicopter - voomp-voomp-voomp. That’s what the SQ5 sounds like at 60km/h in fourth, and I love it. Even if the sound is enhanced electronically.

But the oomph is completely real. The 3.0-litre, turbo-diesel V6 is a development of the engine that was in the Special Edition SQ5 from the previous model, but it’s better because the 700Nm of torque now comes in lower, at 1750rpm. Power output is also a smidge higher at 251kW.

Just don’t expect the SQ5 to be brutally dynamic, it’s not a Mercedes-AMG GLC 43. Nope, it’s more grand tourer than super SUV with colossal torque and a comfortable ride. It handles impressively, but the SQ5 seems more at home on gentle country roads and highways than switchbacks and hairpins.

My drive route took in only a small amount of city running, but the SQ5’s ease of driving made traffic as stressless as stressful peak hour traffic can be.  

Safety

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

The GLA has not been ANCAP or Euro NCAP crash rated yet, but the first car got five stars from the Euro test and was never ANCAP tested. It’s safe to say they design their cars around being damn sure they get five stars.

You’ll also be getting no less than nine airbags - front, pelvis side and window bags for driver and front passenger, sidebags for the rear occupants and a knee bag for the driver.

In terms of active safety, the Active Brake Assist - which works up to 60km/h - is standard, as is Blind Spot Assist, with exit-warning function, which alerts the driver to approaching cyclists or vehicles when they’re about to open their door. Active Lane Keep Assist is also standard, as are the Active Bonnet, Traffic Sign Assist and Cross Wind Assist.

But you will have to stump up for the Driving Assistance Package to get things like Active Lane Change Assist, Active Emergency Braking Assist and Evasive Steering Assist.


Audi SQ58/10

The Q5 was given the maximum five-star ANCAP score when it was assessed in 2017, and the SQ5 carries the same rating.

Coming standard is AEB, although it’s the city-speed type which works to detect cars and pedestrians at up to 85km/h. There’s also rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping assistance, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, auto parking (parallel and perpendicular), 360-degree camera view, front and rear parking sensors, and eight airbags.

For child seats there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts across the rear seat.

Ownership

Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class8/10

Your GLA comes with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is Japanese good, if not Korean good. 

In terms of servicing, you can choose to purchase a Service Plan or pay as you go with capped-price servicing. 

The costs for three annual services are $2050 for the Service Plan, or $2550 with the Capped Price Servicing (first is $550, second is $750, third $1250). 

Service Plans can be bought in four or five-year lots, at $2950 and $3500 respectively.


Audi SQ56/10

Audi refuses to budge on its three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, despite other prestige brands such as Genesis, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz going to five-year/unlimited km coverage.

As for servicing, Audi offers a five-year plan for the SQ5 costing $3100, covering every 12 month/15000km service over that time, for an annual average of .