Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Bentley Bentayga
- Exterior styling
- Interior and cabin appeal
- Rear space, and space overall
- Lack of boot space
- Driving position not too high for some
- Engine noise slightly un-sexy
- Magnificent twin-turbo petrol V8
- Superbly comfortable
- Surprisingly dynamic for its size
- A little awkward looking
- Low on standard advanced safety equipment
- Boot is smaller compared to rivals
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.
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
When Bentley revealed its Bentayga in 2015 the British brand called it “the fastest, most powerful, most luxurious, and most exclusive SUV in the world."
See, that first Bentayga packed a W12 engine, but the SUV we have here was introduced in 2018 with a twin-turbo petrol V8 and a reduced price tag.
So how does this more affordable and less powerful Bentayga stack up to Bentley's lofty ambitions?
Well you’ve come to the right place, because along with speed, power, luxury and exclusivity I can also talk about the Bentayga V8’s other attributes, such as what it’s like to park, drop children off at school in, do the shopping in and even go through a 'drive thru' in.
Yes, the Bentley Bentayga V8 came to live with my family for a week and as with any house guest you quickly find out what’s great about them… and then there are those times you walk in on them not looking their best.
|Engine Type||4.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
The Bentayga is Bentley’s first attempt at an SUV and the Bentayga V8 is a more recent addition to the line-up that provides an alternative to the W12, hybrid and diesel models.
There’s no doubt the Bentayga V8 delivers an exceptionally good driving experience from its power and athleticism to the serene cabin and comfortable ride.
Where the Bentley Bentayga V8 appears to be lacking is in cabin technology which compared to other luxury SUVs is becoming outdated, and in standard advanced safety equipment. We’d expect this to be addressed in future revisions of the SUV.
Does the Bentayga fit the ultra-luxury SUV bill? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
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.
The Bentayga is unmistakably a Bentley, but I have my doubts whether this first attempt by the British brand to build an SUV has been a design success.
To me, the rear three-quarter view is its best angle with those trademark rear haunches, but front-on reveals an overbite I can’t ‘unsee’.
But then again perhaps I’m the one with bad taste, I mean I think Lamborghini's Urus SUV, which uses the same MLB Evo platform, is a work of art in its design, staying faithful to the sports cars in the family, while acquiring a brave look of its own.
I also found the interior of the Bentayga V8 disappointing. Not in terms of overall craftsmanship but rather its outdated technology and plain styling.
The 8.0-inch screen is almost identical to the one used in the Volkswagen Golf in 2016. But the Golf received its Mk 7.5 update in 2017 and with it a stunning touchscreen which hasn't made it into the Bentayga yet.
The steering wheel, too, has identical switchgear to the $42K Audi A3 I reviewed two weeks ago and you can add the indicator and wiper stalks into that mix as well.
While the fit and finish of the upholstery was outstanding, there was a lack of interior refinement in some places. For example, the cupholders, had rough and sharp plastic edges, the gear shifter was also plastic and felt flimsy, while the fold-down armrest in the back seats also lacked refinement in the way it was constructed and lowered without damping.
At just over 5.1m long, 2.2m wide (including the wing mirrors) and a little over 1.7m tall the Bentayga is big but it’s the same length and width as the Urus, and a bit taller. The Bentayga’s wheelbase is only 7.0mm shorter than the Urus’s at 2995mm.
The Bentayga isn’t the longest of the Bentleys, that’s for sure. The Mulsanne is 5.6m end-to- end and the Flying Spur is 5.3m in length. So, the Bentayga V8 is almost ‘fun-size’ in Bentley terms, even though it’s large.
The Bentayga is made in the United Kingdom at Bentley’s home (since 1946) in Crewe.
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.
The Bentayga V8 may be an SUV, but that doesn’t immediately make it a god of practicality. While roomy up front for the driver and co-pilot, the rear seating is not exactly limo-like, although at 191cm tall I can sit with about 100mm of space. Headroom is slightly limited by the edges of the panoramic sunroof for rear riders, too.
Storage in the cabin is adequate with two cupholders and small door pockets in the back, and another two cupholders and larger door pockets in the front. There’s also a shallow centre console storage bin and two wells for loose items in front of it.
The Bentayga V8’s boot with the rear seats in place has a cargo capacity of 484 litres – that’s measured to the cargo cover, but to the roof its 589 litres.
That boot space is still smaller than the Lamborghini Urus’s 616 litres and there’s much less boot space than the Audi Q7 and Cayenne which both have 770 litres measured to the roof, too.
Making life easier is the load-height lowering system which is operated with a button located in the boot.
The tailgate is powered, but the kick-open function (standard on say an Audi Q5) is an option you’ll have to pay for on the Bentayga.
As for power outlets and charging, the Bentayga’s falling out-of-date here, too. There is no wireless charger for phones, but there are two USB ports up front and three 12-volt outlets (one in the front and two in the rear row) on-board.
Price and features
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.
That’s the question those who can’t afford a Bentley Bentayga V8 want to know the answer to, and the one that those who can don’t ask.
I’m in the first group, so I can tell you the Bentley Bentayga V8 has a list price of $334,700. Our car had $87,412 in options which we’ll take a look at, but all up including the on-road costs, our test car had a price of $454,918.
Standard features inside include leather upholstery in a choice of five colours, 'Dark Fiddleback Eucalyptus' veneer trim, a three-spoke leather clad steering wheel, ‘B’ foot pedals, Bentley embossed treadplates, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, sat nav, a 10-speaker stereo, CD player, digital radio, four-zone climate control and shifting paddles.
Exterior standard features include 21-inch wheels, black painted brake calipers, air suspension with four height settings, a choice of seven paint colours, gloss black radiator grille, black lower bumper grille, LED headlights and LED tail-lights, twin quad-exhaust and a panoramic sun roof.
Our car was fitted with options galore which is common in vehicles loaned to the media. Car companies often use these cars to showcase available options rather than represent a typical customer specification.
There’s the 'Artica White' paint from the bespoke Mulliner range costing $14,536; 'our' car's 22-inch wheels weigh in at $9999, as do the fixed side steps; the tow bar and brake controller (with Audi Q7 badging, see the images) is $6989; body coloured lower bodywork is $2781 and LED puddle lights are $2116.
Then there’s the acoustic glazing for $2667, front seats with the 'Comfort Specification' for $7422 and then $8080 for the 'Hot Spur' main hide and 'Beluga' secondary hide leather upholstery, the $3825 piano black veneer trim and if you want the Bentley logo embroidered into the headrests (as per our car) it costs $1387.
Does it represent good value for the price? Not by regular standards, but Bentleys are anything but regular cars, and those that buy them tend not to look at prices.
But, as I do with every car I review (whether it costs $30,000 or $300,000), I ask the manufacturer for a list of options fitted to the test car and the as-tested pricing, and I always include those options and their costs in my review.
Engine & trans
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.
The scores I’ve awarded to the Bentayga V8 so far haven’t been impressive, but now we come to the twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8.
Derived from the same unit found in the Audi RS6 this turbo-petrol V8 makes 404kW/770Nm. That’s enough grunt to get this 2.4 tonne beast from parked in your garage to 100km/h in 4.5 seconds, provided your driveway is at least 163.04m long, which for some owners would be entirely possible.
That’s not as quick as the Urus which can do it in 3.6 seconds, but while the Lamborghini shares the same engine it’s tuned to make 478kW/850Nm and that SUV is about 200 kilos lighter.
Shifting gears wonderfully in the Bentayga V8 is an eight-speed automatic which suits the Bentley better with its seamless but not-in-a-huge-hurry gear swaps than the same unit in the Urus.
While there are those who think a W12, as found in the first Bentayga, is more in line with Bentley’s ethos, I think this V8 is superb in its power delivery and sounds subtle but magnificent.
The braked towing capacity of the Bentley Bentayga is 3500kg.
A 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 pushing a 2.4-tonne SUV loaded up with people and possibly towing a horse float is going to want to be fed fuel – lots of fuel.
And that’s even if engine has cylinder deactivation like the one in the Bentayga V8 which can cut out four of the eight when not under load.
Officially, combined fuel consumption for the Bentayga V8 is 11.4L/100km, but after 112km of fuel testing on a combination of motorways, suburban and city roads I measured 21.1L/100km at the petrol pump.
I’m not surprised. For most of that I was in Sport mode or in the traffic, or in both at the same time.
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.
Comfortable and (believe it or not) athletic, sums it up. And the only thing stopping me from throwing in another word such as effortless is the forward visibility, which is what I noticed the moment I steered it out of the dealership and into the traffic.
But first let me give you the comfortable and athletic good news. The Bentayga felt nothing like it looked to drive – my eyes told me it should be more sumo wrestler than ninja to steer but they were wrong.
Despite the hulking dimensions and not insignificant weight, the Bentayga V8 felt surprisingly lithe with great handling for an SUV this size.
That the Urus, which I test drove a few weeks beforehand, also felt athletic seemed less a surprise in that the styling suggested it was agile and quick.
Thing is it shouldn’t be a surprise given the Urus and Bentley share the same MLB EVO platform.
Four standard drive modes let me change the character of the Bentayga V8 from 'Comfort' to 'Sport'. There’s also a ‘B’ mode which is a mix of throttle response, suspension and steering setting which Bentley nominates as the best for all-round driving conditions. Or you can ‘build-you-own’ drive mode in the 'Custom' setting.
Keeping the comfort mode on makes the ride composed and supple. Self-levelling air suspension with continuous damping is standard but flick the dial to Sport and the suspension firms, but not to the point where the ride is compromised.
I spent most of my almost 200 kilometres testing it in Sport mode which did nothing to help fuel economy but made my ears happy with the V8 burble.
Now, about that forward visibility. The design of the Bentayga’s nose is the cause of my issue here; specifically the way the wheel guards are stepped down out of view from the bonnet.
All I knew was that I was about 100mm wider that it looked from the driver’s seat – I don’t like that kind of guess work when piloting half a million dollars down a narrow street or car park. As you’ll see in the video I came up with a solution to the issue.
I’m not going to let that nose get in the way of a poor score, however. Besides owners will get used to it after a while.
Aside from that, the Bentayga was quite easy to parallel park with light steering and good rearward visibility and large wing mirrors, while multi storey shopping centre car parks were also surprisingly fuss free to steering through – this is after all not an overly long large SUV.
There was one ‘drive thru’ excursion and again I’m happy to report I emerged with hamburgers and without scratches at the other end.
So, I’m happy to throw effortless in there after all and you can add serene – that cabin felt bank vault-like insulated from the outside world. Don’t ask me how I know that.
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.
The Bentayga V8 has not been assessed by ANCAP testing but being based on the same platform as the five-star rated Audi Q7 I have no reason to suspect the Bentley would perform any differently and not be safe from a structural perspective.
We’re tough on budget cars that don’t come standard with AEB and likewise on high-end vehicles, and the Bentley Bentayga V8 doesn’t escape here.
AEB is not standard on the Bentayga V8 and if you want other forms of advanced safety equipment such as lane keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control and rear cross traffic alert you’ll have to option them across two packages – the 'City Specification' for $12,042 and the 'Touring Specification' which was fitted to our car for $16,402.
The Touring specification adds adaptive cruise, lane keeping assistance, AEB, Night Vision and a head-up display.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and two top tether anchor points across the second row.
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.