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Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class


Bentley Bentayga

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

Bentley Bentayga

What’s cheap and what’s expensive is all relative, right? For example, the new Bentley Bentayga V8 now starts at $364,800 before on-road costs, but is still the ultra-luxe brand’s most affordable vehicle.

So, the Bentayga V8 is cheap for a Bentley, but expensive for a large SUV – quite the oxymoron.

The brief for the Bentayga is also somewhat contradictory, needing to be comfortable, premium and practical, but also fast, agile and fun-to-drive.

But do all these elements coalesce into the ultimate all-rounder, or will owners of the 2021 Bentley Bentayga be left wanting?

Safety rating
Engine Type4.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency11.4L/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.

 


Bentley Bentayga8.1/10

There is an argument that no matter which way you slice it, buying a Bentley Bentayga doesn’t stack up. The price tag is high, the options list is long, and the level of comfort and refinement you get, while excellent, isn’t exactly life changing.

But the value of a Bentayga doesn’t lie in how it drives, or rides, or even looks. It’s in its Bentley badge. Because with that badge, the Bentayga transcends its ultra-premium large SUV visage, and is elevated to a statement about your wealth, or status. Maybe it's more a fashion accessory. And, really, only you can answer how much that level of prestige and clout is worth.

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.

 


Bentley Bentayga7/10

The Bentley Bentayga was first introduced to the world in 2016, but in 2021, it has been given a slight nip and tuck to keep it fresh against ultra-luxurious SUV rivals.

New this year is a wider front grille, flanked by quad LED headlights and a sculpted bumper.

The rear features an extended roof-mounted rear spoiler, new tail-lights and quad-exhaust outlets, as well as the repositioning of the number plate to the lower bumper.

But like any car in this class, the devil is in the details.

All exterior lighting elements feature a cut crystal design, which catches the light and sort of sparkles even while the Bentayga is stationary, and in person, it’s as baller and bougie as it sounds.

Also new in the updated Bentayga are front fenders strakes and new-look 21-inch wheels with a wider rear track to better fill out the arches for a more aggressive stance.

As a large SUV, the Bentayga is certainly attention-grabbing, though whether it looks good is up to you.

I think the grille looks a little too big and the headlights a little too small, but for some, the Bentley badge will be enough.

Step inside and, whereas mainstream and even premium cars would opt for just leather to adorn main surfaces, the Bentayga kicks it up a notch with supple and soft-touch leather, and plush appointments throughout.

What stands out most, though, isn’t the handcrafted contrasting stitching or Bentley embroidered seats, but the shape and styling of the air vents and centre stack.

Sitting front and centre of the cabin is a fancy-looking analogue clock, flanked by exquisitely crafted vents.

Like all Bentley models, opening and closing of the vents isn’t as basic as wiggling flap in the vent, it’s done by pushing and pulling on unique plungers littered throughout the cabin.

Underneath the multimedia system, the switchgear is laid out in an easy-to-use fashion, but finished with high-quality materials that give a good amount of feedback with every push and turn.

The gearshift and drive-mode selector are oversized, chunky, and finished with a nice chrome sheen.

But the steering wheel is my favourite part of the interior, as it features no stitching on the outer rim to disrupt the touch of soft leather in your hands.

No doubt the inside of a Bentayga is a pleasant place to be, one where you could happily spend hours out on the open road.

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.

 


Bentley Bentayga9/10

Measuring 5125mm long, 2222mm wide, and 1742mm tall, with a 2995mm wheelbase, the Bentley Bentayga definitely cuts an imposing figure on the road.

It's actually larger than a Honda Odyssey people mover in all dimensions, and because of its girthy measurements, interior space is positively palatial.

Front passengers have ample room to get comfortable thanks to the supportive, electronically adjustable seats, with storage options extending to door bins, a centre storage cubby, two cupholders and a wireless smartphone-charging tray.

Step into the second-row, though, and the Bentayga offers more than enough room for even the burliest of adults.

Bentley has increased the legroom in the rear by as much as 100mm, depending on whether you get the four-, five-, or seven-seat version, which makes for a great place to sit.

Our test example was equipped with five seats, which can be reclined to get into a comfier position, with storage options including door bins, jacket hooks, map pockets and a fold-down armrest with two cupholders.

Opening the boot reveals a cavity offering 484 litres of volume, extending to 1774L with the rear seats folded. But it's worth noting the rear seats don’t quite fold flat due to the backrest's heavy bolstering, although the middle seat can be stowed independently to use as a ski pass-through.

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.


Bentley Bentayga7/10

Priced at $364,800 before on-road costs, the entry-level Bentayga V8 isn’t exactly cheap, but it is the most affordable in the Bentley SUV family.

Sitting above the V8 is the Bentayga Speed, which is priced at $501,800, and makes use of a 6.0-litre twin-turbo W12 petrol engine, as well as other models in the Bentley stable such as the Flying Spur (from $428,800) and Continental GT (from $408,900).

Standard equipment includes 21-inch wheels, air suspension, Matrix LED headlights, head-up display, leather interior and steering wheel, heated and cooled front and rear seats, reclining rear seats, a wireless smartphone charger, and all-digital instrumentation.

Handling multimedia duties is a massive 10.9-inch touchscreen, which sports satellite navigation with real-time traffic data, wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto, digital radio and 4G connected services, outputting to a 12-speaker sound system.

If you’ve read this far and thought that nothing in the spec sheet justifies the Bentayga V8’s price tag, it’s the attention to detail that adds to the car’s value.

For example, the climate control system is split into four zones, meaning the optimal temperature can be set for the driver, front passenger and rear outboard seats.

The second-row occupants also have access to a detachable 5.0-inch tablet that can control multimedia and vehicle functions, as well as set the interior ambient lighting colour. Fun fact: changing the ambient lighting hue will also change the colour of the main multimedia display. See, attention to detail.

The windscreen wipers are also souped up with 22 individual jets each that can heat up for better rain- and sleet-clearing capabilities.

However, the options list is a little… overwhelming.

Some choice examples include a 20-speaker Naim sound system ($17,460), 22-inch wheels (from $8386), seating for seven ($7407), a hands-free tailgate ($1852), space-saving spare wheel ($1480) and sports pedals ($1229).

To be fair, Bentley has made things a bit easier with specific option packs that will bundle together some add-on equipment, ranging from the $4419 Sunshine Specification' all the way up to the $83,419 'First Edition Specification', that is better value for money, but some things like a spare wheel and a hands-free tailgate should really be included as standard in a car costing this much.

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.


Bentley Bentayga9/10

Powering the 2021 Bentley Bentayga V8 is a 4.0-litre, twin-turbo petrol engine, producing 404kW at 6000rpm and 770Nm from 1960-4500rpm.

Paired to the engine is an eight-speed (torque convertor) automatic transmission that drives all four wheels, which is enough to propel the ultra-lux SUV from 0-100km/h in just 4.5 seconds.

Top speed is pegged at 290km/h, making it one of the fastest SUVs in the world.

The Bentayga V8 also boasts a braked towing capacity of 3500kg, matching the likes of the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger, which should keep caravan and boat owners happy.

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.


Bentley Bentayga8/10

Official fuel consumption for the Bentayga V8 is pegged at 13.3 litres per 100km, but we didn’t manage to drive the test car in varied enough conditions to validate the claim.

The Bentley Bentayga V8 also emits 302 grams of CO2 per kilometre and meets the latest Euro 6 emissions standards.

Fuel consumption is kept down thanks to cylinder deactivation technology, as well as an engine start/stop system.

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.


Bentley Bentayga8/10

Though some Bentley owners may prefer to be driven, we’re happy to report the 2021 Bentayga V8 is also excellent behind the wheel.

First, getting into the right position is easy thanks to the electronically adjustable seats with control knobs that feel well textured and premium, unlike the plastic bits you’ll find in cheaper large SUVs.

Secondly, the steering wheel feels wonderful in hand as it has no seams on the outer rim, and adds to the Bentayga’s opulence.

The digital instrumentation is also clear and concise, and can be customised with driving data, map information, etc, but the steering wheel buttons and indicator stalks are noticeably Audi-esque (Bentley sits under the Volkswagen Group umbrella).

And this is even before things start moving.

Out on the road, the 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and eight-speed auto are a delight, delivering effortless and smooth performance from anywhere in the rev range despite the car's portly 2371kg kerb weight.

In 'Comfort' mode, the Bentayga V8 is luxurious enough, soaking up bumps and other surface imperfections with ease, but some of Melbourne’s craggy country B-roads are enough to send jostles and jolts into the cabin.

Flick it over to Sport mode, and things firm up a little, but never to the point where the Bentayga V8 becomes a corner-hunting sports car slayer.

In fact, there's little variability in ride comfort between modes, but steering weight changes noticeably.

When things get a bit too fast and furious, the Bentayga’s large brakes do a great job of scrubbing off speed, and if that isn’t enough, Bentley offers carbon ceramics for an additional $30,852.

Ultimately, the Bentayga V8’s eager powertrain does make it fun to drive, and the fact that it doesn’t feel pudgy in corners is testament to the brand’s great active anti-roll technology, but don’t go in expecting this Bentley SUV to be the last word in driving dynamics.

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.


Bentley Bentayga8/10

The Bentley Bentayga has not been crash tested by ANCAP or Euro NCAP, so therefore has no independent safety rating.

However, standard safety systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, front and rear parking sensors, traffic sign recognition, rear cross-traffic alert and a surround-view monitor.

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.


Bentley Bentayga9/10

Like all new Bentley models sold in Australia, the Bentayga V8 comes with a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is par for the course in the ultra-premium segment, but falls short of the mainstream industry standard of five years.

Scheduled service intervals for the Bentayga V8 is every 12 months or 16,000km, whichever occurs first.

Bentley has introduced new three- and five-year service plans, priced at $3950 and $7695 respectively, which is actually pretty affordable for a car costing nearly $400,000.