Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Jaguar F-Pace
- 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
- Supermodel looks
- Even more super engine
- More practical than you might think
- Suspension can feel harsh
- Lacks rich exhaust note
- Options as far as the eye can see
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|
New cars are all about sacrifice, right? If you want something sporty, then be prepared to suffer through storage space limited to your internal organs. If you want something practical, then you can kiss the idea of driving something stylish goodbye. And if you want something that can move lots of people, then you might as well head on down to your closest Crocs retailer now, as you clearly value practicality above all else.
But what if you want all three of those things, and all at once? Enter, then, the Jaguar F-Pace.
That Jaguar’s sexy SUV is easy on the eye is a given (I mean, just look at it), but with a supercharged V6 lurking under that shapely bonnet, this S 35t version is not short on performance either. And with oodles of room in both rows of seats, and a boot big enough to swallow an Ikea catalogue’s worth of flat-packed nonsense, it’s pretty damn practical, too.
So what’s the catch?
|Engine Type||3.0L turbo|
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.
Stylish, practical and a hoot to drive fast, the F-Pace S 35t fills so many briefs it could be an underwear model. It could be louder and more comfortable, though, and the options list can be terrifying.
Jaguar F-Pace or Range Rover Velar; what's your pick? Tell us in the comments 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.
No doubt about it, the F-Pace was the best-looking SUV on sale (in fact, our very own Richard Berry declared it as such). But that was until the arrival of its Range Rover sibling, the drop-dead gorgeous Velar.
But even now, it would have to be battling it out for second position. Viewed front on, its wide and 3D-effect grille is framed by J-shaped DRLs and this domed bonnet that hints at the F-Pace’s performance potential.
Side-on, massive 20-inch alloys are wrapped in Pirelli P-Zero rubber, while the view from the back captures the dual exhaust tips, roof-mounted spoiler and a sharply raked rear window.
In the cabin, the materials aren't quite up to the standards of newer JLR product (we’re looking at you, Velar), but it’s a very clean, very modern feeling space. The single screen in the centre of the cabin is big, bright and easy to use. Soft touch materials (though they feel a touch old-fashioned ) cover the dash, and the steering wheel is wrapped in lovely leather.
There’s some nice design flourishes, too, like the polished silver elements in the door panels, but it’s not as tech-laden as some of its competitors.
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.
Something this good looking shouldn't be this practical. It'd be like flipping Brad Pitt's head open to reveal two cupholders, or discovering Angelina Jolie comes with 745 litres of luggage space. The F-Pace might not be the most practical offering in the segment, but it can carry more stuff and people in more comfort than anything this pretty probably has any right to.
Up front, the cabin is airy and spacious. There are two cupholders hidden beneath a sliding cover, plus another secondary (though quite small) storage bin that separates the front seats, home to the F-Pace’s USB and HDMI inputs, as well as a 12-volt power source. There’s room in each of the front doors for bottles, and quite a large glove box, too.
Climb into the back seat, and there is plenty of room to stretch your legs. Sitting behind my own (178cm) driving position, there’s about 15cm of clear air between my knees and the seat in front. Likewise, there’s plenty of headroom, despite the (optional) sunroof eating into the space a bit.
There's plenty of room across the back of the car for three passengers, but legroom is going to be an issue for the middle rider, with a double whammy of a raised floor section combining with jutting out climate controls, both of which will impact legroom.
Backseat riders can make use of their own climate controls, as well as two 12-volt power sources. A pull-down divider separates the back seat, and is also home to two cupholders. There are two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat in the back.
The auto-opening boot reveals a 508-litre storage space (down from 650 litres in other markets, thanks to inclusion of a space saver spare here), but dropping the 40/20/40 split-fold back seat from the easy-reach controls in the boot will approximately triple that volume.
There’s a 12-volt power source in the boot, as well as luggage hooks. The speed-limited space-saver spare is hidden under a flat load shelf in the boot.
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.
As always, the devil is in the detail here, with the F-Pace S 35t's $104,827 list price dwarfed by a monstrous options list that shot our test car's as-tested figure up by almost 50 per cent, to $149,717.
Resist the list, however, and you won't be going home empty handed. Outside, you'll find 20-inch alloys, a sport-flavoured bodykit, LED headlights with J-shaped DRLs, red brake calipers and a powered boot all as standard.
Inside, you'll find leather and suede seats, dual-zone climate and a soft-grain leather steering wheel. Tech is covered by an 8.0-inch, navigation-equipped touchscreen that pairs with an 11-speaker Meridian stereo - but there's no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. A second, 5.0-inch colour screen is housed in the driver's binnacle.
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 headline act here is the thumping supercharged V6 that helps give this performance-focused F-Pace its smile-inducing personality.
The 3.0-litre engine produces 280kW at 6500rpm and 450Nm at 4500rpm, sending its power to all four wheels via a slick eight-speed auto transmission. Those numbers translate to a 0-100km/h sprint of 5.5secs (not bad for a 1.8-tonne SUV), and will push the F-Pace on to a 250km/h top speed.
That engine pairs with a torque vectoring system borrowed from the F-Type, which can apply gentle braking to the inside wheel when cornering, helping the F-Pace stay glued to the driving line. A 'Configurable Dynamics' system (which isn't the sexiest name) also allows you to cycle through driving modes, adding weight to the steering, sharpening throttle response and tuning the gearing to its sportiest setting.
Well, there's always a flip-side to prodigious power, and that is inevitable pain at the bowser. That said, Jaguar claims this go-fast F-Pace will sip 8.9L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn't too bad (though if you drive it the way you will definitely drive it, you can expect that number to climb considerably).
Emissions are a claimed 209g/km of C02, and the F-Pace is home to a 63-litre tank.
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.
The mark of a genuinely sporty SUV is that you can forget you’re driving an SUV at all, and even the lightest touch of the F-Pace’s super-sensitive accelerator teleports you into a low-slung sports car.
The power on offer from that thumping V6 is so ample that, in day-to-day driving, you’re only feathering the throttle, with the the tiniest of inputs enough to get you up and moving, while a millimetre more unlocks enough punch to overtake with ease.
But flatten the pedal and the F-Pace lunges forward with startling pace, accompanied by this strange soundtrack (less a guttural grumble, more an orchestral hum) from under the bonnet, both of which serve to whisk you away from the boring world of practical SUVs, at least while you keep the pedal pinned.
The suspension isn’t perfect. In its harshest setting, you can really feel the bad bits of road enter the cabin, and even in its softest settings it can be caught out by badly broken surfaces. It is not as comfortable or as cosseting as some luxury SUVs can be, and the sporty, figure hugging seats are less comfortable on longer drives. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.
The flip-side, though, is that the F-Pace feels always dynamic. There’s very little roll in the body, the steering is sharp and direct, and it feels far more low-slug than it actually is.
Sportiness is only part of the story, and at city speeds the F-Pace is an easy drive. The vision out of every window is fabulous, there’s ample room in the back seat, and it's really more fun - and more dynamic - than something this practical deserves to be.
One downside, though, is that it’s easy to catch the attention of the traction control. If you’re turning while going over a speed bump, for example, or accelerating too hard from a standing-start corner, the nanny will step in, sucking power away from your right foot for a couple of noticeable seconds before letting you get back on your way.
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 F-Pace S arrives with front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) as standard, all of which joins more advanced safety equipment like AEB, 'Lane Departure Warning' and cruise control with a speed limiter.
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.
The F-Pace S is covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 26,000km. Jaguar also allows you to prepay your service costs for up to five years or 130,000km, with a service plan currently priced at $1800.