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
- Great engines
- New interior
- Window switches relocated
- No plug-in hybrid
- Wireless charging standard only on SVR
- Safety tech could be more up-to-date
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.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
Jaguar has announced that by 2025 it will only make and sell electric vehicles. That’s less than four years away and means the F-Pace you’re thinking about buying could be the last Jaguar with an actual engine that you ever own. Heck, it could be the last car with an engine you ever own.
Let’s help you pick the right one then, because Jaguar’s just called last drinks.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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 F-Pace has been gifted new styling, new engines and more practicality making it an even better SUV than it already was. You could seriously pick any of the grades and be happy with your purchase. Then there’s the question of the engine…
Jaguar says there’s a few more years left in the combustion engine yet, but we know exactly how many years – four, because the company has gone on the record announcing it will go fully electric by 2025. The question for you is – how will you ring out the end of an era – with a four-cylinder petrol, a six-cylinder turbo diesel, an inline turbo six petrol or a cracking V8?
The sweetspot in the range is the R-Dynamic SE 400, with just enough luxury and more than enough grunt.
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 very first F-Pace arrived in Australia in 2016 and even after all these years and the arrival of more rivals I still think it’s the most beautiful SUV in its class. The new one seems to look a lot like the old one, but the styling updates have kept it cool.
If you want to see instantly how the design of the F-Pace has evolved from the original to the new one, be sure to watch my video above.
Short story is, this new F-Pace has been given a pretty major styling overhaul inside and out.
Gone is the old F-Pace’s plastic beak. That sounds weird but the previous F-Pace’s bonnet stopped short of the grille and a nose cone had been fitted to cover the rest of the distance. Now the new bonnet meets a larger, wider grille and its flow from the windscreen down isn’t disturbed by a large join line.
Also more pleasing to the eyes is the badge on the grille. The snarling jaguar head is now larger and no longer mounted on a terrible looking large plastic plate. The plate was for the adaptive cruise control radar sensor, but by making the Jaguar badge bigger, the plate was able to be house in the badge itself.
The headlights are slimmer, and the tail-lights have a new design which looks futuristic, but I miss the styling of the previous ones and the way they dipped into the tailgate.
Inside, the cabin has been made over with a giant landscape screen, new chunky climate control dials, a new steering wheel and the rotary shifter has been replaced by a regular upright one which is still small and compact, with cricket ball stitching. Again, take a look at the video I’ve made to see the transformation for yourself.
While all F-Paces have a similar look, the SVR is the high-performance member of the family and stands out with its giant 22-inch wheels, a tough body kit, quad tailpipes, a fixed SVR rear wing, and bonnet and fender vents.
For this update the SVR has been given a new front bumper and larger cooling vents flanking the grille. But it’s more than just tough looks, the aerodynamics have been revised to decrease lift by 35 per cent, too.
What hasn’t changed are the dimensions. The F-Pace is a mid-sized SUV measuring 4747mm end to end, standing 1664mm tall and with the mirrors out is 2175mm wide. That’s not huge, but make sure it’ll fit in your garage.
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 F-Pace was always practical with a big 509-litre boot and great rear leg and head room for even me at 191cm tall, but the cabin re-design has added better storage and usability.
The door pockets are larger, there’s a covered area under the floating centre console and in a victory for common sense and practicality the window switches have been relocated from the window sills to the armrests.
This is along with a deep centre console storage area, and two cupholders in the front and another two in the rear fold-down armrest.
Parents will be happy to know that all F-Paces come with directional air vents in the second row as well. And there are ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether restraints, too.
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.
There’s a Jaguar F-Pace for every budget as long as your budget is somewhere in between $80K and $150K. That’s quite a large range in price.
Now, I’m about to take you through the grade names and I need to warn you that it’s going to be messy and confusing a little bit like white water rafting, but not as wet. Life jacket on?
There are four grades: the S, SE, HSE and top-of-the-range SVR.
They all come standard with the R-Dynamic pack.
There are four engines: the P250, D300, P400 and P550. I’ll explain what this means in the engine section down below, but all you need to know is 'D' stands for diesel and 'P' for petrol and the higher the number the more grunt it has.
The S grade only comes with the P250. The SE comes with a choice of P250, D300 or P400. The HSE only comes with the P400 and the SVR has exclusive rights to the P550.
Following all this? Great.
So, the entry grade is officially called the R-Dynamic S P250 and it lists for $76,244 (all prices listed are MSRP - before on-road costs). Above this is the R-Dynamic SE P250 and it lists for $80,854, then there’s the R-Dynamic SE D300 for $96,194 and the R-Dynamic SE P400 for $98,654.
Almost there, you’re doing super.
The R-Dynamic HSE P400 lists for $110,404 and at the top is King F-Pace – the SVR with the P550 listing for $142,294.
There you are, wasn’t so bad was it?
Coming standard from the base grade up is the new 11.4-inch touchscreen, sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, there’s keyless entry, push-button start, dual-zone climate, power adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, LED headlights and tail-lights, and an auto tailgate.
The entry-level S and the SE above it come with a six-speaker stereo, but as you step into the HSE and SVR more standard features appear such as a 13-speaker Meridian sound system, plus heated and ventilated front seats. A fully digital instrument cluster is standard on all grades apart from the entry S.
The options list is extensive and includes a head-up display ($1960), wireless charging ($455), and an Activity Key ($403) which looks like an iWatch that locks and unlocks the F-Pace.
Paint prices? Narvik Black and Fuji White are standard at no extra cost for the S, SE and HSE. The SVR has its own standard palette and includes Santorini Black, Yulonhg White, Firenze Red, Bluefire Blue and Hakuba Silver. If you don’t have the SVR but want these colours it’ll be $1890, thank you.
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.
Jaguar’s engine names sound like forms you have to fill in when you apply for a home loan.
The P250 is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine making 184kW and 365Nm; the D300 is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo diesel producing 221kW and 650Nm; while the P400 is a 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo petrol with outputs of 294kW and 550Nm.
The P550 is a supercharged 5.0-litre V8 producing a colossal 405kW and 700Nm.
The SE grade gives you the choice of the P250, D300 and P400, while the S only comes with the P250 and the SVR of course is powered only by the P550.
The D300 and D400 are new engines, both are straight sixes and replace the V6 engines in the old F-Pace. Superb engines, they are also found in the Defender and Range Rover.
Jaguar calls the D300 and P400 mild hybrids, but don’t be misled by the terminology. These engines are not hybrids in the sense that an electric motor is working to drive the wheels along with a combustion engine. Instead, a mild hybrid uses a 48-volt electrical system to help take the load off the engine by helping it start and running the electronics such as climate control. And yes, it does help save fuel, but not stacks.
There’s plenty of grunt from all these engines no matter which you choose, they all have eight-speed automatics and all-wheel drive.
You are also very likely looking at the last combustion engines to go into an F-Pace. See Jaguar has announced that it will only sell electric vehicles beyond 2025.
Four years and that’s it. Choose wisely.
It doesn’t make sense that Jaguar has announced that it will be going all electric by 2025 yet doesn’t offer a plug-in hybrid in its Australian line-up, especially when there is one available overseas.
Jaguar says it doesn’t make sense either, but by that they mean business sense, in bringing one to Australia.
So, for fuel economy I’m marking the F-Pace down. Yes, the D300 and P400 use clever mild-hybrid tech, but it doesn’t go far enough to reducing fuel use.
So the fuel consumptions, then. The official fuel consumption for the petrol P250 is 7.8L/100km, the diesel D300 will use 7.0L/100km, the P400 is stated to sip 8.7L/100km and the P550 V8 petrol will drink 11.7L/100km. Those figures are "combined cycle" numbers, after a combination of open and urban driving.
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.
My two test cars at the Australian launch of the new F-Pace were the R-Dynamic SE P400 and the R-Dynamic S P250. Both were fitted with the road noise cancellation system which comes with the optional $1560 Meridian stereo and reduces the level of road noise coming into the cabin.
Which would I rather? Look, I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say the SE P400 with its smooth inline six that has seemingly endless shove, but it’s $20K more than the S P250 and neither engine is low on grunt and both handle and ride almost identically.
That ride has been improved in this new F-Pace with the rear suspension being retuned so that it’s not so firm.
Steering is still on the sharp side, but body control feels better and more composed in this updated F-Pace.
On the twisty and quick country roads I tested the S P250 and SE 400, both performed superbly, with responsive engines, great handling, and serene cabins (thanks to the help of the noise cancelling tech).
The second part of the test was driving both in city traffic for the best part of an hour each which isn’t pleasant in any car. The now wider F-Pace seats were comfortable and supportive, however, the transmission seamlessly swapped gears and even rolling on 22-inch wheels in the SE and 20-inch alloys in the S the ride was excellent.
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 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. Coming standard is advanced safety tech such as forward auto emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot assist, lane keeping assistance and rear cross-traffic alert.
This tech is great, but in the five years since the F-Pace first arrived safety equipment has moved on even further. So, while the AEB can detect pedestrians, it’s not designed to work for cyclists, there’s no reverse AEB, nor evasive manoeuvre systems, nor a centre airbag. All are items which weren’t common in 2017 but are now on most 2021 five-star rated cars.
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.
At the launch of the new F-Pace Jaguar announced that all of its vehicles would be covered by a five-year unlimited/kilometre warranty, a step up from the three-year coverage it used to offer.
Service intervals? What are they? The F-Pace will tell you when it needs maintenance. But you should sign up for a five-year service plan which costs $1950 for the P250 engine, $2650 for the D300, $2250 for the P400 and $3750 for the P550.