Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Jeep Grand Cherokee
- 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
Jeep Grand Cherokee
- Excellent performance from SRT
- Great choice in line-up
- Advanced safety equipment not on all grades
- Cost of servicing is a little high
- Cabin could be more refined
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|
Jeep Grand Cherokee
What a time to be alive people. There have never been more SUVs to take your pick from. But while many are excellent, there sure are a lot out there that are a bit... samey, and conservative, a little domesticated.
First it's made in the United States of America, in Detroit, and that's becoming a rarity these days. Next, the line-up is like a kooky gang of super heroes all with different powers.
There's the monster high-performance V8 one which can out accelerate and out handle many sports cars; the tough off-road one that can lift itself higher than its rivals with its air suspension; there's posh one, the popular one nearly everybody buys and the rear wheel drive one hardly anybody does.
|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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee7.9/10
Not many SUV brands out there have ranges offering a variety of vehicles as wide as the Grand Cherokee line-up. These are comfortable, good looking, and in nearly all cases, capable off-roaders – particularly the Trailhawk.
The sweet spot of the range is the Limited. It's excellent value, and there's no wonder it's so popular. The SRT is also hard to go past if you're after more of a sledgehammer – at almost $10,000 under 100K it's bang-for-your-buck that can't be beaten.
Is the Jeep Grand Cherokee the best large SUV under $100k? Let us know what you think 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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
New one look like the old one? Yup, the styling changes are almost unnoticeable, but the trademark seven-slot grille is slimmer, the front bumper has a new design and the fog lights use LEDs.
The Grand Cherokee's look is distinctive with its big toothy grille, high waistline and pumped up guards. It's an American muscle SUV – especially the SRT with its nostrilled bonnet, enormous air intakes, blacked-out face and red Brembo brake calipers.
The new Trailhawk rivals the SRT for attention-seeking-but-still-functional bling with its red tow hooks and badging. Look closely and you'll see small profiles of a WW2 Willys MB Jeep on the wheels, which is a cool touch.
The Grand Cherokee's cabin is comfortable but more functional than stylish, higher grades feel plush with their leather seats and wood trim finishes.
The Grand Cherokee's dimensions reveal all variants apart from the SRT to be 4828mm long and 1943mm wide. The SRT is longer at 4846mm and wider at 1954mm across the hips.
The heights vary depending on the variant with the Laredo and Limited standing 1802mm tall, while the Trailhawk and Overland are 1792mm. The SRT is hunkered down lower at 1749mm.
The Trailhawk and Overland have an approach angle of 36 degrees, a departure angle of 27 degrees and a breakover angle of 22 degrees. Those trump the angles for the Laredo and Limited which are 26 degrees for approach, 24 for departure and 19 for the breakover.
The SRT will still be competent off-road but its approach angle of 18 degrees, a departure angle of 22, and a breakover angle of 18 means it's more suited to less challenging dirt and gravel roads.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
All Grand Cherokees are five seaters. Legroom in the back is just enough… for me. I'm 191cm tall and the only reason I can sit behind my driving position is because of the concave design of the front seatbacks – and that gives me a gap of about 20mm. Headroom is great back there.
Up front there's stacks of head and shoulder room, although the driver's footwell feels a little cramped with the transmission tunnel above the bellhousing seeming to eat into the space.
There's a decent boot with a capacity of 782 litres and under the floor is a full-sized spare with storage space around it - you'll also find a rechargeable torch in the cargo area which 'clicks' into the boot wall.
Storage throughout the rest of the cabin is good with two cupholders in the fold down centre armrest in the back and another two up front. There's a deep centre console bin and bottle holders in all doors.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
There's the $52,500 petrol Laredo 4x4 (the diesel version is $5500 more); then the popular Limited which lists at $62,500 ($5500 more for the diesel); the diesel-only Trailhawk at $74,000 is a new off-road hero variant; then there's the plusher $80,000 Overland with the same engine, and finally the high performance, petrol-only SRT for $91,000.
All V6 petrol engine variants have increased by $500 over the outgoing model, while the diesels stay the same – apart from the Overland which has risen by $1000. The SRT has also gone up by $1000.
At the most affordable end of the range the Laredo grade comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, an 8.4-inch touchscreen (5.0-inch in the 4x2), 7.0-inch instrument cluster display, reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, power adjustable and heated front seats, proximity unlocking and start button, auto headlights and wipers, and dual-zone climate control.
The Limited grade picks up the Laredo's features and adds 20-inch alloy wheels, a power tailgate, leather seats, a nine-speaker Alpine stereo, sat nav, dark-tinted rear glass, heated steering wheel and dual exhaust.
The Overland gets the Limited's features and adds a panoramic sunroof, adaptive cruise control, auto parking, ventilated front seats, plus a wood and leather steering wheel.
The SRT gains the Overland's features and adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and suede seats, launch control, active noise cancellation and adaptive damping.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee9/10
The engine line-up for the Grand Cherokee is straightforward. The petrol engines for all but the SRT are an upgraded version of the previous model's 3.6-litre V6 with 3kW more power for a total of 213kW. Torque stays put at 347Nm.
The SRT is special – under that nostrilled bonnet there's 6.4 glorious litres of naturally aspirated V8 Hemi making 344kW/624Nm. Jeep has left this one untouched from the previous model, too.
The Trailhawk and Overland have Jeep's 'Quadra-Drive II' 4WD system which makes them more capable off-road then the Laredo and Limited with their 'Quadra-Trac II' permanent 4WD.
The major difference between the 4WD systems being that Quadra-Drive II has an electronic slip differential while the other uses traction control and braking to counter slippage. The SRT has the 'Quadra-Trac Active On-Demand' 4WD system.
Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10
The diesel Laredo, which is 4WD, has a claimed combined fuel consumption number of 7.5L/100km. Ditto for the diesel Limited, Trailhawk and Overland.
After an hour of driving in the Trailhawk on highways and country roads our trip computer was reporting 11.7L/100km.
The SRT likes a drink. The V8 petrol engine has a claimed combined figure of 14.0L/100km and that's why the SRT didn't make it into the top five most fuel efficient SUVs list.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
The Trailhawk and the SRT were the only variants available to test drive at the launch of the updated model.
The program was pretty intensive with an off-road leg, a stint at a racetrack and plenty of road driving in between.
The hilly off-road course we took the Trailhawks through wasn't the most challenging, but the rain changed that a bit making the grassy slopes and clay ruts as slippery as ice.
With the Trailhawk in low range and on its highest air suspension setting giving us 260mm of ground clearance we wriggled our way through the off-road course fairly easily. There were some steeper sections which required a bit of brute force and momentum to combat slippery clay and gravity but the Jeeps soldiered through without any dramas, and plenty of hilarious fun.
The Trailhawk's Kevlar-reinforced tyres weren't needed on this soft stuff, but there are thousands of kays of tyre-killing tracks with rocks like spear heads lying in wait all over Australia where they'd be handy.
Grand Cherokees all have a unibody construction, so if you're looking for more of a hardcore off roader in the Jeep range then the body-on-frame Wrangler may be a better bet.
The unibody construction gives the Grand Cherokee a more car-like ride and on the road the Trailhawk was comfortable and composed, although that air suspension is a little floaty.
At 100km/h the Trailhawk lowers itself for better aerodynamics, but there was a decent amount of body roll when pushing hard through corners… unlike the SRT.
The SRT's suspension is set up for higher performance with Bilstein adaptive dampers and hollow stabiliser bars front and rear. Sport and Track modes firm the suspension for better handling along with making the throttle more responsive.
I've driven the SRT on racetracks and the road before, but some quick laps around New Zealand's Pukekohe Park circuit brought back the grin that only 2.4 tonnes of metal seeming to defy all the laws of physics can induce.
That naturally aspirated V8 Hemi is a lazy beast that seems to take it's time to wind up rather than deliver the same brutal kick of the twin-turbo V8 in a Mercedes-AMG GLE63, still 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9sec is quick. What it lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in theatrics – the gurgle at idle is delicious and it gets angrier the more you kick it in the guts.
The launch control function in the SRT is foolproof, too. Just press the button which looks like a dragstrip 'Christmas tree' on the centre console, place your left foot on the brake and plant your right foot on accelerator – release the brake and enjoy the jump to hyperspace… well, almost.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee7/10
The Jeep Grand Cherokee has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating. All Grand Cherokees have seven airbags, a reversing camera, trailer sway control, but only the Overland and SRT grades come standard with advanced safety equipment such as AEB and lane departure warning. The equipment can be optioned on all grades from the Limited up.
You'll find three top tether points and two ISOFIX points in the second row.
There's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.
The update has brought two more advanced safety items – blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert but these are only standard on the Overland.
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.
Jeep Grand Cherokee8/10
There's also life-time roadside assistance if the vehicle's serviced at a Jeep service centre.
For the 3.0-litre diesel servicing is recommended annually or every 20,000km and capped at $665 for the first, $1095 for the second, then $665, then $1195 and at five years it'll be $665.