Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Land Rover Discovery
- 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
Land Rover Discovery
- Super spacious interior
- Premium cabin materials
- New 4-cyl diesel surprisingly capable
- Expensive for a well-optioned model
- Crawling into third row a slow process
- Sharp direction changes unsettle the cabin
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|
Land Rover Discovery
I know what you’re thinking; this new Land Rover Discovery has gone a bit soft.
It’s built on the road-focused Range Rover Sport platform now. It’s lighter. And safer. Better equipped. Less, well, square. Hell, it’s even offered with a choice of two tiny four-cylinder engines, along with the traditional V6 unit.
And all of that surely means it’s just a little less rugged than the cars that have gone before it, right?
But Land Rover assures us that is actually not the case, declaring this all-new, fifth-generation car the most capable Disco ever.
So have they gone stark Rovering mad?
|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.
Land Rover Discovery7.6/10
It's a hell of a job, keeping the purists happy. But on first impressions, this new Disco should just about pull it off. Comfortable on the road, and capable of tackling anything its owners are likely to throw at it off it. Be prepared to spend up if you want a well-optioned one, though.
For us, though, the equipment of the HSE trim level blended with the power of the V6 engine is the pick of the bunch.
Are you keen to dance in this Disco? Tell us 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.
Land Rover Discovery8/10
Land Rover has attempted a sleeker, more urban design this time around, only without losing all of its boxy heritage, and the results are, well, a little confusing.
Viewed front on, this new Disco looks smooth and powerful, with a narrow bonnet that drops into the flared arches of the front wheels adding instant road presence. And from the rear it looks good, too.
Some will argue that the offset numberplate is an over-indulgence, or that it looks a little fridge-like with its narrow and tall dimensions, but we like it.
But it’s the three-quarter view that’s a little hard to stomach, with the smooth lines of the front end meeting the squared-off rear with all the subtlety of a wave meeting the shoreline.
Inside, though, it’s a picture of premium, with soft-touch cabin materials and a stylish, unfussy dash setup oozing a sense of considered quality.
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.
Land Rover Discovery9/10
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given it’s the size of small apartment block, the Disco’s people-and-cargo-carrying abilities are first rate. The official dimensions are 4970mm are long, 1846mm high and 2220mm wide, but that translates most simply as bloody massive.
Up front, there’s plenty of space for front-seat riders, though the super-wide central unit that runs from the dash to the centre console and houses everything from the touchscreen unit to the 4WD controls does eat into knee room a little. Front seat riders will share two central cupholders, and there’s room in the all doors for bottles.
Climb into the massive second row (it’s three-adults-across-the-middle big) and you’ll find your surroundings hinge on what trim level you’re in, with top-spec models adding climate control functions, dual USB points and two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider.
Opt for a seven-seat model (and you probably should) and you’ll find access to the third row a little tricky, but once there the space is genuinely impressive. At 176cm, I’m far from the tallest tester, but I do consider myself adult-sized, and I had clear air between my knees and the seat in front, and between my head and the ceiling.
Flatten the second and third seat (which you can do remotely via an app, should you so wish) and you’ll be able to squeeze 2,500 litres of cargo on board, helped by its two-metre load length and 1.4-metre load width. But drop only the third row and you’ll still get 1,231 litres. And you can add to that up to 21 separate storage areas that can add another 45 litres of space.
There’s also two or four ISOFIX attachment points, with two in the second row in all models joining another two in the third row for seven-seat cars.
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.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
It’s a complicated lineup, with three engines available in any of the four trim grades, which in turn are offered with five or seven seats, plus there’s a launch special called the First Edition to further muddy the waters.
And that means you can technically climb into a pared-back Discovery S for a low $65,960 for a five-seater, or stretch to $131,870 for a full-fruit launch edition, with the vast area between those two numbers populated by everything else.
The entry-level S ($65,960 - $84,671) is a fairly simple offering, with 19-inch alloys, cloth seats, a leather-wrapped wheel with paddle-shifters and two-zone manual climate control the pick of a sparse standard inclusions list. Cruise control is also standard fit, as is a raised inner-boot guard that stops your luggage falling out when you open the boot.
Step up to the SE ($77,050 - $94,701) and you’ll add standard air suspension, with fixed height settings for off-road, normal and access (which lowers the car if you need to pass under a low roof, for example), along with rain-sensing wipers and powered and heated wing mirrors.
LED headlights (with an undeniably cool Nike Swoosh-style design) and leather seats also join the party at the SE level, as does ambient interior lighting and front parking sensors, while your eight-inch touchscreen is now nav-equipped, and pairs with a better, 10-speaker stereo.
Next is the HSE trim ($87,150 - $103,661), which adds some cool design elements, like LED taillights, 20-inch alloys outside, along with winged headrests, quality woodgrain highlights and even more ambient lighting inside. Your climate is now three-zone, too, and some bonus hiding holes appear (like a clever storage compartment under the front cupholders that only appears when you slide the unit forward). Your stereo is upgraded to a 10-speaker Meridian unit, too, and is controlled through a bigger, 10-inch touchscreen.
At the top of the regular Disco family tree, is the HSE Luxury ($100,950 - $117,461), which is a not-insignificant amount of money no matter which way you shake it. For that spend, though, you’ll add a powered sunroof, unique 20-inch alloys and finer leather on your seats, which are now also heated and cooled in the front. You’ll also add a surround-view camera and get the pick of the sound-systems; a 14-speaker Meridian unit.
On the 4WD front, everything but the entry-point S models get a low-range-equipped 4WD system (the S is high-range only), and Range Rover's Terrain Response (which allows you to select traction settings based on the whether you're driving one mud, rocks, sand etc) is standard across the range. The newer Terrain Response 2, which automatically senses the surface and adjusts accordingly, is a cost option.
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.
Land Rover Discovery8/10
There’s three diesel power plants on offer, and each pairs with an eight-speed automatic gearbox that channels power to all four wheels.
The entry level (and destined to be unpopular) option is the lesser of the two four-cylinder engines, 2.0-litre “Ingenium” unit that will deliver 132kW and 430Nm.
We’re yet to test the low-output option, to be honest, but we’d be shocked if buyers found it ample to shift the Disco’s bulk, even if this new model is a staggering 480kg lighter than its predecessor. Land Rover says that engine will help produce a 10.5-second sprint to 100km/h.
Better, then, to step up to the more powerful version of that engine, which produces 177kW and 500Nm thanks to some tuning tweaks. As a result, a far more palatable sprint time of 8.3 seconds can be achieved.
But for ours, the best-suited option remains the powerful 3.0-litre diesel V6, which will fire 190kW and 600Nm to the tyres on demand. And the result of all this extra grunt? A slightly improved sprint claim of 8.1 seconds. But those numbers don’t tell the full story of an engine that feels more urgent and eager when you prod the accelerator.
Land Rover Discovery8/10
The lowest-output diesel will drink 6.3-litres per hundred kilometres on the claimed/combined cycle, with that number climbing to an only slightly worse 6.5 litres for the more powerful four-cylinder unit.
Opt for the V6, though, and your fuel use climbs to 7.2 litres per hundred kilometres (claimed/combined).
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.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
Land Rover is faced with the most impossible of challenges with this new Disco. For one, it’s filling in for the legendary Defender as the brand’s most capable offering, and that means it needs to be able to go places and do things a Range Rover simply can’t. Anything less will have the purists frothing.
But equally, Land Rover knows that the overwhelming majority of its customers are unlikely to tackle anything more challenging than a suburban speed bump, and so they needed to soften its image and improve its road manners, without sacrificing capability.
So Land Rover pointed the Disco’s nose towards Australia’s red centre, putting its fleet through their paces on the sealed roads and red dirt tracks that encircle Uluru. And on a custom-built track consisting of moguls, water crossings and angled climbs sharp enough to put some articulation pressure on the wheels, the Disco conquered all before it with ease.
It must be said, though, that there was nothing on offer that would genuinely challenge it, but equally, the Disco always felt like it had plenty in reserve, too. And with a maximum 283mm ground clearance, 500mm of wheel articulation and a wading depth of 900mm (which is 200mm more than outgoing model), along with air suspension on all but the entry-level S, it does point to some genuine off-road potential.
On our brief tarmac drive we were surprised by the smooth and steady power delivery of the bigger four-cylinder diesel, which propels the two-tonne-plus Land Rover along with surprising ease. It’s not fast, but it never feels underwhelming.
But the pick for us was the six-cylinder option, which unlocks its 600Nm low in the rev range and feels a far more natural fit for the big Disco. It’s louder and little more gruff than its four-cylinder sibling, but it feels faster, too. And for us, that’s a fair trade off.
The Disco happily switched from tarmac to rutted tracks with ease, and while the super-smooth tarmac of the Northern Territory wasn't much of a challenge, it sorted out the worst of the off-road stuff with little bother.
Australia’s outback famously offers up very little in the way of cornering, but the few we did encounter had us a little concerned with the top-heavy nature of the Discovery, with sharp direction changes sending passengers into a noticeable wobble.
Still, our limited wheel time means we’ll be reserving final judgement until we can spend more time with each variant, but our taste-test sample reveals a car that does appear to straddle that line between capable and comfortable.
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.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
The Discovery range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, six airbags (front, front-side and curtain), a reversing camera, AEB and Lane Departure Warning fitted on every model, joining the usual suite of traction and braking aids.
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.
Land Rover Discovery7/10
The Discovery range is covered by a three-year, 100,000km warranty, but you can extend that to five years at an extra cost. You can also pre-pay your service costs for the first five years of ownership.
The four-cylinder engines get genuinely impressive service intervals of 24 months/34,000km, while the V6 requires a trip to the dealership every 12 months or 26,000km.