Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Range Rover
- 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
- Good hybrid integration
- Still very Range Rover
- Smaller engine up to task
- Doubts around 51km range
- Loss of boot space
- No spare of any kind
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|
As part of the Jaguar Land Rover family, Range Rover will be part of the group's push into an electrified future from 2020 - and it's already had some practice, albeit not very successfully.
The brand new PHEV 400e, though, already looks better than its previous efforts. With up to 51km of pure electric range claimed, is this the Rangie for a new age?
|Engine Type||4.4L 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.
Our testing was far too brief to give a considered opinion of the PHEV's capabilities, particularly when it comes to the claimed 51km range of the car under battery power alone. We'll need to drive it locally, and with a juiced battery, to rate its abilities properly.
In terms of it having the chops to be a proper, luxurious Range Rover, it's possible to say that yes, that box has been ticked. Even with a smaller engine, the Range Rover (as tested) passed muster for ride, quiet running and comfort.
Is a petrol-electric hybrid your kind of Range Rover? Tell us in the comments section 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.
The Range Rover Sport is the smaller sibling of the Rangie, but both share the same DNA if not the same body panels.
Both shapes remain pretty faithful to the original Range Rover that first surfaced in the 1980s, with its distinctive floating roof, angular rear aspect and bluff nose, though features like the vertical door handles – and indeed the two-door design – of the original are long gone. Both present bluff, vaguely masculine visages, with large glasshouses accentuating their relative sizes.
Inside, both cars are spacious and airy, thanks to that big glasshouse, while the luxury quotient of both is high, thanks to highly refined surface areas and touch points.
About the only let down is the new dual multimedia screen's propensity to show both finger marks and glare, though adjusting the angle of the lower screen does reduce the latter.
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.
Both PHEVs are five-seat propositions only, with additional features set aside for rear seaters including climate controls and vents, loads of connectivity points, touch LED courtesy lights and a comprehensive middle armrest that offers storage and two cupholders.
ISOFIX points are mounted to the outside seats, bottles can be slotted in the doors, and both heating and massage functions can be optioned, along with headrest mounted control tablets.
Front seaters are equally cossetted, with heating, venting and massage seats available via the options list, along with a new, deeper centre console bin, a pair of cupholders and small bottle holders in each of the doors.
One of the big omissions on the hybrid car is any form of spare wheel, thanks to the battery array under the boot floor. A sealant kit and compressor is included, but if the hole is big enough, it won't help.
How do we know? A double flat down the right side of a test car rendered it a lame duck, thanks to large tears in the sidewall of one tyre.
The rear storage area loses 98 litres of space to the regular cars, too, with 802 litres available behind the rear seats, thanks to the load space floor height increasing by 46mm.
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.
To start off, Range Rover Australia will only offer the PHEV drivetrain in two variants; the Range Rover Vogue PHEV 400e will cost around $210,000, while the smaller Range Rover Sport HSE PHEV 400e will start at around $146,000.
Both models will share the same drivetrain, which uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine and an 85kW electric motor to output 297kW/640Nm in total. Both cars are all-wheel drive, and have eight-speed autos as the only transmission option.
The Range Rover is the second most expensive variant in the four-engine line-up, only $1000 cheaper than the top-spec V8. The Sport, meanwhile, is about $3800 under the top spec HSE, and $12,000 dearer than the base six-cylinder powered version.
The pair makes up part of Range Rover's MY18 updated line-up, and both will score a new front bumper and grille, as well as new matrix LED headlights that can dim individual diodes to prevent blinding oncoming traffic. The rear bar has been lightly tweaked, too.
Inside, the pair come with the same dual multimedia screen system that launched with the Range Rover Velar, along with other small tweaks to interior finishes.\
As you'd expect, the Rangies are pretty well equipped, given their price point, with automated lights and wipers, leather interior, up to 17 (!) USB and 12v ports, heated and vented seats, sat nav, DAB+ digital radio, a Wi-Fi hot spot, a heated steering wheel, digital TV and Bluetooth streaming.
They both come with AEB as standard, but other driver aids like blind spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control are buried within the extensive options lists.
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.
Parent company Jaguar has supplied its top spec Ingenium 221kW 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine, eight-speed auto and proper 4x4 drivetrain for the PHEV, matching it with an 85kW electric motor, 13.1kW/h battery array, transformer and inverter, as well as a charging plug under the front grille.
Combined outputs equal 297kW/640Nm.
Range Rover claims an impressive combined fuel economy total of 2.8 litres per 100km... with the caveat that the battery array must be charged to full capacity.
A 13.1kWh battery that promises an EV range of 51km from a full charge complements its 105-litre petrol tank. Given, however, that our road test loop was less than 20km and the battery wasn't fully charged, we'll wait until we drive the PHEV on home soil to confirm the figures.
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.
Our time aboard the PHEV involved a little on-road work and a proportion of muddy, slick, off-roading that went a long way towards showing off the Rangie's dual personality.
With its array of digital off-road modes that includes snow, grass, gravel, rut and sand, the Rangie tackled some truly testing unsealed scenarios, including a river ford at 600mm (the Sport has an 850mm wading depth, the Rangie itself a 900mm rating), along with some of the slickest mud sections this tester had ever encountered.
And it handled them with aplomb, too. Whether you plan to take your $200k SUV off-road or not is irrelevant – the point is that it's built to do it, all day every day if need be.
On road, the 221kW 2.0-litre turbocharged engine is strong enough to haul the 2500-odd kilogram Rangie up to the national limit without too much fuss, thanks to the 85kW electric motor chiming in as required to boost the bottom line.
Unfortunately, we're not able to verify Range Rover's claims of 51km of electric range, because our tester was presented to us with less than 25km range – and that was quickly burned away on a two km EV-only off-road section.
We managed to restore five per cent of charge through regenerative braking and, erm, excessive revs over our short test run back to base, but we'll have to wait until it's on home soil to get a definitive read on the range of the PHEV.
Other road manners are typically Range Rover-like, with an imperious ride over road bumps, almost eerie silence from road and wind noise and excellent road manners in all modes – including the new-to-Range Rover 'Dynamic' mode.
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.
While AEB and lane departure warning are standard along with a rear view camera and front and rear sensors, other driver aids like adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist must be purchased as optional extras.
Both the Range Rover and the standard Range Rover Sport hold maximum five-star ANCAP ratings.
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.
Range Rover recommends servicing every 12 months or 26,000km, or more regularly if you use it in the bush on a regular basis. It offers a three-year, 100,000km warranty as standard, with free roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty.
No fixed price service plan is currently offered.