Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Porsche Cayenne
- 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
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|
Since the Porsche Cayenne turned the automotive world upside down in the early noughties, it has continued to evolve and has grown to become one of the brand's biggest sellers.
One size up from the mid-size Macan, it's problematic for hardcore Porsche-philes, but there's no doubting this five-seat SUV's success, or the fact that it helps keep the famous German sports car maker well and truly in the black.
And this is the new, third-generation version, with an all-new chassis, fresh engines, and a bunch of dynamic, safety and multimedia tech enhancements.
Read More: Porsche Cayenne Turbo 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Porsche Cayenne S 2018 review: snapshot
Read More: Porsche Cayenne 2018 review: snapshot
|Engine Type||4.1L 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.
The Cayenne may be the Porsche of SUVs, but you can't have family car size and practicality without a few concessions.
It's fast, beautifully built, and engineered with a special eye for detail, and the well specced Cayenne S is the pick of the bunch for performance and value.
But it's worth remembering the SUV bit. This Porsche is more everyday enjoyment than track day excitement.
Is the Cayenne your kind of premium family truckster? 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.
The design is new yet familiar. Longer (+63mm), wider (+44mm), lower to the ground, and lower overall (-9mm), yet the wheelbase is unchanged at just under 2.9m.
All models feature LED headlights, and the Cayenne and Cayenne S are identified by their silver grille slats, with the Turbo featuring matt and high-gloss black surfaces plus larger air intakes at the front.
Car-spotters will also notice narrower side windows with a sharper decline at rear (Porsche calls it the Flyline) and the C-pillars tilting forward for a racier look.
A full width horizontal light strip across the tail sits under a clear covering above a three-dimensional version of the Porsche logo.
And wheels now range in size from 19-inch on the Cayenne, 20-inch on the Cayenne S, to 21s on the Turbo, plus optional 22s, presumably for those who drive on billiard table smooth freeways at all times.
And the Cayenne now features staggered or mixed tyres for the first time, that is fatter rubber on the back than the front.
Inside, the biggest change is the adoption of the Panamera's 'Advanced Cockpit', with the central tachometer in the iconic five-gauge instrument cluster flanked by twin 7.0-inch screens to create a blended analogue/digital version of the classic Porsche five dial layout.
Plus, there's the sleek 12.3-inch screen in the centre running everything from nav and vehicle settings to audio control and phone calls, through touch and voice.
Again, it's a direct lift from the Panamera, and the screen layout can be customised to personal preference, with Apple CarPlay standard (but no Android Auto).
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.
Practicality highlights are more storage around the cabin, and a slide and recline adjustable rear seat.
Up front, the glove box is cooled, there are storage compartments under both seats, plus two cupholders, decent bottle holders in the doors, a 12-volt outlet (under the glove box), as well as two USB charge and connectivity ports in a generous console storage box.
Jump in the back and you'll find door bins with space for bottles, map pockets on the front seat backrests, a pair of cupholders in the fold-down centre armrest, plus two USB charge ports and a 12-volt socket in the centre console.
The rear seat's tilt and slide party trick means there's plenty of leg and headroom in the rearmost, fully reclined position. But tweak a lever on the side and a pull handle under the cushion and you can move forward (in stages) to liberate as much as 100 litres of extra cargo space over the outgoing model, while maintaining seating for five (three without legs in the extreme forward position).
Porsche's official description of the rear bench offering “two comfortable seats outside left and right and one centre seat” accurately sums up the relatively squeezy plight of the centre rear passenger.
Cargo capacity is 770 litres with the 40/20/40 rear seat upright, and a handy 1710 with it folded forward. There are four tie-down anchor points, plus a netted storage area on the passenger side, two lights and yet another 12-volt power point.
An auto tailgate is standard on all models, and a 20-inch collapsible spare (with inflator kit) sits under the rear floor.
If towing is your thing the Cayenne's weight ceiling is 3.5-tonne for a braked trailer, and 750kg unbraked. Porsche's 'Trailer Stability Management' system is standard.
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 are three models offered initially, starting with the Cayenne, powered by a 3.0-litre single turbo-petrol V6 for $116,300 before on-road costs. Then the 2.9-litre V6 Cayenne S adds a second turbo and around $40k to the price tag, coming in at $155,100.
The powerhouse Turbo tops the line-up with a 4.0-litre twin-turbo petrol V8 under the bonnet, and cost of entry sitting at $239,400.
Not a diesel in sight (for Australia) for the time being, with an E-Hybrid variant due here closer to the end of this year.
As you'd expect in this part of the market the standard equipment list is solid, with the Cayenne featuring partial leather trim, cruise control, LED headlights, daytime running lights and tail-lights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, privacy glass, front seats with 14-way electric adjustment and memory settings, remote central locking with 'Keyless Go', the twin digital instrument displays, multi-function sports steering wheel (with gearshift paddles), auto tailgate, 'Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM - with adaptive dampers), 19-inch alloy wheels, and 'Porsche Communication Management' (PCM) with the 12.3-inch screen controlling nav, phone and audio (10-speaker, 150 watt and digital radio).
As well as it's more powerful twin-turbo V6 engine, the Cayenne S adds 'Adaptive PASM' (with air suspension), 20-inch alloy rims, twin dual-tube tailpipes, dynamic (directional) LED headlights, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, pedal faces in stainless steel, a 710-watt Bose 'Surround Sound System' with 14 speakers (including subwoofer), and metallic paint in any one of seven colours.
Then the Cayenne Turbo piles on the power and luxury with the twin-turbo V8 joined by 21-inch alloys (in dark titanium with highly polished surfaces) including wheel arch extensions in the exterior colour, 'Porsche Active Aero' (with adaptive roof spoiler), scrolling LED indicators, 'LED Matrix' headlights, 'smooth finish' leather upholstery, 18-way electronically-adjustable 'Adaptive Sports' front seats with unique trim and fatter side bolsters, front and rear seat heating (and ventilated/cooled front seats), exterior mirrors with kerb-view parking aid, a heated steering wheel, 'cross-brushed' aluminium interior highlights, and Alcantara roof lining (cloth on base and S).
If you're ready to stump up the big bucks, that's a heap of fruit to go with this car's comfort and performance potential.
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 new car's engines are lifted from the Panamera, and not only feature more power than the outgoing Cayenne, but Porsche claims improved fuel economy and lower emissions.
All feature an alloy block and heads, the Cayenne's 3.0-litre, single turbo V6 delivering 250kW from 5300-6400rpm, and 450Nm from just 1340rpm all the way to 5300rpm.
This 'base' engine features direct fuel-injection, 'VarioCam Plus' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side, and valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side), as well as the turbo located in the engine's vee to help minimise lag.
The Cayenne S's 2.9-litre V6 adds a second turbo to deliver 324kW from 5700-6600rpm, and 550Nm between 1800rpm and 5500rpm. It's shorter stroke design helps lift the rev ceiling by 300rpm (to 6800rpm).
Then the Cayenne Turbo adds two more cylinders to pump out no less than 404kW (542hp) across a narrow plateau from 5750-6000rpm, and 770Nm between 1960rpm and 4500rpm. The V8 also locates the turbos in the 'hot vee', but drops back to 'VarioCam' (variable cam control on the inlet and outlet side) without valve-lift adjustment on the inlet side.
All models now feature an eight-speed 'shift-by-wire' 'Tiptronic S' auto transmission, with drive going to all four wheels courtesy of Porsche's Active Traction Management system. The gear set in the Turbo (including the final drive) is slightly taller, although the seventh and eighth ratios are overdriven on all models to maximise fuel economy.
Claimed 0-100km/h times (with optional Sport Chrono package numbers in brackets) are: Cayenne – 6.2sec (5.9s), Cayenne S – 5.2sec (4.9s), Cayenne Turbo - 4.1sec (3.9s).
And if you have a very long driveway, leading up to your (presumably) very large house, you'll be pleased to know maximum velocity for the Cayenne is 245km/h, rising to 265km/h for the S, and a stonking 286km/h for the Turbo.
Claimed fuel economy for the combined (ADR 81/02 - urban, extra-urban) cycle ranges from 9.2L/100 km for the Cayenne (emitting 209g/km of C02 in the process), to 9.4L/100 km for the Cayenne S (213g/km), and 11.9L/100 km for the Cayenne Turbo (272g/km).
All models feature auto start-stop (with coasting), your only fuel option is 98 RON premium unleaded, and you'll need 90 litres of it to fill the 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 new Cayenne sits on the VW Group MLB Evo platform, which also underpins the Audi Q7, Bentley Bentayga, Lamborghini Urus, and the soon-to-arrive new generation VW Touareg.
It uses a lot of aluminium and lightweight high-strength steel which, in concert with the alloy body panels, makes the car not only stiffer, but lighter by up to 65kg.
We've driven each model over a two-day launch program in The Barossa Valley in South Australia, and can confirm the base Cayenne is quick, the S is properly fast, and the Turbo is ballistic.
The transmission is a conventional eight-speed auto, rather than Porsche's PDK dual-clutch, and shifts are quick but smooth in normal mode, transitioning to a sharper, even more precise response in Sport or Sport Plus.
Porsche stands proudly on its reputation as a great sports car maker and says the Cayenne fits easily into that context. But let's face it, this is a two tonne SUV, and while it's dynamically outstanding, it's no 911.
All models feature multi-link suspension front and rear including active dampers, with varying levels of suspension sophistication as you walk up the range, to three chamber air suspension on the Turbo.
On quick twisting B-roads it's fast, in the case of the Turbo, bloody fast. It grips hard thanks to fat Z-rated rubber and active drive distribution makes sure it puts its power down perfectly. But no matter how sophisticated the suspension tech, it still feels large and relatively top heavy.
The electromechanical steering is light, and while it's accurate, no matter which mode you're in road feel is modest.
Not surprisingly, the ride firms up in tune with sportier drive modes, but in Comfort, even the Turbo on 21-inch rims, soaked up the irregularities of at times choppy rural roads with surprising ease.
Given the car's mass and performance potential braking is an understandable priority, with even the base model featuring big ventilated rotors all around with four piston calipers at the front and two at the back.
The S ups that to six piston front and four at the rear, while the Turbo debuts Porsche's 'Surface Coated Brake' a Tungsten-Carbide coating on the discs and special pads for longer life and less dust. Of course, the front calipers are 10-piston with four at the rear (and they're white just to prove brake dust isn't a problem).
In typical Aussie conditions these monster brakes are like cracking a walnut with a sledgehammer. Stopping power (on all models) is immense, and pedal feel is agreeably progressive.
We also headed off-road through rutted dirt and rocky climbs, and with five drive and chassis modes at its disposal the Cayenne ate it up.
The different off-highway modes ('Gravel', 'Mud' and 'Rock') will lock and unlock the centre and rear diff as required and the adjustable hill descent control made crawling down steep slopes a breeze. You can even option up an 'Offroad Package' bringing extra protection for vital components, as well as off-road specific info in the PCM and a compass display on the dash.
If you need to think about the dips and climbs on your country retreat, or maybe just the pitch of your driveway, the Cayenne and Cayenne S's approach and (with the Turbo in brackets) is 25.2degrees (23.3), ramp over is 18.7degrees (16.7), departure is 22.1degrees (20.4), ground clearance measures 210mm (190mm), and fording depth is 500mm (475mm).
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.
Active safety systems include the usual suspects like ABS, ESC, and traction control (ASR), with the addition of other features under the 'Porsche Stability Management' umbrella, including ABD (torque vectoring by braking), and MSR (prevents slip on the drive wheels produced under engine braking)
There's also AEB (although the Porsche system doesn't bring the car to a complete stop), 'Park Assist' (front and rear) including 'Surround View', 'Lane Keeping Assist', 'Lane Change Assist', and tyre pressure monitoring.
But if all else fails passive features include an active bonnet (activated by pedestrians, cyclists, etc detected by the front camera), driver and front passenger airbag, knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, front side airbags, rear side airbags and full-length curtain bags.
There are three top tether points across the back seat with ISOFIX anchors on the two outer positions. ANCAP hasn't assessed the third generation Cayenne so far, but its Euro NCAP affiliate awarded a left-hand drive, 3.0-litre diesel model a maximum five stars in 2017.
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 Cayenne is covered by Porsche's three year/unlimited km warranty, with paint covered for the same period, and a 12-year (unlimited km) anti-corrosion warranty also included.
Porsche Roadside Assist provides 24/7/365 coverage for the life of the warranty, and after the warranty runs out is renewed for 12 months every time the vehicle is serviced at an authorised Porsche dealer, and the main service interval is 12 months/15,000km.
No capped price servicing is available, with final costs determined at the dealer level (in line with variable labour costs by state/territory). Indicative scheduled costs for the first four years/60,000km line up as: 12 months/15,000km (annual) - $695, 24 months/30,000km (intermediate) - $695, 36 months/45,000km (annual) - $695, and 48 months/60,000km (major) - $1300, for a total of $3385.