Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Porsche Macan
- 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
- Greatness made better
- Such driving thrills, for an SUV...
- Genuine Porsche personality, not just a trumped up Audi
- Lack of standard active safety gear
- Expensive options
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|
When Kenny Rogers gets a facelift, he does the term justice. Have you seen him lately? He’s barely recognisable. It’s probably not often that Kenny and Porsche get mentioned in the same sentence, with the legendary Country singer and iconic sports car brand sharing few parallels.
Particularly when it comes to visual enhancements, that is, with the updated Porsche Macan barely qualifying for a lunchtime Botox analogy, let alone the standard facelift jargon we use to describe a mid-life refresh.
It’s been to the gym and sharpened up its wellbeing though, in an effort to keep what’s now the Porsche brand’s most popular model competitive among a whole host of other SUV rivals that have appeared in the 4.5 years since the Macan first hit down under.
Six months after it was revealed at the Paris motor show, the new Macan and Macan S arrive in Australia this week.
|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 new Macan is only a smidge better in most areas, but it’s brought it up to date in most ways, but make sure you tick the option box for active cruise and AEB. That aside, it’s an astounding driver’s car for an SUV.
Given we haven’t driven the base Macan or any of the future variants yet, it’s impossible to nominate the sweet spot of the range, but the Macan S is a very good option.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
Do you wish Porsche had done more to the Macan? Tell us what you think 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.
If you’re wanting to pick the updated Macan from the old one, it’s the full width tail-light that’s you’re biggest clue, with Porsche giving the typical “if it ain’t broke” approach to the rest of the exterior styling, despite a whole bunch of other changes under the skin and on the inside.
Aside from the rear light treatment which brings the Macan into line with Porsche’s more recent Panamera, 718 Boxster and Cayman, Cayenne and 992 911 designs, there’s also new LED headlights, subtle tweaks to the lower body details and some new wheel options rounding out the exterior differences.
But most importantly, the Macan still has that low, broad, squat stance that looks like a proper Porsche performance machine.
The Macan also now gets the same steering wheel as the 911, which is about as nice as steering wheels get, with a nice size, round shape and sexy knurled control wheels for the volume and menu controls.
There’s a whole bunch of other improvements you’d probably only notice back to back with the old car, including more aluminium in the suspension to reduce unsprung weight, completely new engine platforms and improved sound deadening for a quieter drive.
Kerb weight figures are hardly lithe though, at 1797kg and 1865kg between Macan and S.
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.
There’s nothing new of note on the practicality front, with the usual dual cup holders front and rear, bottle holders in each door (although the rears are a bit shallow), and a useful, array of 12V and USB points scattered throughout.
The back seat is the same as before, with enough headroom and rear legroom for shorter adults like my 172cm size, and therefore plenty of room for two kids, but the sloping roofline is probably a pain for taller parents loading child seats. Speaking of which, there’s two ISOFIX mounts back there for mounting baby seats as securely as possible.
The boot space is unchanged with a pretty decent 500 litre luggage capacity, with a spacesaver spare tyre under the floor, but in my experience the sloping tailgate that gives the Macan that sexy coupe shape can make it a bit difficult to load beyond cargo cover height.
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.
Pricing has also been discretely modified, with the base Macan now starting $1690 higher at $81,400, and the next rung Macan S shifting $2000 upwards to $97,500. You can calculate a drive away price here.
These are the only two updated models on the price list for now, with the range-topping Turbo tipped to arrive in 2020, and the GTS that sits between it and the S due in 2021.
Both trim levels are now in line with the Panamera and Cayenne the latest version of the Porsche Communication Management (PCM) multimedia/infotainment tech with a 10.9-inch touch screen display. This includes Apple CarPlay for iPhone users, but there’s still no Android Auto.
Both Macan and Macan S standard features also include leather trim, three-zone climate control air conditioning, GPS navigation system, Bluetooth, 14-way power adjustable seats, auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, Park Assist with surround-view monitors and a power tailgate.
The Macan S adds piano black interior details, aluminium scuff plates, aluminium window trims, a silver tachometer, and a digital boost pressure gauge.
Aside from its stronger engine, mechanical Macan S upgrades include bigger front brakes with an extra two pistons to total six, Porsche Active Suspension Management (PASM) adaptive dampers, silver dual exhaust outlets on either side and one inch larger 20-inch ten spoke alloys.
Seat heaters and active cruise control will still cost you more on either Macan, but one omission I find quite surprising is that they still don’t get much in the way of active safety gear as standard. Unlike pretty much every other premium SUV on the market, you’ve got to pay extra to get AEB with the active cruise control pack.
The car we spent most of our time in, which is not the Mamba Green car pictured here, was optioned with Miami Blue paint ($5,800), panoramic sunroof ($3,790), tinted headlights with Porsche Dynamic Light System Plus ($3,410), black 21-inch Sport Classic rims ($3,330), carbon interior package ($3,080), Sport Chrono Package with mode switch ($2,790), Bose surround sound system ($2,650), black exhaust tips ($1,890), Porsche Entry & Drive ($1,690), Lane Change Assist ($1,390), tinted full width tail-lights ($1,340), and gloss black roof rails and window trims ($1,260), heated front seats ($990), Light Comfort Package ($720) and Power Steering Plus ($650). This $34,780 worth of accessories brings its total RRP to $132,280, before on-road costs.
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 biggest mechanical news so far is that there’s no more diesel, along with all Porsche models, and the Macan S’s 3.0-litre petrol V6 loses one turbo in favour of a single, but more high tech, twin scroll unit.
This engine is already found in the Panamera, Cayenne and several Audi models.
For Macan S it means an extra 10kW more power and 20Nm more torque over the old version to now total 260kW between 5400-6400rpm, and 480Nm available between an impressively broad 1360-4800rpm.
This has knocked just a tenth off the 0-100km/h claim, which is now 5.1s in Sport Plus mode with the Sport Chrono Package optioned.
The base Macan’s 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine specs are unchanged, with 185kW available from 5000-6800rpm and 370Nm between 1600-4500rpm, with it’s 0-100km/h 6.7s 0-100km/h claim remaining.
The seven-speed PDK dual-clutch automatic transmission continues as the sole transmission available with either Macan, but has been recalibrated to suit the new engine in the Macan S.
The Porsche Traction Management (PTM) active all-wheel drive system continues to send power to all four wheels in either Macan grade.
Both versions have been prepared for towbar fitment, and carry maximum braked towing capacity of 2000kg and 2400kg for the Macan and Macan S respectively.
There’s still no sign of a plug-in hybrid or EV Macan, with the second-generation Macan set to at least offer an all-electric version in around 2023.
With the diesel gone, you shouldn’t expect the Macan to set any benchmarks here, but the base Macan still carries a reasonable 7.4L/100km official combined fuel economy claim. The Macan S’s 8.9L figure is even more impressive given its performance advantage, however.
Both engines require top-shelf 98 RON Premium Unleaded to do their best, and their 75-litre fuel tank capacity suggests theoretical ranges between fills of 1013km and 842km for the Macan and S respectively.
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.
This is where it gets good. I’m yet to meet a performance SUV that surpasses the need for a qualifier at the end of every element of praise for its driving attributes to the tune of “for an SUV.”
But in my opinion, the Macan is the closest, with its relatively low body and broad stance bringing the driver closer to the centre of gravity (and action) than any I recall.
We’ve only driven the updated Macan S so far, but any Macan is likely to share the fundamentals that give it incredible stability at speed and make it genuinely good fun to drive fast.
The steering has nice feel, the wall of acceleration from the turbo engine is really good and the seven-speed PDK transmission is beautifully calibrated, particularly in the sport modes - I didn’t reach for the paddle shifters once.
If there’s one criticism of the drivetrain it’s a lack of aural theatre. Surely any Porsche with an S badge should be capable of roaring when asked, but the standard Macan S delivers little more than a muted growl. There is a sports exhaust system on the options list, but you’ll have to shell out $5,390 for it.
There was one particular run along a river bed on our drive route that strung dozens of varying radius bends together, with a mix of cambers that enabled the Macan S to truly shine. Aside from slightly accentuated fore and aft movement because of its short, but still tall body, it was almost as planted as an Audi RS 4, but with a more lively feel than I recall.
And when you’re not driving it like a Porsche, as most of us spend about 99 per cent of out time on the road, it’s still a really comfortable car. I had to look under the guards to make sure our particular example wasn’t fitted with the optional air suspension, even though it was riding on the bigger 21-inch wheels. Why can’t everyone do suspension like this?
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 Macan is an excellent example of why it’s important to look past a maximum five star safety rating. It carries no safety rating from ANCAP, but five stars from Euro NCAP based on a 2014 test.
Since that test, the Macan has introduced side and curtain airbags for rear passengers, so it’s in fact safer, but the test criteria has changed significantly in the past five years.
Australian versions of the new Macan come with dual front airbags, chest side and curtain airbags for all outboard passengers, reversing cameras covering 360 degrees with Park Assist front and rear, parking sensors and lane departure warning.
As mentioned above, they’re surprisingly lacking active safety features as standard. Unlike pretty much every other premium SUV on the market, you’ve got to pay an extra $2410 to get AEB with the active cruise control pack, and a further $1390 to get Lane Change Assist as two key examples.
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 Macan is covered by Porsche's standard three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is par for the course among premium brands, but lags behind the five-year-plus terms offered by most mainstream manufacturers these days. An extended warranty of up to 15 years can be arranged through Porsche, at a price.
Service intervals are a generous 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, but Porsche does not offer capped-price servicing to take the guesswork out of service costs or maintenance costs.
If there are any common problems or complaints, reliability issues or faults, they’ll likely appear on our Porsche Macan problems page.
You can calculate the Macan’s projected resale value via our Price and Specs page.