Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class VS Toyota Land Cruiser
- 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
Toyota Land Cruiser
- V8 engine
- 4WD capability
- Very comfortable
- Old interior
- Lack of practical space
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|
Toyota Land Cruiser
If you’re a fan of the Toyota LandCruiser – and, let's face it, who isn't? – then you’re probably really enjoying the exciting time right now in its long and illustrious history.
A tweaked 200 Series is expected here soon-ish, and the 300 Series is also expected here in the not-too-distant future. Problem is, anyone who wants a 300 will have to choose between smaller-engine options – a V6 diesel, V6 petrol or petrol/hybrid – and will have to cop an even bigger price-tag all-round than the current 200 line-up.
So, is the current 200 Series a LandCruiser enthusiast’s last chance to own a new V8-powered upper large 4WD wagon that’s capable of handling family and work-life, but also be more than capable of taking your family into remote areas in comfort and style?
We tested a top-of-the-range Sahara on- and off-road. Read on.
|Fuel Type||Regular 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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7.1/10
The LandCruiser 200 Series Sahara is one of the best upper large premium 4WD wagons on the market.
It’s capable and comfortable, with plenty of standard features – some of them handy, some of them not – but the interior feels dated and less than premium, that multimedia system just isn't up to scratch and the price tag just feels too high for what you get.
But none of that will sway any die-hard Cruiser-loving adventurer, who wants a big comfortable and capable 4WD for family life, off-road adventures, or to tow a caravan or boat.
And who can blame them? Afterall, it’s hard to ignore the long-term appeal of a 200 Series.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
The LandCruiser’s appearance hasn’t changed much in years. This variant does have Sahara-specific branding on the rear horizontal-split door, but otherwise, it remains wholeheartedly 200 Series: a big chunky, distinctively imposing 4WD wagon.
The 200 Series is 4990mm long (with a 2850mm wheelbase), 1980mm wide and 1970mm high.
The Sahara has three rows of seats; two in the front, three in the second row, and two in the third row, for a total of seven seats. The base-spec GX has five seats in total; the GXL has eight; the VX also has seven.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
The Sahara is a seven-seater divided in three rows – two at the front, three and two at the rear – as does the second-from-top spec, the VX. The base-spec 200 Series, the GX, has five seats; the next spec up, the GXL, has eight.
It has a listed kerb weight of 2740kg, as do all the other 200s, except the GX, which is 2640kg.
The 200 Series is a big unit on the outside, but has quite a small interior. It is a bit of a premium space though with leather inserts on seats and around the cabin, woodgrain highlights on the steering wheel and dash, plus chrome-look finishings throughout.
With all three rows in use, there’s not a lot of space at all. Toyota does not have an official figure for cargo capacity of the rear area, but it’s plain to see that there isn’t much room. We packed a first-aid kit and a portable air-compressor and there wasn’t much room left over. You could probably fit a few other bits and pieces, but not much. There are cargo hooks and a 220V power socket.
When the third row (side folding, 50/50 split seat backs) is stowed away, the cargo capacity is officially listed as 1276 litres, but the reality is those seats protrude into the cargo area, taking up a lot of useful space.
No cargo capacity figure is officially listed for when the second- and third-row seats are stowed away.
Getting into the third row is not difficult as the door opens wide and there is a side step on the Sahara to aid your ingress, but once you’re in the third row, space is a bit pinched and the seats are rather flat and not really that supportive. It’s comfortable enough and really a kids-only zone, but that’s not a newsflash for a third-row. Bonus: you can watch the second-row 11.6-inch DVD screens, one each on the driver and front passenger head-rest.
There are plenty of storage spaces back there: two cup-holders on each side, stash-away spots for bits and pieces, cup holders in the middle, directional air vents, and lights.
Passengers in the second-row (40/20/40 split folding feat backs) have access to a lot of controls: air con, seat-warming (outer seats), and DVD remote (hidden in the fold-down centre arm-rest, which also has cup-holders and a shallow grippy tray for the DVD remote or a smartphone). There are also directional air vents, lights and storage spaces in the form of hard-plastic door spaces and mesh pockets on the back of the driver and front-passenger seats.
As mentioned, the DVD screens are on the driver and front passenger head-rests.
The seats here are, as expected, more comfortable than the third row with plenty of support.
Upfront, it seems like a bit more of a premium space, and it’s all well laid-out and easy to navigate – to quickly establish which controls are where – but the dash and centre console is all starting to look and feel a bit dated. Especially when the Sahara carries such a hefty price tag.
That 9.0-inch multimedia touchscreen doesn't help either, because it's a bit clunky to use, with its mix of controls, on-screen and dials.
There are a fair few storage spaces though: glove box, door pockets, the cool box (in between driver and front passenger), and cup holders (with a flip-top lid). There is also a wireless smartphone-charging tray.
There are USB charge points upfront, as well as a 12V power socket.
The Sahara also has a moonroof if your passengers want to look at the sky, night or day, while you’re on the move.
Overall, it’s a well put-together cabin, build quality is very impressive and there’s nothing terribly wrong with the interior, but it just doesn't feel like such a prestige space, worthy of a $125,000 price-tag. It feels old, so a facelift – or better still a 300 Series – can’t arrive soon enough.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
The seven-seat top-shelf* Sahara, as tested, costs $124,996 ($124,396 plus $600 premium paint), plus on-road costs. [* The limited-edition Sahara Horizon costs more, at $129,090 (plus on-road costs), but there are only 400 of those, so I’m not counting those in the mainstream line-up.]
It has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo-diesel engine, a six-speed automatic transmission, full-time four-wheel drive with dual-range gearing, a limited-slip centre differential and a stack of driver-assist tech including Toyota Safety Sense (which incorporates Pre-Collision Safety System with Pedestrian Detection (like Autonomous Emergency Braking – AEB), High Speed Active Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Automatic High Beam), as well as blind-spot alert, rear cross-traffic alert, a multi-terrain system (with various drive modes to suit different terrain), a multi-terrain monitor, crawl control (low-speed off-road cruise control), hill descent control and more.
As befitting a top-spec vehicle, the Sahara has quite an extensive features list including a 9.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with sat-nav, a wireless smartphone charger, a cool box between the front seats, woodgrain-look steering wheel and throughout the cabin, ventilated front seats, heated front and second-row seats, driver’s seat memory settings, four-zone climate-control air-conditioning, 11.6-inch entertainment screens for rear passengers, a nine-speaker audio system, and a moonroof.
It has daytime running lights, a horizontal-split tailgate, side steps, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
The 200 Series has a 4.5-litre V8 twin turbo diesel engine – producing 200kW@3600rpm and 650Nm@1600-2600rpm. That power figure is not whopping, but the engine is very torquey, with plenty of that on tap at lower revs, and the six-speed auto is a clever smooth-shifter.
On different tests, I’ve towed camper-trailers and an almost three tonne caravan with a 200 Series, and have been happy with its ability to tow safely and comfortably.
It has full-time 4WD and a limited-slip centre diff, as well as a whole bunch of driver-assist trickery, which I’ll detail later in this yarn. (Head straight down to ‘What's it like to drive?’ Right now if you’re too impatient.)
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
Fuel consumption is listed as 9.5L/100km (combined).
I recorded an actual fuel consumption of 12.8L/100km on this test, but I did do a lot of low-range 4WDing.
The 200 Series has a 93-litre main fuel tank and a 45-litre sub tank – that’s a total of 138 litres.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser8/10
As mentioned, the Sahara is 2740kg, but it generally never feels like it’s so big and heavy.
Steering is reach-and-rake power-adjustable and it’s pretty sharp and, despite its bulk, the 200 is easy to manoeuvre in city and suburban settings, although it does feel its size every now and again. Turning circle is 11.8m and, on squeezy city streets, quick turnarounds can become a bit of a challenge.
But the 200 Series turbo diesel V8 is a simple, powerful and effective engine and it works supremely well with that six-speed auto.
Acceleration is particularly smooth, making for easy off-the-mark blasts from a standstill and also overtaking moves on the highway, but you can’t be shy with the go-pedal.
The coil-spring suspension yields a spongy, comfortable ride but the 200 Series never feels like its prone to wallowing as much as you might imagine.
All-round, it’s very comfortable as a daily driver, if not entirely practical in terms of cargo space, for its size, and for its price.
Gravel and dirt tracks provided ample opportunities for us to again experience how settled and composed the 200 Series is at speed, on irregular surfaces.
The 200 Series suspension set-up – independent front, live-axle rear and coil springs all-around – helps the Cruiser to sit really nicely on the road. It's not even thrown off its game by deeper potholes or sharper corrugations.
The Sahara and VX also have KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), which acts like a swaybar: on-road its aim is to improve handling and to reduce body roll; off-road, the system performs like a swaybar disconnect in that it adjusts to suit the terrain to maximise articulation and stability. (Note: KDSS is not on base-spec GX variants and is an option on the GXL.)
When it comes time for low-speed, low-range 4WDing, the 200 can feel big and bulky, so it does always require considered driving.
There’s plenty of visibility out of the 200’s windscreen, but the bonnet is quite large and does at times obscure your forward vision, but it's not a deal breaker, and if you’ve spent any time in a 200 Series – or any large 4WD wagon for that matter – it likely won't annoy you too much.
Steering remains light and responsive at lower speeds, and that's important for such a big almost three-ton beast on tight bush tracks and bush routes that twist and turn.
The 200’s torquey V8 engine, which works really well with the auto off-road as well as on on-road, offers up plenty of that torque at low revs and you can always rely on it.
Low-range gearing is good and the 200 also has a limited slip centre differential if you get the urge to hit that button as well.
Wheel travel is pretty decent, but with that KDSS, which acts like a mechanical swaybar disconnect off-road, the Sahara gets even more flex, more wheel travel, to help you get a wheel to the dirt and keep moving.
As well as reliable low-range gearing, good wheel travel and all-around suitability for 4WDing, the Sahara can also tap into a stack of driver-assist tech, including the multi terrain select*, which gives you the capability to dial through five different terrain modes – Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, Rock & Dirt, and Rock – and that tweaks, among other things, the traction control system to suit the terrain you're on. (The VX also has multi terrain select, but the GX and GXL do not.)
Crawl Control, which regulates your speed at very low speeds via engine power and brake input to each wheel, gives you the ability to select a different low-speed setting to suit the conditions and terrain. This system incorporates turn-assist, which is handy when you need to make a very tight turn while 4WDing, as it applies brakes to your inside rear wheel at low speeds to help reduce your turning circle.
Visibility is good all around, as there’s plenty of glass at the front, rear and to the sides but, as stated earlier, that large bonnet can obscure your forward vision, especially when you’re cresting hills. If you’re finding your vision is hampered, then you can always make use of the multi terrain monitor – standard also in the VX and Sahara, but not available in the other variants.This system is a four-camera set-up designed to offer you views at the front, back, and down the sides, but I wouldn't rely on it. The lenses easily become dirty, as they did on our stint, and it only provides quite a basic, distorted view. Instead of relying on these cameras, the driver should get out, walk the track to see where you're going to drive or, at the very least, stick your head out the window to make sure you can see where you’re going, just to be on the safe side.
Engine braking is good, as is the hill descent control, although on some of the very slippery muddy hills we tackled, the 200 tended to run away a bit on the downhill runs.
The Cruiser has 225mm of ground clearance and a wading depth of 700mm, so we had no problems driving through deeper wheel ruts and mud-holes.
An easily-fixed weakness in the 200’s off-road armoury are its standard-issue Dunlop Grandtrek AT25s (285/60R18), which are not aggressive enough for anything more than light off-roading, I reckon. So get rid of those if you plan any four-wheel driving and replace with a set of decent all-terrains. That standard rubber’s on 18-inch alloy wheels. (GX and GXL variants get 17-inch wheels and tyres.)
The 200 Series has a full-sized spare tyre.
It has a 750kg unbraked towing capacity and 3500g braked towing capacity.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
The 200 Series has a five-star ANCAP rating (from testing conducted in 2011), 10 airbags and plenty of driver-assist tech, including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, multi terrain monitor, front and rear parking sensors and more.
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.
Toyota Land Cruiser7/10
As of 1 January 2020, the service pricing for a LC200 Sahara turbo-diesel under Toyota’s capped price servicing is $300 per service for three years/60,000km (up to the first six services). The service interval is every six months/10,000km.
The warranty period for any new vehicle bought after 1 January 2019 is a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty that covers any part, panel and accessory made by Toyota. In addition to this, Toyota will extend your engine and driveline warranty from five to seven years if the annual service schedule is adhered to.