Mercedes-AMG’s range of stupidly fast compact cars just got a little bigger. The newbie of the group is the GLA 45, and as you might expect, it’s not exactly short on firepower.
It’s powered by the same ‘M139’ 2.0-litre inline-four turbo engine as the A45 and CLA 45, providing 382bhp is the base version and a heroic 415bhp in the GLA 45 S. It’s intended to feel more like a naturally-aspirated unit, with peak torque of 369lb ft arriving at 5000rpm and peak power developed at 6750rpm. On both versions of the engine, the redline is at 7200rpm.
The performance deficit to the A45 is bigger than last time around, however, with the GLA 45 and GLA 45 S each four-tenths behind the equivalent hot A-Class when sprinting to 62mph. Still, 4.4 and 4.3 seconds is deeply impressive, and whichever you go for, you’ll have a crossover that’s ever so slightly quicker than an Audi RS Q3.
The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is lifted from the A45 and CLA 45 too, as is the trick “fully variable” all-wheel drive system. This features a pair of multi-disc clutches at the rear axle - one for each wheel. On the other ‘45 cars, this setup allows for a ‘drift mode’ setting, but the GLA goes without this feature. Boo.
At the front, there’s a MacPherson strut suspension layout with a special geometry aimed at reducing torque steer, while the rear is multilink and rigidly mounted to the shell. Three-stage adaptive dampers are fitted as standard (they’re optional on other ‘45s), while braking is sorted via 360mm discs at the front paired with four-piston calipers. The rotor size drops by 10mm if you opt for the entry-level version.
The behaviour of those dampers, along with the all-wheel drive system, powertrain, gearbox and electronic aids depends on the driving mode you’re using. You can go for either Comfort, Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ or - if you’ve gone for either a GLA 45 S or a GLA 45 with AMG Dynamic Plus option - Race.
Race is where it gets really interesting, as this lets you put the AMG Dynamics system in ‘Master’ mode by switching the ESP to either ‘sport’ or ‘off’. Sounds complicated, but it’ll be worth doing. This, Mercedes says, “offers a vehicle balance with slight oversteer, a low steering angle requirement and more agile steering”.
The exterior design follows that of previous compact AMG models, with angrier front and rear bumpers, gurney flaps and a pleasingly obnoxious rear wing. The GLA 45 gets 19-inch alloy wheels as standard, while the 45 S is fitted with gargantuan 20s.
Inside is the same MBUX twin-screen infotainment/instrument cluster system found in the regular GLA, although here, there are special AMG graphics to play around with. Another thing you won’t find in a non-cooking GLA is the 45’s front sports seats and red belts. Fancy. In the S, the cabin is enhanced further with splashes of yellow.
Both cars go on sale in April, with first deliveries due to commence in summer. As with other AMG 45s, we’ll only be getting the S version in the UK. Fancy a gawp in the metal? It’ll be on display at the Geneva Motor Show from next week.