Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S 4MATIC+ 2021 Review : Cleared Hot

By jaytee, 18 March 2022

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S 4MATIC+ 2021 Review : Cleared Hot

Singapore - What do you get when you take the smallest crossover in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, jam the most powerful production four-cylinder engine under the hood and throw in a complex all-wheel-drive system for good measure? 

Answer: The Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S 4MATIC+, a savagely powerful subcompact crossover that does 0-100km/h in 4.3 seconds. 

That’s a century sprint time would’ve rubbed shoulders with the supercar fraternity two decades ago. That’s just half a second slower than the gull-winged SLS AMG which, mind you, was a front-mid engined GT powered a 6.2-litre natural breathing V8.

Of course, that’s the easy way of dumbing down the car’s performance metrics to layman’s terms. However, trivialising the potency of the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S 4MATIC+ (boy, that’s a mouthful) to just some numbers on a specifications sheet would be doing it a huge injustice.

It isn’t a car that conforms to traditional moulds of what a performance SUV can, and should be. It wasn’t made to mingle within the upper echelons of the supercar club or Autobahn-bashing performance sedans. 

It exists, just because. We’ll have the boffins at AMG to thank for that. Also, it is the first Mercedes-AMG model I’ve had the pleasure of taking on a drive. And the key element of said AMG-ness is what lies beneath the Polar White bodywork. 

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+ 2021 - The Engine

Mercedes-AMG’s M139 turbo four-pot. A marvellous feat of engineering. Hand-built in Affalterbach (in this case, by one Tobias Schultes), singing to the tune of 421 horsepower and 500Nm of torque. All from a 1991cc block that weighs 161kg wet. One can’t help but wonder about the engineering wizardry that enabled two litres of displacement and forced induction to churn out a specific output of over 200 horsepower per litre. And to do it reliably.

Let’s not forget that this turbocharged inline-four is the most powerful series-production engine of its kind that’s ever been fitted to a production vehicle (One can only imagine the herculean task of AMG’s engineers when they got the debrief to design the engine).

Frankly, those are shocking numbers. It’s a potent engine that sees multiple applications in cars underpinned by the Mercedes-Benz MFA2 platform. Namely, the A45 hatch, the CLA45 four-door coupe and CLA45 S shooting brake. But the GLA45 S has a body shell that rides higher and sits wider than its AMG’d MFA2 brethren. So how does it look?

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+ 2021 - Exterior

Well, it looks… for lack of a better word, almost nondescript. Sure, the GLA-Class is a smart looking thing, echoing the styling cues on Merc’s larger SUVs. But it isn’t a car that makes heads turn on a swivel.

Panamericana grille and badging aside, the GLA45 S could easily slip under the radar just as easily as a ‘regular’ GLA-Class SUV. You’d really have to know your AMGs to tell that this is the car that reigns supreme within the GLA-Class family. 

Our test car came with polished 20-inch rims in AMG’s signature 5-twin-spoke design, wrapped in 255-section Continental rubber all around. The GLA45 S also gets a more aggressive brake kit with red callipers and drilled discs. The rear end sees the addition of a moderately aggressive diffuser with rounded tailpipes, unlike the square tips we’ve seen on some AMG models. And that’s your lot for the exterior.

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+ 2021 - Interior

The interior sees more sporty embellishments that hint at the car’s performance DNA. AMG performance bucket-style seats, illuminated AMG sill plates, a leather/Alcantara wrapped steering wheel with an AMG Dynamic Select dial, solid metal shift paddles and a cluster of performance-centric buttons on the centre console (ESC, AMG Ride Control, active exhaust).

So in the cabin, the GLA45 S ticks the right boxes for a sporty driving experience. Conversely, it strikes out several attributes in the comfort department.

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+ 2021 - The Drive

Understandably, it rides harsher than its lesser non-AMG counterparts. As the driver, you’d be thankful for the stiff gas-pressure shock absorbers and wider track width that enable the car to corner harder, faster and flatter than its bulk would suggest possible.

Your passengers on the other hand, are unlikely to appreciate it. I’ve been told by the rear occupants that the seatbelts have a tendency to reel them in while I was pinning the throttle. However, even they fell victim to the enthralling surge of torque produced by the 2.0-litre engine

Mercedes-Benz GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+ 2021 - The Performance

According to Mercedes, the engine is designed to behave akin to a naturally aspirated engine. To some extent, they’ve got it down to a T. The engine’s 500Nm peak torque only happens after you get past 5000rpm, but the surge to 400Nm happens in the lower end of the rev range at just about 3000rpm.

Turbo lag feels almost non-existent thanks to the engine’s rev-happy nature and the closely spaced gear ratios of the 8-speed AMG Speedshift DCT. That pace, and the barrage of pops and crackles from the exhaust only add to the theatrics. Also, it does bring you a step closer to a run-in with the powers that be. 

Seriously, it’s hard to stay conspicuous in this car when you’re pelting down a straight with staccato gunfire noises belting from the quad exhaust.

Granted, fuel economy takes a massive dip when driven in such a manner. Its on-paper combined efficiency figure hovers between 9.2 to 9.3 litres per 100km. In practice, and given the intoxicating nature of the car, you’d be looking at a much higher fuel consumption figure than that. Think double digits… and add maybe another 2l/100km to that number in your head. 

Even with a feather-light foot, the best I averaged on a short jaunt was 12.4l/100km. Taking manual control over the 8-speed DCT allows me access to all gears. Except 8th. And that doesn’t even engage until I’m travelling at highway speeds. So the entire time I’m trying to get my average fuel economy down to single-digit figures by engaging overdrive, the engine stays resolutely above 2000rpm.

But if you’d just bought a GLA45 S, chances are you’ll be more than willing to accept that compromise. You don’t get this car, or the A45 or the CLA45 (in whichever body style) for that matter, to hypermile it across the Pan Island Expressway. 

You get the Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S because it’s bloody riotous fun to drive, makes all the right moves with understated looks that belie the performance lurking beneath the surface. As an added bonus, it sounds like the automotive equivalent of a ground attack aircraft performing a strafing run. It’s utterly bonkers, but that therein lies the evocative charm of it.


Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S AMG 4MATIC+

Engine 1991cc, inline4, turbocharged
Power/rpm 421hp/6750rpm
Torque/rpm 500Nm/5000-5250rpm
Transmission 8spd AMG SpeedShift DCT dual-clutch
0-100km/h 4.3secs
Top Speed 250km/h
Kerbweight 1765kg
Fuel Consumption 9.2-9.3l/100km
CO2 209-211g/km

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