Affalterbach unveiled the angriest version of Mercedes' smallest SUV: the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. Packing nearly 400 horses in a bulbous, compact body raised high off the ground, Mercedes would rather us call it a "compact performance SUV," putting customers in mind of a German baby Range Rover—but let's be real, it's a lifted hot hatch with a spirit more in line with rally heroes like the Ford Focus RS and Subaru WRX STI rather than any of its bigger Mercedes brothers.
Form-wise, the GLA 45 is largely similar to the 35 save for that grocery cart-handle rear spoiler, two extra exhaust tips, and some more sinister-looking wheels. Under the hood, the GLA 45 is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter churning out 382 hp—the most amount of horses to ever come out of a production turbocharged four-cylinder and a whole 80 hp (i.e. over an entire kei car's worth) more than the comparatively weaksauce GLA 35. Connected to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Benz says the GLA 45's engine has received a new, faster reacting twin-scroll turbo, two-stage fuel injection, and smarter cooling, resulting in a performance hatch that can get from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds and hit an electronically limited top speed of 155.
Autobahn-jaunting pace is cool and all but it's not a real hot hatch if it can't do corners. To aid the 2021 GLA 45 in that department, Mercedes-AMG has given it all-wheel-drive with standard rear-axle torque vectoring. This can shuffle power between the left and right rear wheels using two electronically controlled multi-disc clutches dedicated to connecting each wheel to the driveshaft, apparently upping the GLA's game when it comes to bad weather traction and, of course, on-track handling.
The rest of the GLA 45's feature set is pretty standard as far as fast, German commuter cars are concerned. Stiffened suspension parts, active dampers, bigger brakes, variable-ratio steering, more chassis bracing, six different driving modes, and an AMG menu in the MBUX infotainment system are all accounted for here.
Given how popular performance crossovers are, we don't doubt the GLA 45 will meet every single one of its sales targets and then some. But with its tiny, rounded body perched up high and decked out in aggressive AMG hardware, will it be a hit? It almost looks like an A-Class dressed up as an AMG GT R for Halloween rather than an A-Class on game day, wearing its own cleats and shoulder pads. Hopefully, things are better behind the wheel.
Official pricing has yet to be announced but the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 will hit U.S. dealerships late this year.
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