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MERCEDES BENZ OFFERS UP "HOT HATCH" PERFORMANCE WITH GLA35 AMG

REVIEW: RICK WALKER


What you are looking at here is entry-level AMG performance from Mercedes-Benz. This is the GLA 35 AMG.


For those who may not know, AMG is the performance arm of Mercedes-Benz. The AMG badge is normally reserved for Mercedes-Benz vehicles that have high output hand built engines, signed by the master engine builders who assemble the motors. However the Mercedes-Benz marketing department has started to apply the AMG badge to a wider range of vehicles like the GLA35-AMG.



In this case there is no signature on the motor, but the engine is exactly where the Mercedes-Benz team started when they began the process of turning this small SUV into a "hot hatch". The regular GLA gets a 221-horsepower four cylinder powerplant. The AMG version gets a big upgrade with a turbocharged four cylinder that produces 302 horsepower, and 295 lb-ft of torque. It's connected to an eight-speed dual clutch transmission, and it comes with the 4matic variable all-wheel-drive system. Top speed is rated at 155-mph, and that is electronically limited. We obviously did not drive it that fast so we will need to take Mercedes-Benz at their word.

You also get chassis upgrades including AMG springs and shocks. To reduce unsprung weight aluminum lower control arms are used on the front strut suspension. At higher speeds you may notice some understeer in sharp corners, but overall it handles nicely. You also get a four link rear axle, and there is an optional AMG adaptive damping system that allows the driver to pick from three different suspension contol options.


Up front the brakes get 13.8-inch rotors and four-piston calipers. On the back you will find beefy 13.0-inch rotors and single-piston calipers. The brake rotors are internally ventilated, and the calipers are silver, with black AMG lettering to reinforce the AMG prestige that comes with this vehicle. The result is stopping power that is better than high powered competitors from brands like Porsche and BMW. Put simply, the brakes are really good, and the ABS system is smooth.




The GLA 35 is being marketed as a performance oriented version of the redesigned 2021 GLA 250 and 250 4Matic crossover. The new GLA is a full 3.6 inches taller than the first generation GLA, and overall it is slightly larger.



The styling of the new GLA is more conservative than the previous model. The GLA35 AMG sits in the middle of the a variety of Mercedes Benz products, and competes for attention and buyers. It will appeal to automotive consumers who are looking for a combination of practical motoring, peformance, and a dash of prestige. The GLA35 AMG, checks all of those boxes in a package that provides affordable entry into the world of AMG performance.



Steering is electric power assist, and can be set for comfort or sport. The GLA35 AMG also comes with an array of driver assist features. The lane-keep assist is among the best we have used. In fact the lane keep ssist is so good it kept the vehicle perfectly centrered in the lane when going through bends on the highway without the need to touch the steering wheel at all. We DO NOT RECOMMEND that you take your hands off the steering wheel when on the highway, but the point is the lane keep assist feature is exceptional. It is not fully autonomous but it is very very accurate.


The GLA34 AMG is really an SUV with a split personality. On the one hand, in most of the driving modes it's a practical daily SUV perfect for your regular commute to work or to go get groceries. However, flip the switch and select sport plus mode and the GLA35 AGM becomes a different beast. In sport plus mode you really feel the power. A lot of vehicles have different driving modes but usually the differences are subtle. That is not the case with the GLA35 AMG. Sport plus mode really does turn this compact SUV into a "hot hatch" with sports car like characteristics, that make it truly fun to drive. The transmission gets some of the credit for this vehicle's athletic disposition. When you let the transmission do the shifting for you, you get positive, snappy, and well placed.gear changes. If you want full control, you always have the paddle shifters.

The GLA34 AMG is built on a good solid platform. While the chassis is not the most rigid in its class it is still among the best. A rigid chassis is essential for good handling, and a rattle and squeak free vehicle.



With any AMG vehicle you are going to get a performance oriented suspension and that means a stiffer ride. In the case of the GLA35 AMG, the ride is very stiff. In fact for some people it may be too harsh. It's fun to drive but potholes, and road bumps could become annoying over time for people who prefer a softer riding vehicle.


Exterior styling looks aggressive. The front grille is bold and prounced and was inspired by the 1952 Mercedes-Benz SL-race car. Overall the body lines flow nicely.

Standard wheels are 19-inch five spoke alloys, and they will provide a smoother ride than the optional 21-inch wheels.



The interior is well appointed and finely crafted which is exactly what you would expect from Mercedes-Benz. The cabin is not as quiet as high level Mercedes-Benz products but it's still more than adequate and comparable to competing vehicles. It's also to be expected in a peformance oriented compact SUV,


You get a Mercedes-Benz touch pad mounted in the centre console to control the infotainment system and it works well, but the voice command system is even better and more convenient. Just say "hey Mercedes" and the voice recognition system is ready to listen and take commands. Just tell the system what radio station you want and the sytem will tune it in for you.


Our real world experience reveal a suprising amount of cargo space which is advertised at 19-cubic feet. The entire cabin is a pleasant spacious surprise really, even in the back seat where passengers will find enough leg and headroom to remain comfortable.