2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 Returns as Powerful Pint-Sized SUV

Kyle Patrick
by Kyle Patrick

It’s back: Mercedes-Benz’ smallest AMG-tuned crossover, the GLA45, enters its second generation for 2021 with even more power.

Like any model coming out of Affalterbach, the star of the show here is the engine. It’s the same M139 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder found in the A45 and CLA45. Compared to the mild 35 variants of all three vehicles — if 302 hp is mild — the M139 is spun around in the engine bay, with its turbocharger and exhaust manifold sandwiched between the engine and the passenger compartment. This change makes for shorter air ducts for both intake and exhaust, letting the engine breathe better. It also allows for a more aerodynamic nose.

The result is 382 hp and 354 lb-ft, making the M139 the most powerful turbocharged production four-cylinder. It’s even more fiery over in Europe, where a GLA45 S pumps out 415 hp. Unfortunately, no 45 S models are slated to arrive on this side of the Atlantic. No matter: even with “just” 382 hp, it will rip 4.3-second 0-62 mph runs and headbutt its 155 mph limiter in short order.

All that power heads through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission on its way to all four wheels. The performance-oriented 4MATIC+ system comes with AMG Torque Control. The system can direct power between the front and rear axles depending on grip, but can also split it between either rear wheel. The all-wheel drive system also adapts based on the GLA45’s selected drive mode. In “Basic” and Advanced” it operates in “Comfort” mode; the “Pro” and “Master” settings switch it to the more agile “Sport” mode.

Duality is a common theme with the GLA45, with Mercedes promising both improved comfort and performance. Helping that pursuit is an adaptive damping system. It adjust damping forces within milliseconds, with three different suspension modes. There’s also a variable-ratio steering rack and the AMG Dynamic Select system, which allows drivers to tailor things like throttle response and shift times.

Bringing everything to a stop are 13.8-inch brake discs up front, clamped by four-piston calipers. Rear discs are 13.0-inch items with single-piston calipers. An optional AMG Dynamics Plus package swaps in six-piston calipers up front, paired with larger 14.2-inch discs.

The GLA45 gets the usual AMG treatment outside, with a unique grille and flared wheel arches. 19-inch, 10-spoke wheels are standard, with huge 21-inch alloys optional for the full Hot Wheels look. A big rear wing is once again out back.

Thanks to the evolution of Merc’s crossover designs since the first GLA, this new one looks more like the rest of its high-riding kin. There’s still a hint of hatch-on-stilts, though.

Inside there are the requisite carbon fiber pieces and dashes of bright yellow. Standard seating trim is faux-leather and microfibre; four leather choices are optional. Drivers looking for an extra dose of sport can opt for a flat-bottomed wheel complete with additional drive mode buttons. The 45 uses the latest evolution of the MBUX infotainment system, just like the rest of the GLA line. It now includes AMG Track Pace, which Merc refers to as a “virtual race engineer”. It can record acceleration or even entire lap times. Well-known tracks are already included in its data banks, and users can also create their own.

The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA45 will touch down later this year. When it does, we expect it to start around $55,000.

Kyle Patrick
Kyle Patrick

Kyle began his automotive obsession before he even started school, courtesy of a remote control Porsche and various LEGO sets. He later studied advertising and graphic design at Humber College, which led him to writing about cars (both real and digital). He is now a proud member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), where he was the Journalist of the Year runner-up for 2021.

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