Mercedes Extends Its Luxury SUV Lineup

Mercedes is already one of the dominant players in the North American luxury SUV category. It is now set to enhance its position with the introduction of its new range of GLA luxury compact SUV crossovers, slated to go on sale in the United States this fall. The GLA is one of four new entry-level Mercedes vehicles that are based on a common platform, the other three being the CRA sedan, the A-Class hatchback and the B-Class MPV – the latter two not being available in the United States at present.

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The GLA was first unveiled in April as a concept car at the Shanghai Motor Show, where its striking looks caught the attention of the media. However, the look of the production model is significantly more refined. Changes were made to the rear end and front end before the design was finalized, giving the car a less aggressive look. Nonetheless, the car still has the distinctive styling that clearly identifies it as a compact Mercedes-Benz, including the characteristic grill and dynamic creases down the side. Mercedes is positioning the GLA as being a well-balanced vehicle that is well-suited to city driving, highways and country roads. It also claims that the vehicle is capable of going off-road, making it a versatile solution for drivers looking for excitement and practicality in a single package.

Most recently, Mercedes-Benz at the Detroit Auto Show with an AMG version of the GLA that is christened the GLA45 AMG. This is a powerful, aggressive-looking car with a 2 L turbocharged engine that develops 355 hp, taking the from 0 to 60 in an exhilarating 4.8 seconds. The model is designed to appeal to younger buyers, offering a streamlined cockpit interior that puts the driver in a commanding position as they look out over the road.

The first version of the GLA to launch in the United States will be the GLA250 4MATIC, which is expected to arrive in the fall. This is the four-wheel-drive version of the vehicle, with a 2.0 L four-cylinder engine that is transversely mounted. , the engine will develop 258 pound-feet of torque and 208 hp – significantly less than the AMG version, but still extremely respectable. The GLA250 is set to follow in early 2015, and is the front-wheel drive version – although most of the other specs appear to be the same. Both models feature a dual-clutch seven-speed automatic transmission, and come with collision prevention technology. Other GLA models have been announced outside of the United States, including the GLA220 CDI, but there is no indication at present whether Mercedes-Benz intends to introduce these models into the United States.

The GLA is intended to round Mercedes’ SUV lineup as the market develops. “1 in 5 new cars sold in the late ’90s and early ’00s was an SUV. That sounds like a lot of cars—until you find out that nearly 1 in 3 vehicles sold today is an SUV,” , commenting on a CNN Money report on SUV sales.

Mercedes-Benz has already built a strong following in the United States with its other SUV models. the brand’s most popular SUV is the M-Class, a luxury mid-size SUV that first launched in 1998. The base model is the ML350, which has a 3.5 L engine and lists at $47,790. There is also the 3.0 L diesel ML350 BlueTEC, the 4.6 L ML550, and the ML63 AMG. The company’s full-size SUV offering is the GL-Class – the base model is the GL350 BlueTEC, a diesel powered V6 that lists at $63,000. There is also a gasoline-powered 4.6 L GL450, a GL550 and a GL63 AMG variant.

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At the other end of the scale lies the compact GLK, including the diesel-powered GLK250, which lists at $38,980 and has a 2.1 L twin turbo engine. The next step up from this is the GLK350, which features a 3.5 L gasoline engine. Based on price, engine size and a number of other factors, it would appear that the new GLA is designed to nestle in under the GLK – making it the entry-level SUV offering for Mercedes-Benz.

Rounding out the Mercedes-Benz SUV portfolio is the G-Class, a true high-end off-road vehicle that has been produced by Mercedes-Benz for 35 years. This is in a different class to any other SUV that the company makes – and this fact is reflected in the list price of $114,200.

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