Mercedes-Benz continues to explore bringing its prestige cachet down to smaller, more affordable vehicles with the GLA small SUV concept.
Introduced at the Shanghai motor show, the GLA demonstrates how an SUV could be spun off the Mercedes compact vehicle structure that underpins the A-Class, B-Class, and CLA cars. The GLA concept is about five inches shorter bumper to bumper and eight inches taller than the CLA sedan.
The GLA concept is powered by a 208-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission—just as in the CLA. Naturally, the GLA has all-wheel drive. It is easy to conceive of a follow-up concept dubbed GLA45 AMG boasting 355 horsepower, like the CLA45 AMG shown at the New York auto show.
True to concept traditions, this small SUV rides on giant 20-inch wheels and features numerous eye-candy details, such as headlights with built-in laser projectors that can shine images. Operated through the infotainment center, the projectors could show a movie or pictures from a smart phone, hard drive, or streamed off the Internet. (This reminds us of the Smart forstars concept from the Detroit auto show.)
In a new twist, the concept car has twin HD cameras that can record 3D video in the spirit of Go-Pro-type cameras that extreme sports enthusiasts use to capture their daredevil antics in all its shaky glory.
The most significant aspect of this show car is that Mercedes is actively exploring a small SUV that could slot below the GLK-Class, giving the brand another access point for younger, less-affluent (though still well-heeled) buyers. A similar strategy is being deployed by many other premium brands, as evidenced by the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Buick Encore. Consider this one to watch.