Test Drives

Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG Review: Gila Monster

GRENADA, Spain –

What the heck is a Gila Monster?

There are only two venomous lizards in the world, one of which is the Gila Monster. It roams the deserts of North America with its clawed, grippy feet, its entire body a bright orange and black colour scheme to advertise its venomous nature.

And this has what to do with the car shown?
The hotted-up version of the compact SUV, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class we tested recently, the GLA 45 AMG is similarly visually spectacular, small in stature but possessed of potent weaponry. But unlike the real-life Gila, the GLA 45 AMG is ridiculously fast, and rather loud too. Here, a more local translation of the word is appropriate, since ‘gila’ also means ‘crazy’ in Bahasa Melayu.

What’s it packing?

The small SUV has the world’s most powerful turbocharged inline four engine under its hood – a 360bhp whopper that’s, proportionally, more powerful than a Ferrari 458’s engine. Like the closely related CLA 45 AMG, it also has all-wheel drive to maximise grip, and bludgeons the century sprint in less than five seconds.

This one looks particularly ferocious.

The car shown below is the Edition 1 model, a special edition made only in the first year of production. It gains special paint and graphics, a rear wing, front splitter and aero bits, special, massive 20-inch black wheels with red trim and hubs, plus a whole haul of other goodies.

Does it drive like it looks?

The GLA 45 is naturally faster, louder, more everything-er than the standard car. What drivers will notice is in their hands. Not basketball-sized cojones of bronze, since the GLA 45’s quite easy to drive, but the grippy microfiber-upholstered steering wheel, the powder-coated aluminium shift paddles, and the hugely increased positive feeling from the helm.

Just like in the A 45 and CLA 45, the engine grunts, pops, snarls and crackles its way into your heart, while ripping through the gearshifts with a huge snort. You will find yourself accelerating, braking and changing gear simply for the heck of it. 

How about handling?

It eats bends similar to the A 45, with a bit of roll before the chassis settles and the car gets on with the business of going really quickly. We tested the GLA 45 on everything from the sweeping bends of the autovia to the classic Spanish mountain B-roads and the GLA demolished it all with a display of superior speed, confidence and high-performance fun. It’s ridiculously planted for such a small vehicle, so much so that it remains unperturbed while cornering far into triple digits.

Are there any buts?

It being an AMG, if you’re not careful you could look into your back pocket and see a wisp of smoke where your driver’s licence used to be. But it’s equally likely almost all other hot hatches, or cars in this league, will be behind you as well.

If there is a bit of poison in the well, it’s that the A 45 AMG is equally bad (in a good way) but likely to be cheaper than the GLA 45. So those choosing the GLA will do so because, just like in the regular GLA, they like how it looks.

There’s also the question of the other venomous lizard in the world – the Beaded Dragon. In car terms, the GLA 45’s only direct rival, the Audi RS Q3. But in a Singaporean context, it’s functionally extinct, since it isn’t sold here.

Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG Edition 1
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, turbocharged, inline 4
Power 360bhp at 6000rpm
Torque 450Nm at 2,200-5,000rpm
Gearbox 7-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 4.8 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.5L/100km
CO2 175g/km
Price $TBA
Availability June 2014



about the author

Derryn Wong
CarBuyer's chief editor has a keen interest in all things mechanical, technological, animal and mineral. He's particularly fascinated by eco-cars and cars which make no logical sense. An avid motorcyclist and photographer, he also enjoys cats. Follow him on Instagram @werryndong