2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 SUV Review

If you have read my recent reviews, you would know that the Mercedes-AMG team has been doing a fantastic job turning ordinary Mercedes-Benz vehicles into high performance racing machines. 

So what happens when you put the company’s most powerful four-cylinder engine inside one of its smallest offerings and give it the full AMG treatment? You get the GLA 45! We have previously reviewed the company’s 2021 GLA 250. It is Mercedes-Benz’s smallest CUV, and proves to be a great improvement over its predecessor. Now the AMG team has finally worked their magic on the second generation GLA and delivers us two performance models: the 302hp GLA 35 and the 382hp GLA 45. The latter is the focus of this review.

Thanks to Mercedes-Benz Canada, we were loaned the new 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ for one week to test drive. Below is our unbiased review.

You wouldn’t be able to tell that the GLA 45 packs so much power under its hood by simply looking at it. Understated elegance is the name of the game when it comes to AMG vehicles. Compared to the already athletic looking GLA 250, the GLA 45 comes with the AMG-specific vertical slats radiator grille, a set of optional 21” alloy wheels with a matte black 10-spoke design, two round twin tailpipes, a prominent rear diffuser, an airflow break-away roof spoiler, and a few small AMG badges. Most of these upgrades are subtle, but the optional 21” alloy wheels, which will set you back $1750 CAD, do make the car look much more proportionate and planted. 

The GLA 45 makes a great modern-day sleeper. It is sleek, elegant, but doesn’t attract too much attention to itself; Until you step on the gas.


Two things set the interior of the GLA 45 apart from the standard GLA: seats and the steering wheel. The GLA 45 comes with standard upholstery in a combination of black ARTICO man-made leather and DINAMICA microfiber. The seams are highlighted by double topstitching in red for a sporty yet elegant look. The nicely contoured seats are on the firmer side. They also provide much better lateral support than the seats in the GLA 250. 

The steering wheel of the GLA 45 is wrapped with Nappa leather and features a flatten wheel rim. The grip area is covered with perforated leather for those sweaty palms when you are racing. The spokes and paddle shifters of the steering wheel are constructed by solid metals. They feel much more premium to the touch and instantly elevate the class of the interior. Our tester comes with the $2,000 AMG Driver’s Package. With the package, you also get AMG drive unit steering wheel buttons, which allows for AMG drive programs and other AMG functions to be directly controlled from the steering wheel. The only noticeable feature missing is a steering wheel heater. It is not even optional. I guess the engineers at AMG expect you to put on a pair of racing gloves when driving this car.

The rest of the cabin is mostly identical to the standard GLA class. It is well appointed and feature packed. Few highlights include the new MBUX infotainment system consisting of two side-by-side infotainment screens, turbine inspired metal air vents, AMG specific door sills, and the signature 64-color LED ambient lighting system. 

Despite its small footprint, the GLA 45 provides both front and rear passengers with ample legroom and headroom. The higher seating position, as well as the large panoramic sunroof also contribute to excellent outward visibility.


The Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system of the GLA 45 also features AMG-specific displays for performance related information and settings. 

The MBUX consists of a few different components. First, the two 10.25" displays that are positioned right next to each other to appear as one giant screen. The left screen sits right in front of the steering wheel and displays important vehicle information such as the speed, fuel economy, and engine rpm. The right screen, which is also a touchscreen, sits atop of the center console. It is multi-functional, and has an extensive, yet intuitive user interface. Android Auto and Apple Carplay are available with the $4300 Premium Package.

With the GLA 45, you can choose between the "Classic", "Sport" and "Supersport" AMG styles for the instrument cluster. Additional AMG specific displays such as gear speed indicator, Warm-up, Set-up, G-Meter, RACETIMER and Engine Data can be called up via the AMG menu.

The second part of the MBUX system are the small touchpads on the steering wheel. They are similar to the touch pads we used to see on older Blackberry phones. The left one controls the left display, and the right for the right, simple. I love the fact that you never have to take your hands off the steering wheel to access all functions of the infotainment system.

There is another way you can control the many functions of the car without taking your hands off the wheel. This is accomplished via the LINGUATRONIC voice assist. It is a natural language smart assistant that functions like the Apple Siri or Google Assist. Simply say "Hey, Mercedes", or press the voice command button, and you can ask the car to make a phone call, plot a new navigation route, close the roller sunshade, or change the interior light. The voice assistant can control basically anything that is not safety related. The system is smart enough to understand natural language commands like "I am cold" or "I am hungry", and responses by raising cabin temperature, or to find the closest restaurant.

The final part of the MBUX system is the track-pad that is located in the center console. There is a padded resting place for the wrist, which allows your fingers to scroll through the display menu effortlessly. 

One cool optional feature of the new infotainment system is the augmented reality style navigation system. When you are close to a junction, the center display would pull up the video feed from the front camera, and superimpose arrows to show you exactly where to turn. It is a very cool technology but does require you to take your eyes off the road to see. If you don’t want to take your eyes off the road while driving, the $1500 optional head-up display provides all of the same information directly onto the windshield in front of the driver. It is one of the larger, higher resolution HUDs I have seen, so I believe it is worth the premium. 

Safety and Driver Assistance

The GLA 45 comes with quite a few standard safety features:

  • Active Brake Assist
  • In-vehicle, one-touch calling features
  • Rearview camera
  • Crosswind Assist
  • Adaptive braking technology
  • Brake Assist (BAS)
  • Advanced Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Heated windshield washer system

Of course, just like most premium vehicles, the more advanced features are optional:

  • MULTIBEAM LED headlamps
  • Adaptive Highbeam Assist
  • Blind Spot Assist
  • Vehicle Exit Warning
  • Traffic Sign Assist
  • Active Parking Assist
  • Active Blind Spot Assist
  • Active Distance Assist
  • Active Lane Change Assist
  • 360 camera

The 2021 GLA has yet to be rated by NHTSA and IIHS at the time of writing.


The big highlight of the GLA 45 is the engine. With an output of 382 hp, the M139 2.0L engine is the most powerful turbocharged four-cylinder engine in the market. In true AMG fashion, each of the new engines is entirely hand built. Mercedes-AMG has a “One Man, One Engine” principle, and the signature of the specific engine builder can be seen on the engine cover. 

The engine uses a new twin-scroll turbocharger that has the shaft of the compressor mounted on anti-friction bearings.  The lower mechanical friction allows the turbocharger to reach its max speed of 169,000 rpm much quicker. Electrically controlled exhaust relief valve allows precise control of the charge pressure, which gives the system ability to optimize engine responsiveness, especially when accelerating from partial load. The peak torque of 354 lb-ft is set at 4700-5000 rpm. The particular torque profile is similar to that of a naturally aspirated engine. It is also one of the best sounding 4-cylinder engines I have the pleasure of test driving. Yes, there is an AMG Real Performance Sound system that can pipe the engine sound back into the cabin when activated, but the engineers at AMG use real recordings of the engine to do so. As a result, the exhaust noise doesn’t sound artificial at all. 

The 8-speed speedshift dual-clutch transmission is quick and responsive. The drivetrain is able to push the compact SUV from 0-100km/hr in just 4.4 seconds. That is properly quick for a sleeper. You can really feel the car come alive when pushed hard. The turbocharger spools up and the transmission shifts through gears in rapid fashion, along with a string of satisfying pops and crackles. However, at slower speeds, the transmission seems a little lost. Combined with the turbo lag, the car at times either hesitates or lurches forward unpredictably. It is as if the car is taunting you to step on that accelerator harder all the time. 

Once in full motion, the GLA 45 is a treat to drive. The suspension is stiff, but tolerable in Comfort mode. In Sport mode, body-roll practically disappears and you can really feel the weight of the steering wheel. The sporty nature of the car is further enhanced by the AMG Performance 4MATIC+ all-wheel drive system. It is not only able to send all the torque to the rear wheels, but can also selectively distribute the torque between the left and right rear wheels. This gives the car optimal traction in the most extreme conditions. 

To be honest, I don’t find many opportunities to realize this car’s full potential on roads. The power just seems endless, and the suspension handles windy mountain roads with ease. This is a car that belongs on tracks. 

Cargo Space & Storage

Despite its small footprint, the GLA 45 is still a very practical cuv. There is 435L of trunk space behind the 2nd row seats. With the 40/20/40 rear seats folded, the cargo capacity is increased to 1430L. The cargo floor is almost at the same level as the sill, making loading and unloading bulky items easier. Unfortunately there are no seat back release tabs in the trunk. To fold the rear seats down, you have to pull the release strings located in the second row cabin. Also, there is no spare tire under the trunk floor. A tire inflation kit is provided instead. Mesh pockets and an elastic band in the trunk allows smaller items to be kept in place while the car is in motion. 

In cabin storage options are plentiful. They include a decently sized glove compartment, a large storage bin in the center console, wireless charging pad for your smartphone, deep side door pockets, additional cup holders in the rear folding armrest, and mesh pockets behind the front seat backs. 


The 2021 GLA 45 is an amazingly fun car that packs insane power and showcases Mercedes-AMG’s engineering prowess in a compact package. However, few drivers will be able to take full advantage of the car. It is not particularly comfortable as a daily driver, and comes with a hefty price tag. For people who appreciate a sleeper and demands ultimate performance in a small yet practical package, there are few competitions. 

Test Vehicle

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 4MATIC+ SUV with:

  • Navigation Package $1,000
  • Technology Package $1,600
  • Premium Package $3,900.0
  • Night Package $1,000
  • AMG Driver’s Package $2,000
  • Cosmos Black $890
  • 21" AMG Cross-Spoke Wheels $1,750
  • Black Open-Pore Wood $250
  • 360 Camera $650


$73,540 CAD as tested $60,500 CAD base


Cosmos Black Metallic


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