Tuesday 20 February 2018

Mercedes step up 'price war' as it lowers cost of revised GLA - despite €6,000 more equipment

First drive in Budapest: Mercedes GLA

Sports utility: Mercedes GLA
Sports utility: Mercedes GLA

John Galvin

One of the more dramatic market inventions of the year so far has been the decision by Mercedes to knock prices to stay competitive and garner additional sales.

Now they are showing real intent again by lowering the price of their small GLA sports utility - even though it has an additional €6,000 worth of standard spec.

With the price strategy in place and SUV sales going from strength to strength, little wonder they are hoping to take an increasing share of the market with this facelifted version of their small crossover.

The updated version comes with a starting price of €34,759 for the 180d.

That's lower than the current price - and yes - is despite extra standard equipment worth €6,000.

I recently travelled to Budapest to try out the facelifted motor.

And as a real added bonus, we got the opportunity to try AMG versions on the Hungaroring, the track which has hosted Grands Prix since 1986.

We started with one of the diesel models, the 200d, and found it to be a pleasant drive on both motorways and country roads

To be honest, you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and the current model (except for price I suppose).

There are small changes to the exterior and some upgraded materials but the interior is all but identical.

It scores with great visibility, aided by a high-driving position and good-quality materials.

When the car arrives in Ireland - expect it in two to three weeks - it will come with a lot of extra standard features.

These will include heated front seats, satellite navigation preparation, LED lights, Thermotronic air conditioning, remote online connectivity and high-beam assist.

Arriving at the Hungaroring, I was one of the first on the track in an AMG-engined GLA. In case you didn't know, all AMG engines are hand-built by one person and then they are signed by the engine builder on completion.

This 2-litre is, they claim, the most powerful four-cylinder engine in series production and can summon a hefty 380bhp. We were paced by professional drivers in much more powerful AMG SLS models but even so, the car was more impressive than I expected it would be on the track.

It seems crazy to fit such a powerful engine into a high-sided SUV but even on the narrow and twisty Hungaroring, the GLA felt stable and under control at all times.

Helped by standard four-wheel-drive, the back end remained firmly planted, even using race mode, which allows the traction control system a little leeway.

And so, after trying the high performance model, it was time to take the GLA onto the rough stuff.

Four-wheel-drive is optional but ticking this box turns it into a surprisingly capable off-roader.

Negotiating the off-road circuit, there were times when one wheel was well off the ground but the car powered through easily.

Particularly impressive was a kind of off-road cruise control that kept the car at a constant walking pace, even negotiating steep downhill inclines.

I also had the chance to try the B-Class 250e electric model with its lithium ion battery and 132kw motor. Like all electric cars, torque is developed from a standstill - in this case 340Nm.

While initial acceleration was impressive, performance quickly fell off as speed built. It also felt more cumbersome than the standard car, with the extra weight of the batteries making themselves felt.

A full charge at the start of the test drive showed a range of 200km but this dropped away alarmingly rapidly after some spirited motorway driving.

But I have to come back to the GLA. While it may just be a mid-life refresh, the extra standard equipment now on board, coupled with the drop in price, should be enough to keep it competitive for the next while in this hotly-contested sector of the market.

Indo Motoring

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