|Diana T. Kurylko covers various U.S. import brands for Automotive News.|
Mercedes-Benz is poised to take aim at the growing compact crossover segment with the five-door GLA -- a vehicle company executives say will be packed with premium features but carry a competitive price tag.
Mercedes is unveiling a concept version of the GLA crossover at the Shanghai auto show. It's a wedge-shaped vehicle that doesn't have the boxy, masculine and in-your-face design of the larger Mercedes-Benz GLK.
That's good because the GLA is aimed at new buyers who probably don't have Mercedes-Benz on their shopping lists.
In other words, this is not a soccer mom's car but a vehicle that could compete with Subaru's Forester, the Volvo XC60, Acura RDX, Range Rover Evoque and BMW X1.
The GLA is the third vehicle built on the new front-wheel-drive platform that spawned the slippery CLA compact sedan that goes on sale in the United States in September and the five-door B-class electric due in early 2014.
The GLA goes on sale in September 2014 and will be priced higher than the CLA that starts at $30,825 including destination, Mercedes-Benz USA executives say. But it's not likely to go much above the BMW X1 -- the crossover that will likely be the GLA's prime competitor. Pricing on the X1 sDrive28i starts at $31,695, including destination.
The GLA concept has a 2.0-liter gasoline turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 208 hp -- the CLA has the same powerplant -- teamed with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. The concept has all-wheel drive; the base production crossover likely will have front-wheel drive.
The GLA will be slotted below the GLK -- the smallest Mercedes-Benz crossover currently sold. It has a length of 172.5 inches, is 77.8 inches wide and 62.1 inches tall. In comparison, the GLK has a length of 178 inches, is 74.3 inches wide and 66.9 inches tall.
"The Concept GLA marks a new approach for us in the compact SUV segment this is a sporty and more coupe-like evolution of this category of vehicle," said Joachim Schmidt, executive president of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz.
The GLA borrows some styling features from the larger Mercedes-Benz crossovers, including the front skid plate, a load sill guard and a twin-pipe exhaust system. The concept has an electronically powered tailgate.
The concept has toys for the auto show crowd. The front headlamps are each fitted with a laser-beam projector that lights up the road -- and everything else in front of it. Mercedes says the system can project pictures or videos onto a screen or any surface. Imagine trying to get that through NHTSA's approval process.
Mercedes-Benz isn't spelling out the list of luxury and safety features that will be standard and optional on the production car. Those details will have to wait until this fall's Frankfurt auto show where the production GLA will debut.