The Mercedes-Benz Driving Experience (MBDE) is an all-round fun experience for anyone with the chance to get in – customers/ owners have special invitations on occasion, while members of the public can get in for a cool RM5,000. If it’s any consolation, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia does take very good care of participants over the one day event at the Sepang International Circuit: food, drink, track time and all. On track, the MBDE gives you the opportunity to get behind the wheel of almost every model in the brand’s local range of cars, and put their – and your – limits to test through a series of courses that surround defensive driving, experiencing Mercedes-Benz’s safety technology (ESP tests etc.), and more. Or just go really quickly around the circuit, if that’s what you like.
And while all that’s great fun for anyone, something we were particularly excited about trying was the GLA 45 AMG. In attendance specifically for a very limited amount of people to try out, we were fortunate enough to get behind the wheel of the SUV ourselves, for a second go at an AMG model around the Sepang circuit. Here are a few of our thoughts from the quick drive.
Driving the GLA 45 AMG: Before we get started, let us make clear that, yes, we do have a soft spot for this bad boy. Okay, maybe not so much a soft spot in the sentimental sense, but more of a hard on for what’s conceived as a compact family SUV with a ruddy 360hp and 450Nm of torque – wouldn’t you feel the same?
Having established that this would be the baby AMG for us (minus the ostentatious Edition 1 decals, and until the CLA 45 Shooting Brake gets here), we’ve got to say that the full might of its 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot is noticeably weighed down by the GLA’s added mass over the A-Class. Strangely, Affalterbach’s spec-sheets show only a 30kg difference between the two, with the A 45 weighing in at 1555kg at the kerb, and the GLA 45 at 1585kg. Off the line, the GLA 45 is said to be only 0.3 seconds slower than the benchmark A 45, and the difference is only slightly obvious from the get-go – I still recall the A 45’s launch from 0-100km/h as one of the most thrilling 4.6 seconds of the year. Regardless, the GLA 45’s Race Start sequence is also still as lengthy to activate, but something we’d do over and over again if we had the chance. *Watch the video attached to see it (we’re told the video’s speed isn’t edited, but we have our suspicions).
On track, the GLA 45 didn’t feel as sharp as we remember the A 45 AMG to be when we last had a go, but again, the added mass is most likely to be thanked here. You could also attribute this to the increase in ride height over the A 45. That said, both baby AMGs share identical AMG sport suspensions, which leave them behaving very similarly: firm, flat cornering for as long as you don’t overcook entering a corner with too much speed. It’s a bit harder to correct the AMG in a corner, than it would be to correct a Golf R. Speaking of which… The 4MATIC all-wheel drive worked hard to keep our errors of exuberance in check, but is unfortunately a fair bit behind the Volkswagen Golf R’s 4MOTION system. The 4MATIC has the ability to go from full FWD to a 50-50 torque split when needed, but the Golf R’s arrangement can go from a 100-0 torque split to a maximum 10-90 split, which nearly turns the mighty Golf into a full-on rear-wheel drive car. The R is fantastic, but that’s something for the hatchback A 45 AMG to sort out, not the “SUV” in review here.
To conclude, we’re quite sure there isn’t much anyone could fault the Mercedes-Benz GLA 45 AMG for. As a thing to drive daily, it’s a fantastic toy to have on the side, or to serve purely as a weekend driver: it still pushes the same fantastic tones from its AMG exhaust, the slingshot surge of power is well accounted for, and everything is pretty much just as fantastic as it is in its other two AMG siblings, the A and CLA 45 AMG. Best of all, you get a much more human/ cargo load-friendly cabin, and a much bigger boot which could easily fit a baby stroller or two – much needed in the real world, especially when RM378,888 is what’s asked for it. For now, we’ll leave you with this short teaser video which features yours truly driving a bunch of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, including the GLA 45 AMG – albeit clumsily – around the Sepang circuit. Do enjoy, until we can get a hold of the for ourselves for a more extensive review.