Although still clearly cloaked in show car garb - big wheels and a flashy interior - the GLA Concept that Mercedes-Benz is presenting at the Shanghai Motor Show is just about ready for production.
Set to slot in below the GLK in Mercedes' lineup, the GLA will face off against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. Only the BMW is currently sold in the U.S., but it has proven successful enough that the GLA and Q3 are almost certain to follow. This move would also give Mercedes the space to move its GLK a bit upmarket to better compete against the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Lexus RX here.
Powered by an unimpressive on paper 208-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine (that's just 7 ponies more than the 1.8-liter that powers the C250), the GLA features the brand's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It's a pint-size 'ute, measuring in at just 172.5 inches from head to toe, although the show car's flared fenders give it a hefty 77.8 inch width. It's assumed that the GLA is based on the same architecture that underpins Mercedes' subcompact A-Class range.
Looking not unlike the Audi Q3, the GLA features Mercedes' prominent grille and side strakes. Notably, it also includes high-tech laser-beam headlamps. Not only are they good for providing driving light, Mercedes says that they can be configured to project a photo or video to make any wall a drive-in movie theater. In addition, the roof-mounted cameras can be removed and snapped onto a bicycle helmet.
Mercedes says that the laser-beam projectors could preview future technology that directs arrow-shaped light beams onto the road as part of the vehicle's navigation system to allow drivers to literally follow a projected path.
Inside, the GLA's saddle-swathed interior isn't unlike that seen in the production A-Class and CLA four-door. Extensive use of plexiglas has been made for the COMAND infotainment system's control knobs. Uniquely, LED lights mounted behind the air vents light up based on the selected air temperature - white for 71 degrees, blue for cooler and red for warmer.
A production GLA isn't far behind - it could appear as soon as the Frankfurt Motor Show this fall. Stay tuned.
Live images by Randy Chen.
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