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Mercedes-Benz Concept GLA Rolls Out in Shanghai

4/18/2013
It's no secret that Mercedes-Benz is reaching down into mid-market price classes with smaller models, now that the new 2014 CLA-Class, priced at less than $30,000, is getting ready to roll into showrooms. At the 2013 Auto Shanghai (Shanghai Auto Show), Mercedes is expanding its efforts in this regard by debuting the Concept GLA, a preview of the upcoming GLA-Class, which shares its underlying platform with the new CLA-Class.

"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," commented Dr. Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president Mercedes-Benz Cars, Sales and Marketing. "The Concept GLA is a compact SUV that combines its sporting spirit with the all-[a]round qualities of a tough, leisure-time companion. 'Escape the everyday' is the message that this car conveys to its driver. It also makes clear the further potential of our compact vehicle architecture."

To get a sense of how big the Concept GLA is, picture a Honda CR-V then chop almost 6 inches of vehicle length, add almost 6 inches of vehicle width, and slice off about 2.5 inches of vehicle height. A turbocharged, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine generating 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque supplies the power, which is the same engine that Mercedes will use in the new CLA-Class sedan. A 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive are also tucked under the Concept GLA's bodywork.

Speaking of the luxury crossover's styling, Mercedes says it has made "clever use of SUV design cues" with the Concept GLA. As evidence, the automaker points to the power domes on the hood, a front skid plate, protective grilles for the side mirrors, a rear-loading sill guard, and a rear panel styled to resemble a skid plate. The Concept GLA also displays what Mercedes calls "soft cubes" for the grille, side sills, and exhaust outlet areas, design features intended to add definition to the styling.

As may be expected, the Concept GLA wears a large Mercedes star emblem embedded into its grille. Additional styling details include recessed door handles that deploy using a button, frameless side glass to emphasize the vehicle's coupe design elements, a large roof spoiler, and a power liftgate. The Concept GLA is painted Alubeam Silver, and rides on 20-inch aluminum wheels in a 5-spoke turbine design, wrapped in 255/45 tires.

Inside, leather and aluminum are the Concept GLA's dominant materials. Brown leather seats with canvas seat inserts, gray contrast leather trim, and 65 feet of hand-stitched seams decorate the cabin and its four individual sport seats. The free-floating, layered dashboard design is rendered in leather, matte aluminum, polished aluminum, and Plexiglas, and Mercedes designers make extensive use of backlighting and fiber-optic LED ambient lighting inside the Concept GLA. The dashboard air vents change color depending on the cabin temperature selected; at 71 degrees they are white, below that they turn blue, and above that they turn red. The cargo area is equipped with a spring-loaded 4-point luggage harness, similar to what is used to secure cargo aboard a helicopter.

While some of these interior details represent the fantasy of concept vehicles, the Concept GLA's laser-beam projector headlight technology could point toward reality in the future. Several automakers are working to perfect this type of exterior lighting, and the Concept GLA's headlights are designed to project information onto the road ahead, such as navigation directions, as an extension of a head-up display system.

The Concept GLA's laser projection headlights have a visible cooling system with rotating vents, and emit bright blue light. Park the SUV in front of a screen, or perhaps a white painted wall, and the headlights can project images and media through the COMAND system. Alternatively, the Concept GLA's removable HD cameras, housed at the front of the roof rails, can capture live images to be projected by the headlights. The dual cameras can be popped out and used for other purposes, if desired, such as mounting to a mountain biker's helmet to capture images of an epic ride.

Mercedes-Benz does not confirm that the Concept GLA will become the GLA-Class SUV, widely rumored to be headed for production, except to state that the vehicle debuting in Shanghai "makes clear the further potential of our compact vehicle architecture." If the Concept GLA becomes a reality, it would compete against models such as the Acura RDX, Audi Q3, BMW X1, Infiniti QX50, Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, and Porsche Macan.

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