Drive first found itself in disgrace with the updated Mercedes PR service last spring after the publication of remote sales, where the efforts of Mercedes-Benz did not receive the desired coverage. Relations somehow normalized, but their strength was enough for two of my articles. At first, the GLE hatchback hesitantly opposed the BMW X6. Then the updated “eshka”, which broke down during the test drive, received a cool review.
We have never let down such a strong partner as Daimler before, with the confidence that constructive analysis of shortcomings only helps him to improve products. But something went wrong in the traditional “producer – critic” system, and this time the press park was simply closed for me. Remind me which brand benefited from such a measure?
Meanwhile, readers turn to us with pragmatic questions that need to be answered even with the help of representation, even without. For example, what should a person choose who purposefully came for a compact crossover with a three-beam star? Yes, there are notable players in the segment. But there are always stubborn people who are not attracted by Audi, BMW, or even Volvo. Who needs Mercedes by all means. Ze best, as they say, or by.
But due to the fragmentation of the model line, it is no longer enough to decide on the brand. Which Mercedes exactly? The Russian assortment includes two classmates at once: the GLA hatchback and the GLB station wagon. The same units (see “Equipment”) are packed differently. First of all, the client chooses the design language. And also – the concept: GLA is more individualistic, GLB favors passenger transportation. With the support of a friendly dealer, we have the opportunity to understand other features.
It’s easier to buy a GLA, the cars are in stock. But the Drive has so far only intersected with GLB, and you need to wait for it. Here we have a duel of all-wheel drive modifications 250 4matic with a two-liter turbo engine with a capacity of 224 hp and an eight-speed preselective “robot”. However, the GLB 250 sold so poorly that since January this version has been withdrawn from the market. But it will serve the purposes of comparison perfectly. They take mostly diesel. In turn, the GLA in Russia is offered only with gasoline engines, and the 250 4matic is almost as popular as the base 163-horsepower “two hundred”.
All other things being equal, the GLB should be 330 thousand rubles more expensive, but our GLA Sport is better equipped, so the price difference is almost leveled. Any of the test participants will cost four million rubles and a little. In theory, the GLB can be seven-seater, but dealers rarely order the third row for 133 thousand rubles. Therefore, the main practical advantages of the station wagon can be considered the space on the rear sofa with longitudinal adjustment and a more spacious trunk. However, its interior is not wider, so the three in the back are just as cramped in the shoulders.
Whichever body option you choose, the impressions behind the wheel are similar, starting with the same landing. Finally, the seats in Mercedes have become more hospitable. Flat chairs are a thing of the past. The stiffness of the filler is still high, but the load is distributed noticeably better. Even GLB, without any sport in the name, provides tangible lateral support for both the torso and hips. In GLA, the chair is less malleable and the rollers at the level of the lower back are more developed. In addition, it is covered with a friction fleecy fabric imitating suede.
In my opinion, the interiors could be more different. However, judging by the number of budget solutions, Mercedes cannot afford variability. It is curious that the main contribution to the perceived quality is made by elements unified with older models. These are the steering wheel, climate control units, multimedia system, as well as ventilation deflectors. The original parts for this family are made mainly of hard plastic and are unassuming.
The scourge of Mercedes is the driver’s door that does not close the first time. We haven’t had such a thing in tests for a long time that it slammed shut easily. Here, too, you have to bludgeon in both crossovers. But developed seals already require high effort. The GLA interior is packed more tightly with a door slam: there is a little better protection from external noise. The internal volume of the station wagon is larger, and the insulation effect no longer occurs.
If the GLB engine almost does not attract attention to itself, then the resonant characteristics of the GLA body and the two-liter turbocharger seem to be in worse agreement. The motor can be heard more clearly. At idle, it vibrates slightly and tinkles. It buzzes under load. At low revs and accelerations from a low speed, a grain appears in the voice: either the release rattles, or the rumble of the fuel equipment makes itself felt.
Even with me, the GLA weighs 1600 kg, so 224 forces is a decent charge. A refueled car with two passengers is ready to gain 100 km /h in seven seconds (more precisely, in 7.1) according to the Reislogic. Getting closer to the stated 6.7 s is hindered by the hitch of the “robot” when starting to the floor. The second gear does not reach 70 km/ h, Mercedes is gaining a hundred on the third, aggressively switching between clutches with jerks. Acceleration is assertive, although the sound is inexpressive.
In “Comfort”, the preselective simulates an “automaton”, changing the steps smoothly, slowly, with a clear break in the power flow. From the point of view of the convenience of traction control, everything is not bad, but these soft pauses in anticipation of boost are not good. Like any box of this type, the Mercedes “robot” stumbles if you want to accelerate immediately after the gas is reset.
The sports regime also encourages measured movement rather than particularly dynamic. The inclusion of a kickdown is accompanied by a transmission misfire. But the “robot” most often performs the reset of one or two gears carefully under the whistle of the accelerating turbine. The engine is inflated to two and a half to three thousand, but the response to the fuel supply is smoothed out to four. Only closer to five it becomes more or less linear, but no one drives like that – it’s noisy.
The station wagon is at least 70 kg heavier, but it is also quite dynamic. He thinks longer at the start and loses a couple of tenths to the hatchback with a set of 100 km/h. Reactions to gas are milder, and the boost switches are less noticeable. It seems that the “robot” control program is prescribed differently.
If the programmable Individual mode in GLA allows honest manual control of the box, GLB does not have it. Steering triggers-that is, but the car always switches up independently, and not only from the first to the second. And it does it somewhere at six thousand, without bringing the motor to the limit. And the kickdown works freely…
I liked the urban setting of the brakes. The pedal is short-stroke, the drive is moderately sensitive. Slowing down from a high speed raises questions not about efficiency, but about exchange rate stability. Yawing under the influence of the poprechny profile is more sinned by the short-base GLA.
Both cars are surprisingly well controlled in normal modes. They respond vividly to the change of course, logically lurch and do not freak out on the arc, developing a serious move. The most driverly is expected to be the GLA Sport with a “shorter” steering wheel and 19-inch Continental Premium Contact 6 SSR tires. The steering wheel is loaded qualitatively in the zero position, as the deviation logically increases the effort. It is always relatively high. But this heaviness is unobtrusive and seems superfluous only in parking modes, especially with fast rotations.
Only the most important information is allowed to your palms. The rim is almost cleared of high-frequency itching and disturbances on large potholes. The bumps reach only from those bumps that fall under a heavily loaded wheel – as a signal of the danger of losing the trajectory. There is no synthetics in the reactive action, which was noted, for example, during the GLE Coupe test. By the naturalness of the feedback, the GLA electric amplifier resembles successful Volkswagen developments. For example, the “sixth” Golf GTI.
The fly in the ointment is the anti-driver operation of the non-switchable stabilization system during an emergency detour of an obstacle. The roll provokes early activation of the ESP: a shock anti-roll impulse follows on the outer front wheel. All further maneuver takes place precisely under the dictation of electronics, there is no question of control over the car. Instead of a quick return to its lane, Mercedes plows on the turned-out wheels, trying to compensate for the nods with the brakes. The frequency of braking interventions does not suit the suspension settings — a diagonal swing develops.
GLB behaves in a similar way, only the rolls are more intense there, and the collar is stricter. But the unambiguous behavior at the end of the rearrangement. In pre-limit modes, GLB is good: reliable, with a spark. Thanks to the high profile of the Bridgestone Alenza 001 235/55 R18, it breaks longer, slides later, eventually providing the station wagon with a larger margin of transverse grip. However, the steering wheel itself is simpler to the touch, and the drive no longer evokes associations with a hot hatch. Zero is sub-washed. The electric booster is not bad, and that’s all.
On the steering wheel, a small tremor from the microprofile and vibration of unsprung masses is cut in places. I would put it down to a more malleable body compared to a hatchback. Taking into account the increased wheelbase, the settings are more daily and are designed for a less experienced person in driving, who is not very interested in enjoying driving. This Mercedes is more about moving in space. Hence the slight advantage in driving comfort.
Actually, both crossovers should be called tough. Moving along a road with difficult terrain and a large number of patches, they frankly suffer from Run Flat suspensions and tires clamped in the name of controllability. GLA passengers have a harder time. The hatchback does not miss a stitch, and the hum of low-profile wheels by 70 km/h squeezes out all other noises from the spectrum, including aerodynamic ones. At the same time, the ride density is sportier due to the smaller amplitude of body movements and greater concentration on bumps.