Luxury doesn’t have to be big, and Mercedes-Benz is emphasizing this more than ever with its line of new cars like the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA. It’s taking that idea one step further with its GLA Concept, debuting at this month’s Shanghai Motor Show.
At 172.5 inches long, it’s nearly 10 inches shorter than the CLA, riding on relatively massive 20-inch wheels. It shares the CLA’s turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 208 horsepower, sending power to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. For perspective against a vehicle that’s already on sale, it’s 4-in. longer than the 2013 Buick Encore, another subcompact luxury crossover in the burgeoning segment.
Mercedes-Benz calls the GLA a concept, but we’ve seen versions testing in camouflage, and we know it’s headed to production. That said, some of the features on the Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept are a bit too novel to make it to the showroom just yet. Take its laser-beam headlights, for instance. Not only can they work as conventional headlights, but they can also be used to project pictures or videos onto a screen, making for a cozy night at your own drive-in theater. Mercedes-Benz also says they can project directions onto the road, using the navigation system, to signal to pedestrians what direction the car is turning.
Emitting a shimmering blue light, the Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept also has a “coming home” function that pulsates the lights as it waits for the driver to come back and take it home.
The Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept has lights in both the front and rear of its roof rails for heightened visibility, and its interior has more than 65 feet of stitching to hold its raw-edged leather together. With four seats, a layered dashboard made of leather, matte and polished aluminum, and plexiglass, and fiber optic ambient lighting, we’re pretty sure you’re not going to see much of it in the production version. At least you have a basic idea of what the cabin will look like in terms of its basic shape and layout; the COMAND system and stereo controls look production-ready.
Other unique details include the Mercedes-Benz GLA’s powerdome hood, skid plates, and flared fenders with a dropping line that tapers towards the rear of the GLA to give it as butch of a look as a luxury softroader can get. Like the CLA, the GLA has coupe-like frameless side windows, and it has flush door handles that pop out like a Tesla Model S’s. We’re pretty sure those won’t make it to production in a vehicle that will likely cost around $30,000, but Mercedes may surprise us.
Eye-catching to say the least, the Mercedes-Benz GLA Concept will enter production to due battle with the BMW X1, Mini Countryman, overseas Audi Q3, Buick Encore, and other small luxury crossovers that offer amenities of a bigger vehicle with a footprint small enough for urban areas. Whether or not you think luxury vehicles should be bigger or more powerful is irrelevant. The game is changing, and Mercedes-Benz is changing with it.