This Stuttgart brand's GLA model offers sophisticated plug-in tech. Jonathan Crouch takes a look...
Ten Second Review
For Mercedes GLA buyers, EQ Power means the addition of the plug-in hybrid technology that features in this clever GLA 250e variant. It can travel up to 38 WLTP-rated miles on a single charge that can be completed from 10-100% in just an hour and 45 minutes from a 7.4kW garage wallbox. And the 1.33-litre petrol engine and 75kW electric motor produce a sprightly 218hp total output, yet a super-low 38g/km CO2 reading. In short, this is a car that's eco-conscious as well as fashion-conscious. If you can afford it, this Mercedes is easy to like.
The Mercedes EQ Power brand covers almost every kind of electrification, from mild hybrids and full-EVs in the company's larger models to the space-efficient plug-in hybrid powertrain that fits into this maker's more compact cars. It's that latter PHEV tech we're looking at here, specifically as applied to the Stuttgart manufacturer's smallest SUV, the GLA.
The GLA 250e shares the same plug-in powertrain as the A-Class, the B-Class and the CLA, a set-up that right now just happens to set the segment standard. But can it justify a significant price premium over the conventional petrol and diesel versions of this GLA? Let's take a look.
Before the advent of plug-in technology, the idea of a humble 1,332cc petrol engine somehow putting out as much as 218hp would have been quite startling but that's the system output of the GLA 250e. That figure combines the 150hp of this model's 1.33-litre powerplant with a 75kW electric motor linked to a 15.6kWh lithium-ion battery. These power sources collectively generate a pretty potent system pulling power figure of 450Nm. So, not surprisingly, performance is sprightly, 62mph dispatched in just 7.1s en route to 136mph. You have to have front wheel drive and an 8-speed 8G-DCT dual clutch auto transmission. Of most interest to a potential PHEV buyer though, will be this model's projected WLTP all-electric driving range - up to 38 miles. Obviously, you won't get anywhere near that figure if you regularly approach the quoted all-electric top speed of 87mph.
An 'Electric' drive programme keeps the car in battery drive unless the accelerator pedal's kickdown function is used. In the 'Electric' programme, the energy recovery level can also be selected via paddles behind the steering wheel. The paddles on the steering wheel enable the selection of five different recuperation levels ('DAUTO', 'D+', 'D', 'D-' and 'D--'). The usual additional 'Comfort', 'ECO' and 'Sport' modes are also available. According to the given requirements, the driver is thus able to give priority to electric driving, place the emphasis on driving dynamics or give preference to combustion mode in order to save electric range, for example.
Design and Build
This GLA's PHEV set-up is all very cleverly packaged. An innovative exhaust system layout explains the need for a relatively minimal reduction in boot capacity compared with a conventionally-engined GLA model. The exhaust ends in a centrally positioned outlet under the vehicle floor, with the rear silencer housed in the transmission tunnel. Integrating the fuel tank into the axle installation space creates additional room beneath the rear seats for the high-voltage battery. Otherwise, it's much as it would be in any other GLA. Visual differentiators as to this variant's plug-in status are limited to subtle badging. And inside, the cabin is unchanged, save for extra 'Electric' and 'Battery Level' menus in the MBUX infotainment system.
As with any GLA, in standard spec, you get a couple of 7.0-inch infotainment screens - one in front of the driver for the instruments and a centre-dash one for the infotainment functions. Pay extra and you can have both these displays uprated to 10.3-inches in size. To give more of a crossover feel, the front seats are positioned 140mm higher than in the A-Class and there's 22mm more head room up front than in the original GLA. That previous car was a little cramped in the back: this one's better, thanks to a 30mm longer wheelbase, though a little disappointingly, rear head room has been reduced by 6mm. You can though, vary the angle of the backrest - which helps with boot space too, which is around 60-litres down on the 495-litre figure of the standard car.
Market and Model
Mercedes has priced this GLA 250e plug-in at about the same level as the top GLA diesel, the 190hp GLA 220d, which costs around £37,000. For trim, you'll need to choose one of the 'AMG Line' variants. There's 'AMG Line', 'AMG Line Executive', 'AMG Line Premium', 'AMG Line Premium Plus' and 'AMG Line Premium Plus with Driving Assistance'. Standard kit across the range includes LED headlights, aluminium roof rails, heated front seats and Thermatronic two-zone air conditioning. Infotainment's taken care of by a couple of 7-inch screens that feature the MBUX multimedia system with its 'Mercedes me' connectivity and the 'Hey Mercedes' voice-activated virtual assistant.
'AMG Line' trim includes 19-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke alloy wheels, privacy glass, an AMG body styling kit, ARTICO/DINAMICA sports seats with red contrast stitching and carbon interior trim. Disappointingly, you have to stretch to pricier 'AMG Line Executive' spec to get basics like front and rear parking sensors and smartphone integration, a trim level that also includes wireless charging and a 10.25-inch central media display.
Cost of Ownership
The 15.6kWh battery can be charged with AC or DC current via a socket located in the right-hand side wall of the vehicle. This GLA 250e can be charged at a 7.4kW wallbox with alternating current (AC) within 1 h 45 min from 10-100%. For direct-current (DC) charging at 24kW, the battery can be charged from 10-80% in around 25 minutes. Keep everything charged up and Mercedes reckons that 90% of regular commuting journeys can be completed without using the petrol engine. One important comfort feature is the pre-entry climate control prior to starting a journey, which reduces energy usage and can also be activated conveniently by smartphone. The quoted WLTP combined cycle fuel figure is 177mpg and WLTP CO2 emissions are rated between 38-42g/km.
The MBUX infotainment system assists the driver in finding charging stations. Just start a search simply by saying "Hey Mercedes, find charging stations nearby". Via the 'Mercedes me Charge' system, drivers of this plug-in hybrid model can optionally obtain access to one of the world's largest charging networks, with over 300 different operators in Europe alone (municipalities, car parks, motorways, shopping centres, etc.). Thanks to navigation, Mercedes-Benz customers can find these stations easily and can gain convenient access to the charging stations via the Mercedes me Charge card, the Mercedes me App or directly from the car. No separate contracts are necessary for this: apart from simple authentication, customers benefit from an integrated payment function with simple billing after they have registered their payment method once. Each charging process is booked automatically. The individual charging processes are clearly listed in a monthly invoice.
If Mercedes could have made this plug-in GLA variant a little more affordable, we'd have had no hesitation recommending it as a go-to model in the range. After all, there's lots to like here; superb refinement, clean emissions that lead to super-low BiK taxation and the appealing prospect of largely fuel-free commuting mileage. Even as it is, this GLA 250e could make more sense than a conventional model once you add up whole-life costs on a finance deal.
The era of plug-in hybrid technology may be relatively short-lived - much of Europe plans to ban hybrid engines by 2035 - but right here, right now, it's the approach to electrification that makes most sense for an awful lot of buyers. But upfront costs need to be driven down if wider consumer uptake on PHEV models like this one is to be realised. If you don't mind paying the premium though, with a GLA 250e, you'll get a premium package in return.