Mercedes-Benz has taken the covers off of its latest model, the GLA Class compact SUV, aiming to take on BMW's X1 crossover both on the road and in the rough stuff. The first in the German car company's range to be available with Mercedes' new permanent all-wheel 4MATIC drive system, offering fully-variable torque distribution, the GLA will be offered in up to 2.5-liter gas or 2.2-liter diesel engines, while inside there'll be Siri integration for iPhone owners.
The crossover segment has been one of the more popular niches in recent car history, with buyers drawn to the generally rugged designs and higher driving positions, even if they don't require the full off-road abilities of a true SUV. For the GLA, however, Mercedes is apparently aiming for a car that can head into the rough stuff, with the optional 4MATIC system that can shift torque between the front and rear axels depending on which wheel has more grip, but without the weight and efficiency penalties rival systems can introduce.
4MATIC works along with the 7G-DCT automatic dual clutch transmission, along with downhill speed regulation (DSR), and any GLA fitted with the system gets an off-road transmission mode: the GLA can automatically keep to a steady pace as it navigates down steeper inclines. There's also an optional off-road display for the infomatics system, showing steering angle, current transmission mode, a digital compass, gradient, and roll angle.
On-road - which is, most likely, where the majority of GLA owners will be found - the new Mercedes has drowsiness detection and the collision prevention assist radar system, and can be fitted optionally with autonomous braking to avoid crashes at up to 124mph. Lane tracking and automatic parking are also options.
On the outside, there are elements of the larger SUV models from Mercedes' range - the GLK, ML, GL, and G - along with the swoopy CLA, with the wheel arches boosted and sharp crease-lines across the body. The GLA also gets narrower glass and a higher waistline, with Mercedes apparently looking to the teeth of an excavator for the notches in the side panels.
There's still a fair amount of chrome, too, and convenience features like an optional power tailgate. Inside, the touch-points have been given a galvanized coating for better finger-feel, and there's a mixture of aluminum, wood, and membrane finishes with optional circular air-vents. Seats can have LED-illumination around the cut-out headrests, and sports seats are an option, and as you'd expect there's a big central display to go with Mercedes' new COMAND Online optional multimedia system for live traffic updates, internet content from through a Bluetooth-paired phone, and more.
Mercedes-Benz says the GLA will make its public debut at the Frankfurt International Motor Show next month, with the order books opening at the tail-end of November 2013. It won't be until 2014 when the GLA actually hits showroom forecourts, however, with pricing yet to be confirmed.