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After a casual chat with the designer of the GLA-Class, we realise the latest Mercedes-Benz is more than just a pretty face.

28 Feb 2014

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As you would have already read, the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class is the fourth model of the MFA (Modular Front Architecture) Platform. But unlike the other three cars, the GLA is more than just your pretty face. The latest compact SUV went through extensive tests to prove its robustness, with 24 GLA prototypes completing close to two million kilometres of testing and persisting through ordeals related to its all-wheel drive operations.

Our Associate Editor (right) trying hard to throw Michael Frei (right) some tough questions about the GLA-Class
Going against the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1, the GLA-Class sports the kind of machismo and bravado that is missing in the compact SUV segment. We talk to Exterior Designer of the GLA-Class, Michael Frei (MF) (above), to find out exactly what the recipe for success is.

The GLA-Class does resemble the A-Class on first glance. What are the differences between the two and was it harder to create the same level of drama and tension with the bigger GLA than with the smaller A-Class?

MF: Firstly, it must be instantly recognisable as a Mercedes car. Secondly, every car should have its own character and it shouldn't be just a bigger A-Class. The fact that we had to have it higher, with all the muscles and all the precise lines, helped us define it towards the off-road direction. For example, the taillamps of the GLA are more expensive and different from the A-Class. Generally, the A-Class is younger and sportier while the GLA is created to be more rugged.

SGCM: Were there any cars that you used as benchmarks for the design of the GLA-Class?

MF: The GLA is a bit different because it's sportier compared to its competitors. We knew we wanted to have a premium compact SUV in our lineup so we had to make sure the design language of the car fitted the family. We wanted to have our own interpretation of what a premium compact SUV should be. But it has its own personality because the rest of the SUVs in Mercedes-Benz's lineup, such as the GLK and the ML, are sporty to begin with.

SGCM: Did you get to do all that you wanted with the design of the new GLA, or did you have to concede some aspects due to budget constraints?

MF:  There will always be constraints because you'll always want to do more. But such a specific package like the GLA-Class allowed us to get quite close to what an interpretation of a sporty SUV can be. For example, the car has claddings and it's an expensive solution but it's features like these that allow us to enhance the car's off-road character. So we're very happy with the final outcome.

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