2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 Review: A Surprisingly Gratifying Crossover

The Mercedes-AMG brand has a reputation. A reputation for being powerful, fast, and luxurious all rolled into one package. When the time came for a premium compact crossover, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 fit the bill. The smaller GLA model offers a roomy cargo area for those who want an SUV and the opulence of an AMG model.

Is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 a good car?

A 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 in motion
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 | David Alpert / Amanda Cline

The GLA 35 has all of the looks you would expect from a new Mercedes-AMG vehicle. The front end comes complete with the classic Panamericana grille, while the back end shares similarities with the GLA 45. The curb weight comes in at 3,653 pounds.

Since the GLA 35 is essentially the bigger, better version of the GLA 250 / 250 4 Matic, it makes sense the AMG badge was summoned. The overall dimensions of the 35 came in at 174.6 inches long, 79.5 inches wide (with the mirrors), and 62.5 inches high; it is similar in size to the 250. (The 250 was 173.6 long/79.5 wide/63.5 high).

The interior display covers the driver’s dashboard and the center of the dashboard. It can be configured to follow the three styles, Classic, Sport, and Supersport. These coincide with the Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ drive modes.

More than 73% of the parts on this car were created in Germany, while the car itself was fully assembled in Germany. There is more plastic in the dashboard area than it needs, but it appears it would be easy to clean. The upgraded 20-inch wheels make a lot of noise on the road and make the cabin loud. If you are concerned about that, you could go with the smaller wheel option. The GLA35 comes standard with 19” wheels.

How much horsepower does the GLA 35 AMG have?

A black 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 | David Alpert / Amanda Cline

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The AMG-enhanced 2.0L inline-four turbo engine gets 302 horsepower at 5,800 and 6,100 rpm. 295 lb-ft of torque at 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. It goes from 0-60 miles per hour in 5.1 seconds. This SUV also comes with the AMG eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The 35 is only offered in all-wheel-drive, but this made an impact in the heavy rain. I was able to drive through the rain without issue even with a lot of standing water.

One area that impressed me was the suspension during hard corners. The GLA handled like a dream and did not roll around like some SUVs tend to do. The AMG adaptive ride control sports suspension dampening did its job when called upon. It offers three stages for whatever street you might be traversing that day.

While this small SUV might not have enough mean-sounding AMG grumbles or off-the-line speeds, it is right for a certain audience. For instance, those who liked the CLA line but wanted more room. If you are looking for extra power, the GLA 45 might be a good upgrade option. It has many similar features but is a bit faster where the 35 isn’t.

However, the price of the 35 is a better deal for those who want the upgraded performance without a higher price. The bottom line? This is still a fun SUV that is fast enough to satisfy most divers. It was reactive when it needed to be trying to cross multiple lanes of traffic.

The interior ambiance is welcoming

The interior of the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 interior | David Alpert / Amanda Cline

This compact SUV has room for five passengers. It comes with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and enough ambient lighting to fuel your supercar dreams. The MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) is a welcome and easy-to-navigate system. Some drivers yearn for real buttons, which are included below the screen for easy access to climate control.

The power sport seats in the front adjust with ease. The interior color compliments the outside, and the AMG styling looks fresh. However, some drivers might find the white color offputting, especially those with children. Steer clear of this option if that applies to your situation. The back seats fold down and recline as necessary for extra cargo room.

The light Neva Grey interior might be a bit intimidating for those with families, but it didn’t accrue any imperfections in our time together. The brushed aluminum trim reflected nicely against the blue and red interior lights, as shown above. The three air vents in the middle of the dashboard offer sufficient air, even in the hot Florida sun.

The ride isn’t the most comfortable on the planet, but it has room for road trips should the room be needed. Since the 2021 model is a bit bigger, you get the extra room and the higher quality that AMG provides. One suggested addition is the optional air-conditioned and heated front seats. For the extra $500, it makes a big difference.

Is the Mercedes-AMG worth buying?

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 front end
2021 Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 | David Alpert / Amanda Cline

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Long story short, the AMG version is worth buying at $47,550. The one photographed here is priced at $53,230 due to a few upgrades. If you are looking for a similar SUV, the 2021 GLA 250 starts at $36,230. The 2021 GLA 250 4MATIC SUV starts at $38,230.

If you are looking for something sportier and smaller, the smaller CLA 250 coupe starts at $37,850. The CLA 250 4MATIC coupe starts at $39,850. For the 2021 AMG 35 CLA, the price starts at $47,850. The AMG CLA 45 starts at $55,350.

The GLA 35 comes equipped with the Nappa leather steering wheel ($400) and upgraded 20-inch wheels ($750). This SUV also came with the Multimedia Package ($1,295). MBUX navigation, map updates, and speed assist are included.

Another package added to this compact SUV was the premium Mercedes package. That offers keyless go, hands-free access, auto-dimming mirrors, and power fold-in mirrors ($800).

The GLA 35 gets an estimated 23 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. The annual fuel cost is estimated to be $2,250. The tank size comes in at 12.7 gallons and costs just under $50 to fill. For one tank, the compact SUV gets an average of 318 miles.

Overall, if you are in the market for an AMG but aren’t convinced about the higher prices of the coupes and bigger SUVs, the 2021 GLA 35 fits right in. If you have ever been in the non-AMG GLA, you will probably be able to tell the difference right away. While the GLA 250 is still a nice ride, the GLA 35 AMG is way more fun in comparison.