Before the spring thaw began, I had the opportunity to work with Mercedes Benz Downtown Calgary and take a GLA out for a long weekend in the Rockies. I don’t often work with car companies but the dealership generously offered to incorporate the vehicle into an upcoming weekend with some friends from abroad.
The staff at Mercedes Benz Downtown Calgary were very helpful and had a tech give me a run down of the new features and updates to the 2017 model before I took it out. The customer service was prompt and efficient and the tech was helpful in explaining not only the features, but the improvements from past models. Before I could even turned on the engine, I was excited to drive it. Most important to me was whether or not this car could fit into my lifestyle, and while there was a measure of doubt due to Mercedes being known as a luxury car maker, the GLA250 4matic proved to be a much better fit for my lifestyle than I imagined.
Basically The GLA250 4Matic adds all-wheel drive to the base model’s setup and the tech assured me that this car, whether the base, 4matic or AMG, has a sporty feel and is really fun to drive. I waved a rather nervous goodbye as I left the garage and zipped through the downtown area near my home to see how it handled.
Right off the bat, I wanted to play around with the Dynamic select. With the ECO mode selected, this car almost behaves like a hybrid… the engine sounds like it dies when you come to a stop (it doesn’t, lol) but jumps back to life when you touch the gas again. The ECO drive program is designed to achieve the lowest possible fuel consumption which is why I kept it on for most of my time in the city and also the next day in the mountains. This feature is ensured through calmer engine response, early gear changes and modified seat heating, rear window heating and climate control. I saw enormous value in this as it reduces emissions and is cost saving as well.
This was one of my favourite features of the vehicle and my top pick from the Dynamic select options (Comfort, Individual, Sport and Eco). As I zipped around Calgary, making quick stops off at the Chocolate Lab, Analog Coffee (both pictured above) and eventually the Clay Oven for dinner with some friends, it was fun to get used to the ECO feature, as well as the gear selector which took a littttttle bit of time to get used to as its located where my windshield wipers are in my own car. While that was uncomfortable to get used to at first, I see it as a really practical design move. I was impressed with how agile the car was as well, with a relatively tight turning circle of 36 feet it proved well-suited to urban driving, and I was excited to test it on the narrow mountain passes.
The next day I photographed the car along McHugh bluff and did some shopping in the downtown core. Below are some images of the vehicle against a moody downtown Calgary. I took the vehicle to Linas Italian Market for lunch afterwards, which is my FAVOURITE place to eat in Calgary. Annoyingly, my camera died upon arrival and I wasn’t able to take any photos of my cappuccino and Margherita pizza. There may not be any photo evidence, but trust me when I say, this place is an amazing local gem for anyone who is looking for authentic italian food and ingredients.
During the drive up to the Rockies the next day, I was really impressed with the safety features that came into play during the journey. For starters, the Attention Assist system, which watches the driver for signs of drowsiness was a small comfort during the long drive up there. Since I spend a lot of time on the road and it was interesting to know that Mercedes had put this feature in place to alert you when your attention may be waning. The 2017 GLA also comes with automatic pre-collision braking which I thought was really cool preventative measure in the event of an unexpected stop or accident.
The heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, and automatic rear wipers were also useful for the cold, blustery weather we experienced on the drive up and it felt good to know these small things were automated to help the driver concentrate on the road better. Additional features were the adaptive brake system with hill-start assist, brake drying, and an extra hold function. Press down on the brake hard enough and the vehicle will remain stationary at a stop light until you press the gas again. That was fun to use, although I got so used to it that I almost forgot my own little car didn’t have that feature (oops).
Optional safety features include a rearview camera, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control. During the drive along Highway 1 it was so helpful to have blind spot monitoring as the back window (like most hatchbacks) was quite small and the low seating position meant the visibility wouldn’t be as good as most SUV vehicles. The car responds effectively with sharp beeps and the illuminated triangles on the side mirrors go red to give you ample visual and auditory warning of the presence of another vehicle. Ultimately visibility never turned out to be a significant issue for me but it was certainly a con for others who reviewed this vehicle.
As we approached the rockies it was clear we were going to have blue skies despite the chilly conditions. The light was soft against the rockies and the snow was twinkling in the light. I was really excited to get out and do some hiking at the Minnewanka Loop and we pulled into the National Park bundled up and ready to get some fresh air.
A new addition to the 2017 model is Apple Carplay which was really useful for GPS as this model did not come with the built-in system (the customer purchases that separately if they want it). Nonetheless it was nice to have the option to simply use your phones GPS, music and be able to message on it as well. We used it all the way up to Banff, stopping periodically along the Minnewanka Loop to take photos and watch mountain goats and Elk as they lazily grazed along the side of the road. The car handled well all the way to our first stop at Two Jack Lake, and I had a lot of fun maneuvering it along the winding mountain passes.
Not gonna lie, it was really cold at Lake Minnewanka. Typically the area is super windy anyways, but the added chill made it feel like -30. Being outside was so invigorating after a very busy month at work, and the snow covered peaks looked beautiful and crisp in the morning light. After our hike around the enormous frozen lake our fingers were almost falling off and the normal stream of tourists were starting to pile into the parking lot. The duo climate control was an awesome feature to use while warming up on the drive back into town and we decided to take a little detour around Vermilion Lakes before heading into Banff for lunch and a wander.
The day ended up with blue skies at Vermilion Lakes, a windy but beautiful afternoon… and made my heart happy as the light glinted brightly off the top of Canada’s iconic Mount Rundle. We headed off to Banffs Park Distillery for a late lunch with our tired visitors, who were already feeling pretty wiped from a week of skiing. Our plan was to head back into Calgary mid afternoon to avoid any ski traffic (which is the absolute WORST on highway 1). Thank goodness Park Distillery does all day breakfast as I was craving eggs Benedict and hash browns. For anyone who needs restaurant suggestions while in the Rockies, go there. Seriously. They make a great Moscow Mule as well, with their own Park Vodka and in-house Ginger Beer.
In the end I would say the GLA250 4matic offers a more sporty, fun drive, while bearing the luxurious Mercedes label. This makes it the perfect vehicle for the younger generation in my option, and it’s fairly affordable. It handles like a hatchback and is very agile around corners and easily maneuverable through the bustling streets of downtown Calgary. That being said, its sporty performance leads to what some reviewers refer to as “a somewhat harsh ride quality”, which wasn’t my experience at all, but I can understand the value in a smoother ride particularly as Mercedes is a luxury brand. I enjoyed how punchy and powerful this vehicle was and felt that it was more than comfortable for mountain adventures. It had safety features that I found both comforting and useful for my lifestyle and ultimately Mercedes-Benz Downtown Calgary offered me an experience that opened up a new, unexpected, fuel efficient and affordable option for me as a car buyer.
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