The Road To Ultra: What It's Like To Drive The Mercedes-Benz GLA250

Cars

July 13, 2017 | BY Christian Barlow

Get in the driver's seat with our society editor as he goes from KL to Singapore

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A GLA 4.5 AMG at the Mercedes-Benz showroom in Kuala Lumpur (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

It’s not every day that you get to drive in a 140-strong fleet of Mercedes-Benzes with a police escort, but that’s where I am on the eve of the two-day Ultra Singapore music festival, heading down the highway from Kuala Lumpur on a journey organised by the carmaker as part of its Urban Hunting initiative, which links the luxury German marque with art, music and urban culture.

The nigh before, I joined other journalists and social-media influencers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam at Mercedes-Benz’s showroom in downtown KL for cocktails and canapes, where we received a briefing from the carmaker’s Malaysian team on the Urban Hunting x Ultra Singapore event. 

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The fleet of Mercedes-Benz CLA and GLA models at the starting line (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

In the morning, we're greeted by a fleet of 140 Mercedes-Benz cars, mainly CLA and GLA models, at the marque’s showroom on the city’s outskirts. The day’s route is outlined as we enjoy some stimulating refreshments—some drivers are still recovering from the night before.

It includes two pit stops, the first to refuel the cars at a Petronas station in Machap, on the outskirts of the heritage city of Malacca, and the second to refuel ourselves with a brief lunch stop in Johor Bahru before crossing the channel between Malaysia and Singapore.

My partner and I are assigned a bright red Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4MATIC and soon learn that despite its cute, compact appearance, it packs a serious punch. The GLA model embodies the power and masculinity of the G-class paired with the compact design and somewhat feminine lines of the A-class, making it an ideal crossover vehicle with appeal for all drivers. 

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Driving our GLA250 4MATIC into Johor Bahru (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

Equipped with a 208-horsepower turbocharged two-litre engine linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, the GLA has considerably more power under the bonnet than an A-class, though it doesn’t match the torque of the G-class. It definitely makes for a smooth run down Malaysia’s north-south highway.

The GLA can switch between standard front-wheel drive and 4MATIC all-wheel drive, which we choose on the highway. It can certainly sprint, as we learn when trying to catch up with a GLA 4.5 AMG, but in pushing it to its limits, we are reminded that we’re not in a sports car. 

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Cruising down Malaysia's north-south highway heading towards Johor Bahru (Photo: @christianrjbarlow)

After refuelling, it’s back onto the highway towards Johor Bahru, and then we’re into city streets, where we get a better sense or the car’s handling and steering capabilities—sharp and responsive.

However, the GLA’s slightly taller profile results in slight body roll on the sharper bends. The light and precise steering and the car’s easy manoeuvrability come in handy navigating Johor Bahru’s narrow side streets, especially nearing historic Jalan Dhoby, where we stop for lunch.

The post-prandial drive across the border is the slowest part of the journey, a 90-minute stretch of bumper-to-bumper traffic, typical of a Friday afternoon, but we pick up speed once we enter Singapore. The tree-lined Bukit Timah Expressway is a great track for the GLA, which relishes its curves and inclines. The car’s compact design, light weight and relatively powerful engine make it the ideal vehicle for suburban terrain. 

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Inside the Mercedes-Benz VIP tent at Ultra Singapore (Photo: Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz)

After we pull into the carpark of the Ritz-Carlton, we bid the GLA a bittersweet farewell, sad to give up such a car but excited to contemplate the line-up awaiting us at the third edition of Ultra Singapore. The electronic dance music festival’s roster stars the likes of international DJs Tiesto, Hardwell, Nicky Romero and Steve Aoki. We certainly won’t be wanting to get behind the wheel of a car after this.

See also: Edwin Chuang Test Drives The Mercedes Benz E-Class