Mercedes-Benz GLA & Infiniti QX80
MERCEDES-BENZ GLA | Starting Price: $31,300
With a base price of $31,300, the Mercedes-Benz GLA has but one task: to capture the conquest customer. In the automotive world, that means going after first-time small luxury SUV shoppers. That’s no small task with stiff competition from the likes of the Lexus NX, Audi Q3 and BMW X1. So, how does the GLA do it?
It starts off by borrowing sleek design cues from its sister sedan, the CLA-class. Its long nose and swept-back roofline are more reminiscent of a sport sedan, so that the car-like side of this crossover’s personality shines through more strongly than its utilitarian personality. That is, until you get to the rear hatch. It does offer 17.2 cubic feet of interior cargo space behind the rear seats, which allows one to appreciate that utilitarian side. Fold the seats down, and cargo space expands to 43.6 cubic feet, impressive for a vehicle with such a small exterior footprint. Rear passengers also get more headroom than in the sedan.
Standard luxury features include 18-inch twin 5-spoke wheels, a 3-spoke multi-function steering wheel, tinted windows, and a 4.5 inch color instrument display. Tack on another $2,300 and you’ll start to see things like leather heated seats, dual-zone climate control, and a Harman/Kardon sound system. As most entry-level luxury utes go, most GLAs will come outfitted with upgrade packages straight from the factory.
The GLA’s 2.0-liter turbo charged engine does come with a healthy dose of zip. Germans often take a no-nonsense approach to life and that is reflected in the 7-speed automatic transmission. Mated together, the GLA’s powertrain delivers 208 horsepower and gets 25/35 mpg city/highway. It accelerates quickly, clocking 0-60 in 6.4 respectable seconds. That means you’re going to merge onto the freeway quite easily and you’ll feel right at home in traffic.
The GLA rides on a 4-wheel independent suspension, which translates into a soft, but not wallowy, ride. The seats’ side bolsters are a nice touch, reminiscent once again of a sport sedan. As a driver, you’ll feel more connected to the driving experience, which is always a good thing if you’re a driving enthusiast, and even if you’re not. With a little push on the throttle the vehicle responds instantly, but doesn’t abuse you for doing so. This compact crossover offers an easy-to-drive personality but is certainly not bland in any way. Besides, with dramatic exterior styling, this Mercedes gets you where you’re going with flair.
Standard safety features are plentiful, including 10-way airbag protection, brake assist, collision prevention assist plus, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
So, with sleek styling, a zippy powertrain, and enough features to woo new generations of Mercedes customers, the GLA-class is single-minded in its task. It has some tough competition, but that is what will keep this category a popular one for years to come.
INFINITI QX80 | Starting Price: $64,245
There are always people out there who wonder if the era of the big SUV is over. Crossovers were the answer. Then hybrids. Then crossover hybrids. And yet, full-size SUVs remain some of the best-selling automobiles on the road today.
Case in point: the Infiniti QX80. Formerly known as the QX56, this luxury liner is larger than a Tahoe, more opulent, and in some cases, less expensive.
For 2015, the QX80 gets an updated look front and rear, as well as new 22-inch alumi-num wheels. A redesigned upper grille and a new open-mouth lower grille certainly add to the elegance of this large SUV. With LED lights all the way around, the exterior boasts a modern finish. Completing the look, the new front bumper houses sensors for the adaptive cruise control and front collision warning system.
Inside, the QX80 is spacious, comfortable, and oh-so posh. The interior gets a few re-finements for the new model year. A well-laid out center stack is trimmed in wood and brushed chrome accents. The Deluxe Technology Package includes elements you might expect, such as a 15-speaker Bose surround-sound system, new Stratford Burl wood trim, and adaptive front lighting, plus something you might not — a climate-control system with auto recirculation, a Plasmacluster air purifier, and a grape polyphenol filter. With seating for seven, there’s plenty of leather-trimmed legroom for everyone. Second-row passengers also enjoy dual video screens, located in the front seat headrests.
The powertrain remains unchanged from the previous model: a robust and beefy 5.6-liter V-8 which delivers 400 horsepower and 413 lb-ft of torque. Mated to this beast is a 7-speed automatic transmission driving either the rear or, optionally, all four wheels. And while the interior of the QX80 feels like a luxury yacht, it is also capable of towing a small yacht itself — that is, as long as whatever is you’re towing doesn’t exceed 8,500 pounds.
The QX80 rides on a full-size truck frame, so while the ride will never be car-like, it does come pretty close thanks to Infiniti’s Hydraulic Motion Body Control System. In short, the system distributes force to either the outer or inner suspension using hydraulic fluid to keep the vehicle vertically straight and the ride smooth.
Also new this year is the QX80 Limited, for those who need, well, more. Infiniti says the Limited is akin to a mobile man cave: dark chrome trim and wheels, three exclusive colors, ash wood trim for the interior, and leather finished in “Truffle Brown.” In addition, all of the option packages will be standard on the Limited.
Overall, the Infiniti QX80 is a luxury SUV that will attract the attention of the upscale buyer. It’s large, so it has plenty of space for people and cargo. It’s also luxurious enough for commutes into the heart of the city. Pricing starts
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Mercedes-Benz GLA & Infiniti QX80