“Not much to look at.” 

“I expected more.”

“Shouldn’t it look really flash?”

Well, yes. But it can do nought to 100km/h in 4.3 seconds. It corners on rails. And if you love driving, you will just love it. This is the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S. 

But to avoid the capital letters all over the place, I will call it Frida. A good, solid German name that will do things you don’t expect until you get to know her. 

Case in point. We’re going over the hills towards the car park that is Tairua on the Coromandel Peninsula just after Christmas. I’m stuck behind a Suzuki Swift and some sort of older Chrysler V8.

There is a short slow-vehicle lane and the Chrysler guns it, leaping from about 45km/h to the speed limit. The driver is clearly keen for speed after 20 minutes behind Elmer Fudd, and probably used to leaving everything else in his dust.

But not the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S. It may not look like power but it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. That Yank tank is not leaving me behind – no way! – and I can corner at nearly twice the speed of his bloated muscle car. 

The GLA 45 has many driving modes: comfort, sport, sport plus, individual and race.  In sport plus I can outpower any other vehicle I encounter, making it possible to overtake in a second or so. 

This comes in handy over the holidays as stupid jerks keep speeding up in the overtaking lanes. Like, what the hell, guys? (It is always guys.) 

The only risk is Frida has so much power it is very easy to go very fast before you realise it. It is a car you’d really love to drive on a racetrack or a speed-limit-less German motorway, rather than our increasingly speed-limited “open” roads. 

Another reason other people reckon the car should look like “more” is the price tag – this up-specced AMG comes in at a cool $138,000. That’s a lot of money for a small SUV.

Other than the AMG badges, the only real indication of the power within are the little speed winglets on the front to assist with downward pressure, and the rear spoiler.

Like what you see? That'll be $138,000.


Like the Cupra Formentor VZ I loved, this is a crossover SUV which drives like a hot hatchback. Frida is so hot it is basically on fire. 

I’m lucky enough to have the GLA 45 S for a couple of weeks. Frida is just perfect for a couple of people and their gear for a week or so. The Mercedes self-driving function (always excellent) means the boring highways can be handled without too much thought, especially when stuck behind a slow towing vehicle. 

But flick into sport mode (or above) and suddenly Frida is eating corners and hills like they are going out of fashion. 

I took a couple of teenage boys for a drive from Hot Water Beach to Hahei and they were ebullient in their praise. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much cred with the youth, not even when I was one.

If you have cash to splash and want a vehicle that doesn’t scream sports car, this has got to be in contention.

It’s powered by an ultra-tuned two-litre engine with near-instant turbo-charge support.

The ride is quite firm, even in the standard comfort mode, but the passengers all liked it. There’s plenty of legroom and the boot is (just) big enough.

We stayed with friends on the Coromandel and Frida’s four-wheel-drive capabilities even meant it could happily get off the road and down to a camping spot, even if the warning systems were overloaded, screaming at me about the long-ish grass we needed to drive through.

It’s like the folk at AMG set out to build a car that could overtake better than any other SUV, barring the weird Lambo thing I’ve never been allowed to review. 

The AMG GLA 45S boasts the Mercedes self-driving function. 


Frida’s twin-turbo four-cylinder engine (the world’s most powerful production four) generates 310kW of power and 500Nm of torque.

Its clever 4Matic+ all-wheel drive puts power to whichever wheels need it most, which you really feel around the Coromandel’s hills. This is coupled with an eight-speed AMG Speedshift DMG transmission.

Oh, and the brakes are stonkingly good. 

It’s a rocket, pure and simple. Strap yourself in and see how hard and fast you can go. I did, and I have no regrets. What a great car for a summer holiday.

Because we live on a dirt road, and because we took it on a road trip, Frida returned to Mercedes-Benz with a lot of dirt on it. An embarrassing amount, really. 

Even when I tried to drive fast to blow off the dirt, it stuck around. I think of this as a tribute to the car’s aerodynamic capabilities. But sorry, Frida.