One of the coincidental perks in my work life means that my home office is just a couple of miles away from a major east coast autoport in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. Very rarely do I leave my home without driving by the CN Autoport. On the way to the grocery store, I spot rows of European luxury SUVs, odd imports such as the TVR Tuscan, handfuls of Land Rover Defenders, a Volkswagen Golf GTI Cabrio destined for perusal at Volkswagen’s Canadian HQ, and Mercedes-AMG GTs crossing Main Road with all the nonchalance of a cat which managed to stop traffic on 5th Avenue.
It also means my eyes, through no fault of their own, notice the periodic import of a Mercedes-AMG GLA45 with Mercedes-Benz’s ostentatious Aerodynamics Package, the least Mercedes-Benz-esque option known to mankind on what is already a decidedly un-Mercedes-Benz-ish vehicle.
The AMG GLA45 is a 375-horsepower version of the Mercedes-Benz GLA-Class, itself a tall hatchback sibling of the not critically acclaimed CLA-Class, which is essentially a third-generation Mercedes-Benz A-Class. The A-Class wasn’t sold in North America during the tenure of its first two generations in part because Mercedes-Benz’s North American operations would have risked de-escalating the brand’s lofty image. (Mercedes-Benz is an upmarket brand in Europe, too, but the three-pointed star is as likely to appear on the front of your taxi as it is the top of your wish list.)
From my vantage point, Mercedes-Benz is the company which supplied W126 S-Class sedans to many world leaders whilst North American government leaders were ferried about in, well, less impressive Cadillacs.
While friends of mine drove around in a ratty E30 BMW 318i, I was bowled over by a 25-year-old blue Mercedes-Benz 280E driven by my oldest brother’s best friend. It felt like Mercedes-Benz built the W123 for a thousand-year lifespan.
It’s not just the old stuff. A classy interior in the new GLC-Class will help us all forget the first M-Class’s cabin. The very existence of the CLS Shooting Brake, albeit not in North America, proves Mercedes-Benz has a refined palate. The latest C-Class Coupe shows Mercedes-Benz can rely on a shapely roofline for style, rather than the appendages affixed to that roofline. The Mercedes-Benz Unimog and G-Class, while as unrelated to an SLK roadster as Benzes can be, continue to foster a certain bomb-proof aura.
BOMB-PROOF > BOY RACER
Keeping Mercedes-Benz’s vastly divergent lineup in mind, I’m nevertheless struggling to follow the path from that blue 280E to an AMG GLA45 with a rear wing that might be too over-the-top for the next Fast & Furious film. The GLA’s aero package would be a step too far for a reincarnated Pontiac Vibe in GXP guise. Okay, maybe not.
But a $50,000 Mercedes-Benz hatchback shouldn’t look like a car that’s dancing on top of the bar in order to grab a Ford Focus RS owner’s attention.
You could accuse the Volkswagen Golf R of being too subdued, but does a Golf R alternative from Mercedes-Benz need to be the hot hatch that hikes up its short skirt, lathers on too much blush, and walks through a perfume shower? Shouldn’t that be the Hyundai Veloster’s job? Shouldn’t a Subaru WRX STI’s rear wing be the least tastefully applied?
We first saw these adornments on the Edition 1 version of the GLA45, worsened then by lurid graphics presumably borrowed from the first-generation Kia Rio’s accessory catalogue. Now, the rear wing falls under the AMG GLA45’s $1,950 Aerodynamics Package, which can only be selected once you’ve already handed over $750 for the AMG Night Package. Yes, it costs $2,700 extra to make your $50,505 AMG GLA45 look just a little more like the Dodge Caliber SRT-4.
The AMG GLA45 is fast. So was the Caliber SRT-4 in its day. But this is 2016. Fast is easy. Fast is easier than fast has ever been. V6-engined Camrys are fast. V6-engined Ford F-150s are fast. You don’t need to spend an extra $2,700 to tell me your GLA is the fast one. I knew that already because it’s a “crossover” that sits lower than many cars. The goal is being fast while not declaring that fact to the Virginia cop who needs to meet his quota for the month.
Or at least, that’s the goal of those of us who continue to long for the era of E39 BMW M5s or W210 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMGs with wheel spokes wider than a weightlifter’s thighs and – get this – a three-pointed star on its hood, not in its grille.
Perhaps those of us who recall such halcyon days don’t realize that we’re entrenched in a new age, an automotive period in which outrageous acceleration is officially outrageous only if the wheels are black, the brake calipers are red, exhaust pipes outnumber doors, and bodywork announces the amount of downforce created at 155 miles per hour.
Thus, on behalf of myself and all Mercedes-Benz buyers who refuse to accept two-bar grilles with integrated stars, I hereby submit a formal application to whom it may concern for Aerodynamics Package-equipped AMG GLA45s to be parked out of sight at autoports across the land. (And for E63 AMG Wagons to be brought closer to the road.)
There may be consumers who insist on ordering such a GLA, but the rest of us shouldn’t be forced to look upon Mercedes-Benz sacrilege, particularly when we have young children aboard whose eyes may be lured away from appropriate viewing material by such outlandish augmentations.
[Images: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars, Mercedes-Benz]
Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.