“You can shop for groceries around town in it but a trip up to a local ski hill will certainly not stress out the Mercedes GLA.”

Burlington, Vermont.

Three seems to be a number that tends to rub people the wrong way.

Expressions like “Three’s a crowd,” or “bad things come in threes,” or someone being described as the “third wheel” don’t leave a favourable impression in people’s minds.

On the flip side, there’s “third time’s a charm,” implying that the third time is the best time. Third is also a podium finish!

For Mercedes-Benz, three is a magical number.

Thanks to the introduction of their all-new GLA – the third installment into their compact vehicle segment – the triangle is complete. And yes, good things do come in threes. Here’s why.

Of the three vehicles available in North America that are built on the same platform – the B-Class, CLA and now GLA – the GLA gives owners the ability to go on and off-road. Okay, let me qualify that.

Though it does come with Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR)- an off-road specific feature – it’s not meant for brutish off-roading. However, it is competent on cottage country roads or if you need to traverse into areas you couldn’t get into with a B Class or CLA.

Whether you’re opting for the GLA 250 or the GLA 45 AMG, both trims come standard with Mercedes-Benz’s fully variable 4MATIC all-wheel drive. You can shop for groceries around town in it but a trip up to a local ski hill will certainly not stress out the vehicle.

Rest assured.

The GLA also marks it as the first compact premium sports utility vehicle from the German automaker. Despite its compact designation, four adults could fit comfortably inside. Five might be a stretch but it’s certainly possible. Along with the warm bodies inside, it has a cargo capacity of 421 L. That increases to an impressive 1,235L with seats folded.

What’s even more impressive is the sound that comes from the AMG sports exhaust system. A system with two chrome-plated tailpipe trim elements featuring a twin- pipe design. It’s hard to imagine that’s the burble and brawn of a 2.0L, four-cylinder engine.

That’s right, the 355 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque are created from the most powerful series production four-cylinder passenger car engine in the world.

Needless to say, the engine’s pairing with the 7G-DCT 7-speed dual clutch automatic transmission is as delicious as Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream; ice cream that just so happens to be made in the lovely state of Vermont. And a location that was fortuitously placed on our drive route. The dynamics of the GLA were also as vibrant as the hues of the autumnal foliage that decorated the surrounding towns of Burlington.

In the lesser-powered GLA 250 – which has a 2.0L, I4 turbocharged engine with 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque – you still have a lot of ponies to play with. In fact, of the two engines available, this would be my choice. It has pep but also a smooth demeanor. If these engine choices look familiar to you, they are. They too can be found in the B-Class and CLA.

The third time is a charm because of the compact luxury vehicles made by MB, this is my favourite. I think it has a lot to do with the styling. It has an eye-catching design, especially if you’re looking at the GLA250 with the sport package, which gives you a sport brake system with perforated front rotors and MB logos on calipers, AMG body styling with inserts in front splitter, side sill panels and rear bumper in matte titanium grey, 19-inch AMG Bicolour 5-Spoke wheels with all-season tires and more.

Inside, the cabin is draped in ARTICO leather upholstery; a synthetic alternative to cowhide. Then there’s a 5.8-inch full colour TFT display atop the centre stack; it increases to 7-inches if you opt for the navigation system. The fit and finish is fantastic and the overall ambiance of the cabin is cozy but not cramped.

For the undulating roads, mixed with switchbacks and straight stretches, you have the help of electromechanical power steering to weave you in and out of the Vermontonian roads.

And if things get a little monotonous on the highway, pop the GLA 45 AMG into sport mode, give it (a little) throttle and enjoy the sweet sound of driving pleasure.

The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC has a starting MSRP of $37,200. The GLA 45 AMG 4MATIC has a starting MSRP of $50,500.

Visit www.mercedes-benz.ca for more information.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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