He says, she says. GLA 200.
We invited this unlikely couple to test the GLA 200.
She, a novice driver who occasionally borrows her mother’s car. He, an experienced sea captain and died-in-the-wool Mercedes driver. Together, they tested the GLA. Having got her driver’s license just four months ago, the next challenge facing Julie De Groditz is high school graduation. After decades at sea as a ship’s captain, 78-year-old Jürgen Schwandt is currently driving his fifth Mercedes. We invited this unlikely couple to Hamburg to test the GLA. Whereas Julie got the feel of the car by driving round the parking lot a couple of times, Captain Schwandt felt right at home in the GLA and immediately set course for the Köhlbrandbrücke. Asked by Julie if he had ever experienced freak waves, Schwandt recounted how he and his crew narrowly survived a heavy storm in the North Atlantic back in 1956. “When we finally landed in Lisbon after the storm,” he cheerfully reminisces, “we spent three days celebrating our deliverance.”
The schoolgirl found the mariner’s dry sense of humour entertaining. And Schwandt was equally complimentary about his companion: “She’s certainly a bright girl.”
Julie De Groditz.
The first thing I noticed about the GLA was the seats. The design is really cool. I like the way they seem to be molded from a single unit. They’re quite sportylooking and give you the feeling of being in a race car. The instrument cluster with all the switches and the silver-coloured air vents is pretty futuristic – like the control centre onboard a spaceship. Since passing my driver’s license, I’ve been borrowing my mother’s car two or three times a week. Her car has automatic transmission, so when I first tried the GLA it took a while to get used to the manual gearshift. The first few meters were pure slapstick.
But I soon got the hang of it, and from then on I was amazed at how serene and powerful the car felt. The gears were much smoother than the cars I learned to drive in and the steering wheel was nice and grippy. There was no juddering, and every movement seemed to flow naturally, whether you were turning a corner or steering one way and then the other. There was nothing hard or aggressive about the clutch. Instead, it was gentle and inviting, like putting your foot on a firm but comfortable cushion.
„The GLA is like a personal bodyguard.“
I often have problems judging the width of a car when I’m at the wheel, but the GLA gives the driver great visibility, and I felt confident even whizzing down narrow streets. All the same, I was really glad to have the Active Parking Assist function – if I owned such a smart car, I wouldn’t want to rely on my visual judgment in every situation. The GLA is like a personal bodyguard: a little bundle of energy that leaves you feeling in very safe hands. With its dynamic contours, dual exhaust and classy blue paintwork, our GLA seemed like the vehicle of choice for a superhero. If I’m honest, part of me was hoping the car would sprout wings and take off at the flick of a switch.
Captain Jürgen Schwandt.
Compared with manoeuvring a giant tanker , handling the GLA is child’s play. The cruise control function regulates your speed, the easyto- read navigation display shows the route, and the ECO start/stop function helps save the environment when you’re sitting like a zombie in gridlocked Hamburg traffic. The car has outstanding grip – even when braking on wet roads. A tanker can take up to 15 kilometres [9 miles] to come to a complete standstill. So if you don’t think far enough ahead, you may well spend several agonizing minutes waiting helplessly for the inevitable collision. Years before I needed a driver’s license, I signed up as a 16-year-old to crew on a sailboat. When I finally settled down and got my own place 25 years later, I bought a G-Class. Since then, I’ve only ever driven Mercedes – you can’t beat them for solidity and quality.
„So the GLA seemed familiar straight off.“
Technically outstanding, very easy to operate and equipped with a range of useful innovative features, such as the automatic Hold function for hill starts. I’m always interested in developments like that, and every few years I like to go back on ships to see what technical changes have been introduced on the bridge. But like any sailor worth his salt, I prefer to travel on cargo ships: wild horses wouldn’t get me on board a cruise liner. The colour of our GLA – South Seas Blue – is not really my cup of tea. But that’s only because I prefer the Caribbean.