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When we bought our GLA 250, we were assured by our friendly salesman, Joe, that it would cope with the rigours of snow covered hills and mountain tracks. Was he right? Today was the first opportunity for us to find out. After an overnight fall of about three inches of rather wet snow, we donned our winter clothing, got the GLA out the garage, and headed for the hills near our home. The road we took is a rough, single-track pass predominantly used by farmers in their Land Rovers or tractors as they set about feeding or rounding up their sheep. The pass leads over the top of the Llantysilio Mountain and is not for the faint hearted on the best of summer days, despite the wonderful views.

So off we set, wondering if the GLA would even make it to the cattle grid that marks the start of the mountain proper. Up steep hillside roads we went as the snow got thicker. We prayed that nothing was coming the other way as the passing places were just boggy field entrances. As we climbed the steepest hills, the car took it all in its stride, just occasionally slipping very slightly as it wondered where the hell we were taking it.

Across the cattle grid and we were on our own - quite literally. It was clear that not a single vehicle or tractor had yet passed this way in the last 24 hours, probably because the locals all know what a treacherous road it is in the winter. I checked that my girlfriend was still happy to proceed …"Go on; live dangerously" she said with a mischievous smile on her face as I hit the 'off road mode' button.

The road disappeared beneath the snow and the ditches had drifts in, so the adrenaline coursed as I did my best to remember which way the road went relative to the banks of hibernating heather. But the GLA just pushed ahead harder as I started to pick up more speed, with a masochistic grin on my face. Time for a photo, as my GF posed for the camera. Dare I push the car any harder as I approached an off-road area that I knew had no hidden rocks. Of course, I thought, as I left the track and climbed a steep incline to take another photo by the precipice to a panoramic view of Snowdonia.





Getting back onto the track was tricky as I had to negotiate deep ruts and banks that were hidden by drifting snow. At one point the car slid down a bank on its belly, leaving behind a trench of mud but no exhaust parts - how clever of MB to hide all the underbelly parts above the belly guards. Next, the real test: very steep inclines, both up and down, next to a small but deep frozen lake. On goes the 'descent control' as we meandered down over the tyre marks from a farmer's truck that had tried unsuccessfully to make it to the top of the mountain. I don't think he was there to take pictures of his GF! He had even tried throwing grit down, which made things easier for us. The GLA scoffed and laughed with its exhaust note as we piled on through another drift of deep snow. I'll swear the grill had a bigger grin than normal!

At this point I would clarify that we have fitted our car with MB's winter wheels and ContiWinterContact TS830P MO tyres. Clearly, things would have been very different without these special winter boots.

Descending the other side of the mountain got trickier as the inclines got steeper (>20°, or > 40%) and the snow turned slushier as we moved further down from the top, which is nearly 2,000 ft above sea level. We passed a couple of farmers' 4x4 trucks fitted with huge knobbly tyres - I wonder what they thought of the sight of a racy little Mercedes hatchback threading its way down from where they had failed to get to!

Then the narrow road was blocked by a 4x4 Skoda who's owner had assumed that she could get up the pass with her two little girls because her car had an 'off road' button. The farmer trying to help get her SUV off the track, just a couple of feet next to an un-guarded killer drop down the mountainside, seemed totally bemused at the apparent sight of the front of the Mercedes sports car that had clearly made it over the mountain top.

Half an hour later, with a police 4x4 on its way to rescue the lady and her children, we had managed to push her SUV off the track to be abandoned. Whereupon the farmer took the SUV's occupants to safety, and we put the GLA into 'descent control' mode and carried on our merry way, music blaring, staring down the extremely steep drop to our right.

Conclusions: (1) If you own a GLA, fit some decent winter tyres - not just for the snow, as they are a lifesaver in heavy rain too; and (2) to all those GLA reviewers who postulated that "Of course this wannabe-SUV won't be any good off-road for anything other than a dusty track": you're talking utter sh*te! We bought this car so that we could drive the five miles to our nearest pub or shop in the snow, and I have to tell you that we are mightily impressed. Clearly the success of our foray into the bleak wilderness was the result of many things: the tyres, the suspension, the 4matic gearbox and the computer-controlled traction and decent control - whatever; it all comes together to make an astoundingly good mode of transport in the snow


Edit: change 20% incline to 20°

Edited by: roytheboy
 

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You're welcome


Knowing what I do now, I'm not sure I'll be doing that journey again any time soon, mainly because you don't know what you're going to meet on the single-track road that isn't a GLA with winter tyres. However, it gave us snowy views to die for, it made us feel very 'alive' as we trusted the descent control not to let us get to the bottom of the mountain the 'instant' way (I attach a picture of the track taken last summer - not the steepest or most dangerous part), and more importantly, it gave us unwavering confidence in the GLA's ability to cope with snow and rough terrain. The wheels just kept on gripping - it was amazing! I've inspected the underbelly where we slid down the bank, and there is not one cracked or missing bit of plastic or metal. You can see where the car slid on it's belly between the wheels, but the jacking points have obviously taken the weight, without causing the slightest bit of damage elsewhere. I wonder how a Land Rover Evoke would have faired over the same ground!




For clarity (edit): the car did not lose grip when we slid along its belly; I drove over a slight raise in the ground, to discover that the other side was a deep hole full of drifted snow. Thus the front wheel went into the hole, that was deeper than the ground clearance of the car. The whole scenario was on an incline, so the car just slid on its belly for a bit as two or three of the wheels that weren't in the air gripped, before the rear wheel went down as the front wheel came up. It was all unsighted due to snow, but the important thing is that the GLA just kept on going - there wasn't even a moment when we thought we might get stuck - it's as if the GLA shut it's eyes and said "if I can't see the snow, it can't be there." It was a hoot





Edited by: roytheboy
 

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Great pics, love the summer hillside view!
Just a little bit on the jealous side. Great story by a he way ( don't read to many books) but you had me hanging
on to every word to see if your little GLA could tackle the task at hand.
Thumbs up!!
Feel free to post anymore little escurtions you decide to go on,
 

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I am jealous! I'll never be able to repeat this feat in my GLA 45.
Thanks for taking the time to write the article, and illustrating it with pictures..
Question is, what are you going to try next?
 

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Unfortunately or fortunately we missed the snow in the UK as we crossed the Channel the day before it started to visit the in-laws who live in south Yorkshire... and for the whole period we never saw a drop of the white stuff which is strange considering everyone else got it (kids very unhappy at a non-white Christmas)... driving back home we found that Belgium had a heavy covering which had turned to ice in most places after days of thaw/freeze... nearing home at 11.45pm we came across an area of road where the river had come over the road and turned to sheet ice, by the time we were on it it was too late to turn around so we carried on slowly... overall the car handled well with some minor slipping when I was tempted to push it faster... the GLA200 is only front wheel drive and the electric handbrake doesn't allow for the rally style of braking so it was a case of peddle braking and low gear combined with some gentle steering... after about 2kms we got back onto normal road conditions and drove as normal... the GLA felt fairly solid on the ice even with slight skids, well worth having snow tyres...
 

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As a footnote to the above story, if anyone is wondering what the GLA is like in deeper snow, last week we found out. We needed to get to the far side of the LLantysilio Mountain at night, and the snow was light in our village so we took the mountain pass without any thought about the fact that the snow might be thicker higher up (Duuur!). We drove in the compressed-ice snow-ruts made by tractors but as we got near the top, the underfloor was constantly scrapping the snow between the ruts. This would not have been such an issue for the 2015 GLAs but mine is an AMG-line with the lower ground clearance.

Because the sun had given the snow (which had been falling bit-by-bit for weeks) an icy crust, it sounded quite nosy, but I was confident that the smooth, covered underbelly would cope okay. So then I decided to drive out of the ruts, which was fun. The car slid about a little (I mean inches here), and the steering wheel turned freely for short moments on the icy snow, but all-in-all we did not get stuck, and the car climbed and descended all the very steep inclines without a hitch. I would add that we put the car into off-road mode as soon as we entered the mountain proper, and we used the descent control on every steep section down the other side.

I have to tell you that the adrenaline was pumping at some stages, because it was as black as black can be, and the car's lighting lit the edges of the track, making the drops beyond look even more scary by the total lack of anything ground-like within our vision. I wasn't worried about the car's ability to cope with these treacherous conditions, but I did wonder how I might deal with oncoming vehicles (there are very few passing places), and I also considered that if the car did get stuck, or broke down, we would have a quite a cold trek home on foot! Would MB's Mobilo Assist be able to reach us in a breakdown truck, I wondered, knowing the answer before I'd even finished pondering the question.

So there you have it folks: with winter tyres fitted, yes, the 4matic GLA will cope very well with deep, iced-over snow and compressed icy ruts on very steep mountainous inclines. This is your man-on-the-ground car tester, roytheboy, signing off from another adventure into the unknown. Next week we'll be driving into the Peruvian jungle to find the source of the Amazon River
 

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I enjoy reading your updates, keep them coming!
It does however make my commute to work on gritted roads sound slightly boring...
 

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What winter tyre setup did you go for, looking for some wheels for ours as winters... more likely 19"tyres are slightly cheaper from opponeo.co.uk looking at the vredstein wintrac which had on the E89 and were great for a 3 litre car...
 

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Brilliant read thanks.
One of the main reasons for swapping our C220 was that we got stuck twice in it in the snow and Mrs L didnt want another year where she had to gamble on going out in it when there was the remotest chance of snow.
Quite looking forward to the inclement weather now!
 
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