There's something about the combination of sweet and spicy that really gets my mouth watering. Whether it's chilli chocolate or a tangy chicken dish, my taste buds come alive and my senses feel fulfilled - much like the new AMG GLA 35 that Mercedes-Benz NZ loaned me to review.
Now in its second generation, the new GLA is less of an A-Class on stilts and more of the scaled down Mercedes SUV that it originally set out to be. But, and here's the biggie, now that the AMG department has got their grubby little mitts on it, you know you're in for a treat.
First and foremost it looks like an AMG (funny that) with its Panamericana grille, air scoops, wide arch trim, bigger feet and full width front aprons. It's a vehicle that is sure to have the neighbours curtains twitching.
It can also pack a punch, just not quite the single knockout blow type but certainly enough to daze and confuse - which in this case, is not a bad thing.
The AMG GLA 35 hits that sweet spot between 250 'normality' and 45 S insanity. Its 2L turbocharged engine delivers 225kW and 400Nm, which in this small SUV is plenty (in fact 60kW more than its milder mannered sibling) and yet still leaves room for those that want to take flying lessons in the 310kW 45 S!
The interior matches its sporty outside with figure hugging seats (almost bucket but not quite), contrast stitching where required, flat bottomed leather-clad wheel and AMG motifs in the door sills. It's A-Class modern with a large digital infotainment and instrument screen, Apple and Android connected and responds to your every vocal whim thanks to the MBUX 'Hey Mercedes' prompt.
What's more, despite the GLA's compact physique, it offers an abundance of space for four (five if you're feeling friendly) thanks to an excellent amount of headroom.
With plenty of time on my hands to play with the posh SUV I took the family North to discover some new beaches that surround Matakana. Even with the family on board the GLA feels quick, the brochure says 5.2 seconds 0-100km/h and I can quite believe it.
The 4MATIC AWD system ensures that none of the power loses its way to the tarmac and the exhaust note lets you know that you're in a sporty vehicle - I recommend Sports+ drive mode.
The ride itself is firm and there's a certain amount of road noise that creeps into the cabin, my Patagonia red review model came with 20-inch AMG alloys so it has a bit of an excuse (I hear that the 21-inch alloys offer very little in terms of buffering) but if it gets annoying just turn up the volume on the Burmeister and blast out your favourite tunes or turn the dial on the wheel to Sports+ and listen to the exhaust.
The steering is well-weighted and responsive and the 8-speed DCT box is always picking the right gear - although the paddles offer driver entertainment too.
Getting lost around Matakana would normally cause family distress, there would be arguments and gnashing of teeth, of course the on board navigation works well, however, you need to know the name of the beach you're looking for to give it at least half a chance. Anyway, regardless of that, the multi zone AC kept everyone cool and the panoramic roof ensured enough Vitamin D entered the cabin.
We all took turns to ask the MBUX a whole raft of questions (who says road trips aren't fun) and it even changed the music and played with the driver's seat when I told it 'I was bored'.
● It's an AMG and looks and drives as such
● It's smart and full of MBUXness
● Neighbours will envy you
● The ride is firm and road noise is loud on coarse tarmac
● It's not quite a 45 S
● It's not cheap
For the record, Scotts Landing (our actual destination) sits on the eastern side of Mahurangi. It's a quaint little cove with heaps of history and even has a homestead to walk around - I recommend it as something a bit different.
I also recommend the GLA as something a bit different. It has all the joys of a compact SUV, the look, feel and style of a Mercedes and enough AMG spice to keep the boy (or girl) racer in you alive and kicking.
The Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 4MATIC as tested was $105,070+orc with Vision & Driving Assistance Packages and Patagonia Red paint.