Mercedes unveils latest AMG SUV

Mercedes-Benz is recalling more than 147,000 sedans and station wagons. (AP)

The new GLA 45 AMG is a seriously sporty compact off-roader and is heading to Detroit for the North American International Auto Show later in January.

Just like direct rivals Audi and BMW, Mercedes is betting big on the growing demand for smaller, yet equally potent SUVs and its latest co-creation with its AMG tuning arm is the 360hp, twin-turbocharged GLA 45 AMG.

Yet despite its performance, which comes courtesy of AMG's hand-assembled lightweight 2-liter, four-cylinder powerplant, the car is still capable of 37.6 mpg (7.5 liters per 100km) and meets all upcoming emissions regulations.

Interestingly for a car that's meant to be able to climb every mountain and ford every stream, it has a Race Start function for optimum acceleration off the line, and a dual-clutch paddle-operated seven-speed gearbox, with a speed-shift setting.

However, Mercedes makes it clear that this particular car is designed for sporty handling and dynamic on-road performance why else get AMG involved? and that is why it can be specified with a host of optional extras aimed at further increasing performance, such as a carbon fiber aerodynamics package.

Inside, the theme of performance continues with sports seats and a three-spoke multi-function steering wheel. The console's color screen display even offers a race timer. But as one would expect from a Mercedes, the whole thing is exquisitely packaged. The instrument panel is finished in brushed aluminum and the leather seats are edged with contrasting stitching.

Mercedes will confirm pricing and specifications for the GLA 45 AMG when it makes its public debut in Detroit on January 13.

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