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Head-to-Head: Cadillac XT4 vs Mercedes-Benz GLA

Chris Kaiser

The ever-expanding cadre of luxury crossovers features a lot of tough choices, like the Cadillac XT4 vs the Mercedes-Benz GLA. We help you decide below.

Want A Little Luxury in Your Life?

2021 Cadillac XT4 - cadillac.com

2021 Cadillac XT4 – cadillac.com  |  Shop new Cadillac XT4 on Carsforsale.com

As much as we like to lament the diminishing popularity of the sedan in these digital pages, I, you, the car buying public can hardly be blamed for our infatuation with SUVs. Utility has us smitten, especially when combined with what we loved about those long-lost sedans. Nowhere is that combination of the traditional luxury car and modern SUV more alluring than in the case of small luxury crossovers. Two such crossovers that have caught our eyes, are the Cadillac XT4 and Mercedes-Benz GLA, entry points for their respective SUVs lineups.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA – mbusa.com  |  Shop new Mercedes-Benz GLA on Carsforsale.com

The smartly styled Cadillac XT4 enters into it’s third model year in 2021 while Mercedes-Benz has made some exciting and thoroughgoing changes to the GLA which got both larger and better looking in 2021. And while each can convincingly play the part of chic luxury crossover, one clearly outshines the other.

Specs & Driving – Dueling 2-Liters

XT4

2021 Cadillac XT4 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com
2021 Cadillac XT4 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com

The Cadillac XT4 stays within the typical lanes of a non-sport crossover, a modestly sized and tuned engine and an A-to-B driving personality. The XT4 offers a single engine option, a 2.0L turbo four-cylinder paired with a nine-speed automatic. The turbo-four puts up 237hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque which provides adequate power. Front-wheel drive versions get 24 city/ 30 highway mpg while all-wheel drive versions take a slight dent in fuel efficiency to 22 city/29 highway. Towing, if you’re so inclined, is rated to 3,500lbs.

2021 Cadillac XT4 - cadillac.com
2021 Cadillac XT4 - cadillac.com

On the road, the 2.0L mill does a decent job of propelling the XT4 up to speed and highway passing can be done with confidence. Funnily enough, the XT4 is actually slower than it feels, with a 0-to-60 time of 7.8 seconds . Steering feels vague and a bit loose off center, but this is entirely forgivable in a vehicle that really isn’t pretending to be sportier than it is. The transmission, however, might be something to hold against Cadillac. It can be a laggard at times and reluctant to upshift in some scenarios.

GLA

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 2.0L I4 engine - carsforsale.com

The Mercedes-Benz GLA doesn’t have an AMG version out yet, (likely coming late this year or early the next) so for now it too is limited to a single engine option. And like the XT4, the GLA gets a turbo 2.0L four-cylinder, this one making 221hp and 258lb.-ft. of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. Front-wheel drive GLAs get a slightly superior 25 city and 34 highway mpg. 4Matic equipped all-wheel drive versions get 24 city and 33 highway mpg. The GLA’s tow rating is an oddly specific 3,306lbs.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com

The GLA offers the livelier experience of the two crossovers. It runs a sprint from 0-to-60 in 6.8 seconds and breezes up to highway speed with aplomb. The rumbly engine note may have its detractors, but we felt it added to the GLA’s personality. Steering is heavier than expected but not overly so. While overall the GLA is the peppier drive, we found its transmission also had detractions. From first to second gear can be laggy and throttle response from idle feels abrupt at times. That snappiness was reminiscent of my own Subaru Forester’s jumpy CVT, and while I’m used to it, most will have to be patient learning to calibrate their throttle application in the GLA. This temperamental transmission aside, the newly updated GLA is far more athletic and fun to drive than the prior iteration.

Even without a performance version on tap, the Mercedes-Benz GLA bests the Cadillac XT4 when it comes to driving experience.

Comfort & Interior – Looking the Look

XT4

2021 Cadillac XT4 interior - cadillac.com
2021 Cadillac XT4 interior - cadillac.com

Inside the XT4 we find contradiction. On the one hand the interior design is slick and modern and looks as good as any similarly priced luxury crossover. And yet, a rough ride and some cheap trimmings have it lacking the refinement you’d naturally expect. The suspension tuning is surprisingly stiff for a Cadillac forgoing any sporty pretentions. Rougher roads and potholes can often jar occupants. While leather and soft touch materials predominate at your line of sight, hard plastics start to take over the further down you look.

This isn’t to say the XT4 doesn’t have its strong points. As we mentioned above, interior styling is on point (just as it is on the outside) The XT4 looks every bit the modern luxury vehicle it is. Space is also plentiful, including ample legroom even for rear seat passengers. Cargo is a generous 22.3cu.-ft. behind the rear seats and, with them folded down expands to 48.9cu.-ft.

2021 Cadillac XT4 interior - cadillac.com
2021 Cadillac XT4 interior - cadillac.com

Controls are, for the most part, conveniently and logically positioned. An 8.0-inch touchscreen houses Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, which was intuitive and easy to navigate. Oddly, the control for the power liftgate is hidden in the driver’s side door pocket and took us a few minutes to locate.

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GLA

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA interior - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA interior - mbusa.com

The GLA’s interior benefits greatly with the 2021 update. It is both roomier and smoother riding than the prior generation. The additional two inches of height translate to a more expansive greenhouse and there’s both headroom and legroom galore for even those well above 6 feet in height. In fact, rear passengers benefit from a full 4 ½-inches of added legroom. The ride is well-damped, and the perturbations of aging asphalt shrugged off with barely a notice from occupants.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com

The interior of the GLA serves its purpose as an entry-level Mercedes well. Materials are top-notch quality, and the design is elegant throughout. Some are partial to the treble set of circular dash vents, but I looked at the new S-Class’s vents as a return to sanity for Mercedes design language. Cargo is considerably shy of the XT4 behind the rear seats with just 15.4cu.-ft., but the GLA makes up for this somewhat with a very generous 50.5cu.-ft. once the rear seats are folded down. (The rear seats also feature an ultra-convenient 40/20/40 split.)

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA interior - mbusa.com
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA interior - mbusa.com

Mercedes class-leading MBUX system is housed in a 7- or optional 10.25-inch touchscreen (paired with an identically sized digital dash display). This system can be controlled via the touchscreen, console mounted touchpad, buttons on the steering wheel, or by the “Hey, Mercedes” voice recognition commands.

The GLA comes out ahead in the areas of interior and comfort. Both it and the XT4 look great, but the latter’s jostling ride felt decidedly un-luxurious.

Trims & Features – Where Things Get Spendy

XT4 – Starts at $36,790 (FWD) or $39,290 (AWD)

Luxury – powerlift gate, leatherette seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, rear parking assist, forward collision warning, auto emergency braking, front pedestrian braking.

Premium Luxury – hands-free liftgate, ambient lighting, lane change alert with blind spot detection, optional 20-inch alloy wheels.

Sport – 18-inch wheels, carbon fiber or wood interior trim, sport steering wheel, red sport calipers, active sport suspension, metallic sport pedals.

Packages include:

  • Driver Awareness Package – lane keep assist, lane departure warning
  • Driver Assistance Package – automatic emergency braking, reverse automatic braking, and Driver Awareness Package
  • Enhanced Visual Package – rearview camera mirror, surround vision camera view, automatic parking assist with rear pedestrian braking

GLA – Starts at $34,250 (FWD) or $38,230 (AWD)

The GLA forgoes trim levels and offers a series of packages and stand-alone options. (It’s a German luxury brand, you knew the upcharges were coming, right?)

Standard features include dual-zone climate control, 3-way power adjustable front seats, a 40/20/20 split rear seat, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Options include a digital heads-up display, in-car WiFi, and premium Burmester stereo.

  • Multi-Media Package – MB Navigation, speed limit assist, augmented video (which functions similarly to augmented reality but is displayed on the GLA’s infotainment screen).
  • Premium Package – 2x 10.25-inch touchscreen and digital dash display screens, power folding side mirrors, keyless entry.
  • Exterior Light Package – LED headlights, automatic high beams.
  • AMG Line (with or without “Night”) – an interior and exterior appearance package (no fancy engine, sorry) that includes 19-inch alloy wheels (“Night” adds black accenting here), stainless steel pedals, AMG floormats and more.

Standard safety equipment here only includes forward collision mitigation and blind spot monitoring. The rest of the GLA’s safety equipment resides in the Driver Assistance Package including active steering assist, speed limit assist, active blind spot avoidance and lane keep assist, along with Mercedes’s version of adaptive cruise control, Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC.

The area of available features a strong showing for the Cadillac XT4 with a more generous array of standard safety offerings than the Mercedes.

Conclusion – A (Surprise!) Refreshing Refresh

2021 Cadillac XT4 - cadillac.com

2021 Cadillac XT4 – cadillac.com  |  Shop new Cadillac XT4 on Carsforsale.com

For similar money, the choice between the Cadillac XT4 and the Mercedes-Benz GLA becomes pretty clear. While both vehicles look great inside and out, it’s the Mercedes that offers more refinement. The smooth ride, superior drivability, and high-quality interior (all vast improvements over the prior generation GLA) make the new 2021 version of Mercedes’s smallest SUV a winner.

WINNER: 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA - mbusa.com

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA – mbusa.com  |  Shop new Mercedes-Benz GLA on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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