New Model News

Redesigned 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA focuses on value, gets new car wash functionality

Mercedes-Benz has redesigned the GLA for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz is signaling an end to its current compact car generation in the U.S. with the reveal of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA. The model has undergone a significant makeover for this new model year including new dimensions, added passenger space, and a fresh list of safety and driver assist technology.

The exterior of the GLA follows closely with the aesthetics that are apparent in the current crop of SUVs and cars. Its new height adds 3.9 inches to the car, which allows for a more upright seating position that gives rear seat occupants additional legroom despite the fact that the model is now about half an inch shorter from nose to tail. Its track is 1.6 inches wider and the wheel arches are now three inches bigger.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA The GLA adopts the latest looks of many modern Mercedes vehicles.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

Mercedes-Benz has put a standard four-cylinder engine under the GLA's hood. It achieves 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The car has a top speed of 130 mph.

Front wheel drive is still standard in the GLA and 4MATIC all-wheel drive is available. Models equipped with all-wheel drive get the Off-Road Engineering Package and LED Intelligent Light System standard.

The Merc is equipped with three drive modes: Eco, Comfort, and Sport.

Mercedes is touting the enhancements made to the car's outward visibility in the new model.

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA The new GLA features added cargo space configuration options.Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

They're also promoting the new functionality of the rear seats and cargo space. Now, the rear seats can be adjusted up to 5.5 inches and the rear seat backrest can lean back more. The seat features a 40-20-40 split. Each section can fold down manually individually or as a group.

Inside the car's cabin, the driver information screen, instrument cluster, and infotainment screen are all housed within one panel with cutouts for each function. Two 7-inch screen displays are standard. Buyers can upgrade to two 10.25-inch displays.

The GLA features the latest version of the MBUX infotainment system, which is controlled by a touch pad that proved problematic during a recent test drive of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLC. Owners can also use voice commands that activate using the prompt, "Hey Mercedes."

2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA The interior of the GLA matches the interior of most Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

New for 2021, the GLA's Driver Assistance Package will including a number of fresh functionalities like exit warning and a reformulated active brake assist.

The GLA will be the first model in its class to get a car wash function, similar to what is in the Mercedes-Benz GLS. With one command, exterior mirrors are folded in and the side windows and sliding roof are closed. The car's rain sensing wiper functionality is suppressed, and the air conditioning automatically changes to air-recirculation mode. If fitted with a 360-degree camera, the new GLA will display the current camera view to assist when driving in/out of the car wash. All of these functions cease when the car reaches 12 mph and above.

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA will go on sale in the U.S. in the summer.

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The Acura TLX offers buyers a good time behind the wheel and true premium appointments.

Photo courtesy of Acura

The Honda Accord is a really decent car. It's perennially one of the top sellers in the U.S., and for good reason. But, sometimes the Accord isn't enough. That's where the Acura TLX comes in.

Acura has completely redesigned the TLX for the 2021 model year. It's made the car into a sharp-looking and better handling machine that is designed to remind buyers what Acura was all about in its 1990s and 2000s heyday. One quick trip around the neighborhood will show you that it achieves that, in spades. A longer trip will make you realize that it's okay to say "no" buying an SUV.

2021 Acura TLX Advance Diving the TLX is a pleasure. It's both comfortable to be in and engaging to toss around on the road.Photo courtesy of Acura

2021 Acura TLX Advance

The exterior of the car looks good. It has LEDs in the right places for its premium price point and styling that makes it stand out (for all the right reasons) more than it blends in. The car is athletic in its state and a bit moody and aggressive while fitting in with the rest of the Acura family, which includes the redesigned 2022 MDX. Every bit of that is a positive.

The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord by a few inches in each direction.

The suggestion of performance extends from the outside to the inside though the cabin does not set aside the comfort and convenience features one typically wants from a sedan for the weight-saving suede substitute upholstery or unique and different-just-to-be-different knobs, dials, and buttons that make operation more complicated than it needs to be. The TLX is more than properly trimmed out for its price point.

One of the best features of the TLX is its space. The waterfall dashboard design gives the front passenger the illusion of having more space to occupy in front of them. There is more passenger volume in the 2021 TLX versus the 2020 - slightly more room - and all other -room metrics are nearly the same from the old generation to the next. The Accord has more headroom, three cubic feet more cargo space, and nearly 10 cubic feet more passenger space.

The TLX is longer, wider, and taller than the Accord.Photo courtesy of Acura

The center console's side bolsters, with their interiors accented in real wood add to the premium look and feel of the vehicle in an unexpected way. Between those bolsters are the Acura's climate controls. They are button-operated and match what is in the RDX and MDX. They're not as fancy as what you'll find in a luxury car, but for the premium segment, they're attractive enough and extremely easy to use, which makes them winners.

Putting the Dynamic Mode drive mode selector front and center in the TLX, RDX, and MDX makes it easy to use and puts it front of mind. The shifter being directly under it frees up center console space, a logical layout that is an equal part practical.

Speaking of dynamic, the TLX is a dynamic dream, for a non-sports car. While the tester was not the TLX Type S (that super sporty variant is coming later this year), it does have quite a bit of dynamic difference form the Accord. The TLX with all-wheel drive grips the road, even when you're pushing the limits of what it can handle.

Steering is accurate and properly weighted, and allows the car to easily go where you want it. The TLX takes corners with ease and little body lean. There's no need for super bolstered seats as the TLX doesn't toss you around unless you make it.

The car's waterfall dashboard gives the interior a spacious feeling.Photo courtesy of Acura

Acceleration from its 2.0--liter turbo-four is plenty for daily drivability, and even when you want to go have a riot behind the wheel on the weekend. The engine is paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission that delivers the 272 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque smoothly and relatively efficiently. Changing to the Sport drive model gives the TLX noticeably shorter shifts and changes up the throttle response and damping capability, and tightens up the steering. It's a proper Sport mode.

While you're at speed, or idling, there's a lot to take in on the driver's information display. Smartly, Acura has put the necessary information front and center. If you're looking for your trip meter, fuel efficiency, or odometer information, you're doing to need to look to the smaller area of the screen. While you might strain your eyes to see it, you don't really need the info displayed there on-the-go.

There are folks out there that complain about the Acura touch interface for the infotainment system controls. Spend some time with them and sincerely get to know them and they suddenly become incredibly easy to use. Just remember, unlike a mouse, there's no swiping to move the selector. It's a touch-for-touch system like on an iPad.

The touch pad interface and wireless device charging are well placed.Photo courtesy of Acura

The space where Acura has elected to fit the wireless device charger is also its own type of genius. It's below the center console bump out wrist rest for the touch interface, which holds it in place when carving corners, and keeps it close enough to the driver that you can look down and see what alert has popped up if you're not using Apple CarPlay or Android Auto at the time.

Acura's long list of standard and available safety and driver assist features help keep you going down the road without nagging. The car also has Acura's new airbag technology for the front seat passenger.

Pricing for the TLX starts at $37,500. As tested, the car was nearly $50,000. The TLX blows away its closest premium competition by a mile. Maybe more. It's also a lot better at $48,000 than what you'll find in many other luxury cars for the same price.

Most importantly though, Acura has put significant daylight between its Honda brother, not just in price, but also in materials, drivability, maneuverability, and design. That's a big step in the right direction for the brand.

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The Michelin VISION tire is the tire of the future for the company

Photo courtesy of Michelin

Sustainability is in focus for most of the world's automakers. Making cars, trucks, SUVs, and vans that pollute the Earth less than their predecessors is their focus alongside emerging safety and driver assistance technology. Others in the auto industry supply chain are also looking to become more sustainable, including Michelin.

The tire company has announced that by 2050, Michelin tires will be made entirely from renewable, recycled, bio sourced, and otherwise sustainable materials. Today, nearly 30 percent of the materials used in manufacturing Michelin Group tires is are sustainable.

A study released last year, Emissions Analytics, an independent global testing and data company that studies real-world emissions and fuel efficiency for passenger and commercial vehicles, found that pollution from tire wear can be 1,000 times worse than what comes out of a vehicle's exhaust pipe. Unlike exhaust pollution, tire and brake pollution is mostly unregulated.

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In 2017, Michelin introduced the VISION tire, a concept that is airless, connected, rechargeable, and entirely sustainable. Since then, the company has invested in recycling efforts, buying up rubber pellet recyclers in the State of Georgia and in Spain.

The current lineup of Michelin tires consists of products that contain more than 200 ingredients each. The main part of the equation is natural rubber, which is harvested from rubber trees via a process that requires tapping a tree much in the same way that maple syrup comes from maple trees. Rubber trees traditionally need to be at least six years old before they are harvested.

Other materials in Michelin tires include synthetic rubber, metal, fibers, and components that are designed to strengthen the tire's structure like carbon black, silica, and plasticizers.

In a statement, a spokesperson fro Michelin said, "Michelin's maturity in materials technology stems from the strength of its R&D capabilities, which are supported by 6,000 people working in seven research and development centers around the world and mastering 350 areas of expertise. The commitment of these engineers, researchers, chemists and developers has led to the filing of 10,000 patents covering tyre design and manufacturing. They work hard every day to find the recipes that will improve tyre safety, durability, ride and other performance features, while helping to make them 100-percent sustainable by 2050."

Michelin has partnered with a number of companies to create materials of the future. Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles, the two companies that are spearheading the BioButterfly project, have been working with Michelin since 2019 on producing bio-sourced butadiene to replace petroleum-based butadiene. Using the biomass from wood, rice husks, leaves, corn stalk, and other plant waste, 4.2 million tons of wood chips could be incorporated into Michelin tires every year with the materials replacement.

A partnership between Michelin and Pyroware can produce recycled styrene from plastics found in packaging. Styrene is used to produce synthetic rubber. Eventually, tens of thousands of tonnes of polystyrene waste could be recycled back into its original products as well as into Michelin tires every year.

Additionally, Michelin will launch the construction of its first tire recycling plant in the world with Encivo, a Swedish company that has developed a patented technology to recover carbon black, pyrolysis oil, steel, gas and other new, high-quality reusable materials from end-of-life tires.

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