For this Design Battle, we’ve chosen two premium, compact SUV flagships. In the left corner is the new Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S. On the right is its biggest rival, the Audi RSQ3.

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S 4Matic+

The Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S was unveiled in February 2020 as the ultimate performance version of the second-generation Mercedes-Benz GLA.

Designer: Gorden Wagener, Daimler AG Chief Design Officer
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol producing 310kW and 500Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch transmission
0-100km/h: 4.3 seconds
Top speed: 270km/h
Dimensions: 4410mm long, 1834mm wide, 1611mm tall, 2729mm wheelbase

Audi RSQ3

Unveiled in September 2020, the RSQ3 is the performance version of the second-generation Audi Q3.

Designer: Marc Lichte, Audi AG Head of Design
Engine: 2.5-litre five-cylinder petrol producing 294kW and 480Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch transmission
0-100km/h: 4.5 seconds
Top speed: 250km/h
Dimensions: 4506 mm long, 1851mm wide, 1602 mm tall, 2680mm wheelbase

Design Battle: Audi RSQ3 v Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S

Round 1: Front end

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S: The second-generation GLA has departed from the “lifted hatchback” style of its predecessor, and now looks more like an SUV. That doesn’t mean it’s lost any of its sporty flair.

At the front, AMG models feature the inverted Panamericana grille, which (unlike AMG Line models) comes with vertical slats. The highlight of the GLA45 is the more prominent splitter and the aerodynamic fins on both sides of the front bumper.

Other notable elements include the F1-style blade in the joined air intakes, the chrome or glossy black trim, the power domes on the bonnet, and the aggressive LED headlights.

Audi RSQ3: The RSQ3 has an angular and aggressive design, evoking its performance credentials.

The wide, octagonal Singleframe grille and honeycomb structure is joined by huge lateral air intakes with aluminium-style blades designed to look like an extension of the integrated splitter beneath the lower central intake.

The matrix-LED headlights follow the same pattern with distinctive arrow-shaped graphics and angled edges dictating the surfaces of the bumper, while on the edge of the bonnet we find the retro-flavoured slits characterising all the latest RS models.

Design Battle: Audi RSQ3 v Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S

Round 2: Profile

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S: Even though it has grown in height and features altered proportions to its predecessor, the profile of the second-generation GLA45 manages to look muscular and athletic thanks to the black 21-inch alloy wheels with silver rings, flared and squared-off wheel arches, and the more generous side sill extensions.

Even though the tail sits upright, the curved window line drops towards the rear for a sleeker look, pointing the eye towards the version-specific rear spoiler.

Audi RSQ3: The unique 21-inch wheels are the main focus on the RSQ3, further emphasised by the flared round wheel arches (adding 10 mm in width), the muscular shoulder line that rises above them, and the lowered suspension which brings the car 10mm closer to the ground.

The sporty side-sill extensions are body-coloured with an aluminium-style trim, just like the window line and the roof racks. The sloping D-pillars further enhance the overall proportions, even though they sit a lot more upright than in the RS Q3 Sportback.

Design Battle: Audi RSQ3 v Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S

Round 3: Rear end

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S: The undeniable star of AMG’s aero package is the rear spoiler extension which is unique not only to the GLA range, but to the performance SUV world.

The slimmer elongated LED taillights give the car a more aggressive look, while the AMG rear bumper features additional side inlets and a large diffuser with four vertical fins. The car is finished with quad pipes, naturally.

Audi RSQ3: The tail of the RSQ3 is easily distinguished by the large oval-shaped tailpipes, housed in the outer edges of the diffuser, which is framed by an aluminium-style trim.

Above it are thin reflectors sitting on the edge of the body-coloured bumper extension. The LED taillight graphics mirror the headlights, while the RS-specific rear spoiler with gloss black side curtains and a recess in the middle is a nice touch.

Design Battle: Audi RSQ3 v Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S

Round 4: Interior

Mercedes-AMG GLA45 S: The GLA has a similar dashboard with its siblings from the Mercedes-AMG range, featuring the dual-screen layout with a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and a 10.25-inch central touch screen, ambient lighting and the characteristic “turbine” climate vents.

The MBUX infotainment system comes with AMG-specific displays and Track Pace data logger. Sporty touches include the multi-function flat-bottom AMG Performance steering wheel upholstered in Nappa leather with galvanised shift paddles, the heavy bolstered AMG Performance seats, the stainless steel pedals and the contrasting yellow stitching and highlights throughout the cabin.

The optional AMG Real Performance Sound provides a more thrilling audio experience by enhancing the engine note.

Audi RSQ3: The cabin of the RSQ3 follows the angular design theme of the exterior. It combines aluminium, carbon, or anthracite trim with black leather, Alcantara and contrasting red stitching.

Among the highlights are the flat-bottomed steering wheel with gearshift paddles, the (optional) RS sport seats upholstered in Nappa leather with integrated headrests and honeycomb stitching, the illuminated door sills and the ambient interior lighting.

The 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit features RS-specific displays and is joined by a 10.1-inch touchscreen on the centre console tilted towards the driver, providing access to the MMI infotainment system.

Last but not least, there is an optional 680W Bang & Olufsen Premium Sound System with virtual 3D sound and 15 loudspeakers.


Which one do you like best?

Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 S 4MATIC+

Audi RS Q3

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Thanos Pappas
Thanos Pappas is a Design Contributor at CarExpert.
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