- The new Mercedes-Benz GLB-class is a compact crossover riding on the same platform as the A-class sedan.
- It has boxy styling inspired by the G-wagen and splits the difference in size between the GLA and the GLC.
- The GLB is available with seven seats, a first for a compact Mercedes.
It’s a competitive compact-SUV world out there, with the luxury section of the segment full of entrants, many of which have come out within the past few years. With the introduction of the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250, the three-pointed star finally has a legit entry in the compact class. Because let’s face it, the GLA was always a bit too weird and small for the job.
Riding on the front-wheel-drive platform that underpins the A-class and CLA-class compact sedans, the GLB250 can’t quite pay off on its "baby G-class" styling that Mercedes was aiming for. But it seems unlikely anyone shopping in this class was really looking for more than simple all-weather capability anyway. The boxy GLB has an expressive front end with rectangular design elements, an upright rear end, and a lower body covered in black plastic cladding; the GLB further hints at off-road capability with aluminum skidplates and side skirts. The optional AMG Line bodykit turns up the aggression with new bumpers, wheels, and a different grille, but it still has all the requisite SUV body cladding.
On the inside it's very similar in style to the A-class and CLA, although there are new aluminum-look tubular elements on the dashboard and center console, and the grab handles on the doors are horizontal. Two 7-inch screens are standard (10.3-inch units are optional) and the GLB uses Mercedes's new MBUX operating system. The GLB250 comes standard with features like dual-zone climate control, power front seats, automated emergency braking, and push-button start.
The GLB250, so far the only offering, is powered by the same turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four engine that’s found under the CLA250’s hood. It makes the same 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque as it does in the sedan but is bolted to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. If the GLB250's quoted 6.9-second zero-to-60-mph time isn't enough for you, don't worry-there will be multiple AMG versions of the GLB coming in the near future.
The GLB comes standard with front-wheel drive, but 4Matic all-wheel drive is optional. In Eco and Comfort modes, the steady-state torque distribution is 80/20, front-to-rear. Sport mode shifts that to 70/30, and in Off-Road mode, the nominal torque distribution is 50/50. Opt for an all-wheel-drive GLB and the rather grandly named Off-Road Engineering package comes standard. Along with the Off-Road driving mode, it includes hill-descent control and a screen for the infotainment system that includes gradient and inclination angle readouts. Not exactly Rubicon-ready, then.
But the GLB can do one thing that the G-class can’t: Seat seven people. That’s right, this little ute is offered with a third row of seats. At 182 inches in length, the GLB is about an inch shorter than the GLC and five inches longer than the GLA, neither of which offer a third row. We’re not promising it’ll be comfortable, but it’s there. The third row gets two cupholders and two storage compartments, each with its own USB-C port. Opt for the standard five-seat configuration, and you get almost as much cargo space behind the second row as in the GLC. The third row can be folded flat, and the second row of seats can slide fore and aft no matter if you opt for the third row or not.
There isn’t much open space between the base prices of the roughly $35,000 GLA and the $40,000 GLC. It’s probably fair to assume the GLB’s price will start somewhere around $37,000 for a front-wheel-drive, five-seat GLB250 when it goes on sale late this year. A long list of optional extras like a panoramic sunroof, adaptive suspension, and multiple packages that add driver-assist and convenience features will surely drive up the price.
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