- Mercedes-Benz has introduced this concept for an SUV that straddles the space between the GLA and GLC crossovers.
- The concept has a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine making 224 horsepower, but other, more powerful options could be offered.
- The Concept GLB is likely to reach production as soon as next year.
Nature abhors a vacuum, but not as much as a premium automaker does. While there may not appear to be much of a gap between the existing Mercedes-Benz GLA and GLC, the German company thinks there is enough space for another offering. The Concept GLB, unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in China, is meant to offer a more rugged alternative to its crossover sisters.
Although it's officially an opinion-testing concept at this stage, we can safely expect the GLB to make production and to be on sale as soon as next year. While it will sit on the same transverse-engined platform that underpins the GLA and the A-class sedan, the GLB's butch design is clearly trying to channel the spirit of the full-size G-class.
The concept sits on off-road tires and beneath a roof box clearly intended to hint at its potential for adventure. Fortunately for fans of that kind of outdoorsy look, the exterior styling is likely to reach production effectively unchanged. As such, the GLB looks impressively rugged.
Dimensionally, it is considerably bigger than Mercedes's other compact offerings. At 182 inches in length, the GLB has eight inches on the GLA, and its 111-inch wheelbase is 4.7 inches longer, with the concept featuring three-row seating. The most striking difference is in height; the GLB, at 75 inches, is a substantial 15 inches taller than the GLA and 10.5 inches taller than the GLC. We can expect a production version that loses the concept's BFGoodrich all-terrain tires to be slightly less altitudinous, but it will still punch a substantially bigger hole than Merc's dinkier SUVs.
Possible Engine Choices
Mercedes says the concept is fitted with a 2.0-liter version of its M260 gasoline turbo engine producing 224 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, with economy boosted by variable-intake valve timing. This drives an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that sends effort to each corner through standard all-wheel drive. There is a rear clutch to engage drive as required, but there are also selectable dynamic modes to vary the relative proportion of the engine's output sent to each axle. In Eco and Comfort modes, 80 percent of effort ordinarily goes to the front; in Sport, this is reduced to 70 percent, and an Off-Road mode allows the clutch pack to fully engage all the time, resulting in a locked 50:50 torque split.
Other engines could also be offered, possibly including the hybridized AMG 35 version of the same base motor featured in the CLA35 and A35 sedan. While clearly not intended to be as dynamically focused as its sleeker sisters, we reckon that a 302-hp version would be a great low-cost alternative to a GLC43 or even the almighty G63 AMG itself.
Although brown-and-orange trim is likely to trigger Seventies flashbacks-is anyone else thinking Winnebago?-the basic architecture of the concept's cabin is entirely production viable, with Mercedes saying it uses the same basic dashboard as the B-class minivan. Rugged design details include metal door pulls and a substantial dashboard insert in the same material.
The middle-row seat can be moved fore to aft to increase legroom and has a three-way split allowing individual elements to be folded. This also gives access to the third row, where Mercedes says that two individual seats will offer space for "medium-sized occupants"-we're imagining young teenagers-and which fold flat into the trunk floor when not in use. We don't have any luggage capacity figures, but, to judge from the pictures, it looks like plenty.
We anticipate seeing the final version of the car later this year with sales beginning in 2020. There's no word on pricing yet, but we would be surprised if this doesn't also split the difference between the GLA and GLB.
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