More utilitarian in its mission, the GLB introduces a different style from what might be expected of a Mercedes-Benz
Mercedes-Benz is working its way through the alphabet for its lineup of SUVS, with nameplates of GLA, GLB, GLC, GLE, GLS and the mighty G-Class. Including the so-called “coupe” body-style variants, there are eight SUVs in the lineup, from subcompact to compact, midsize, full-size and full-size plus. Globally, one in three Mercedes-Benz cars is now an SUV, and one in four is a compact model.
The company is following the trend of SUVs as a preferred body style, particularly in the U.S., where there is growing demand for vehicles that can tote six or more passengers.
In the last year, Mercedes-Benz has refreshed its entire SUV lineup — and added its latest delivery, the compact-class GLB, today’s tester. It is sold as a five- or seven-seater, which is just an $850 option for the pair of 50/50 third-row folding seats.
The GLB is sold in front- or all-wheel drive with a 221-horsepower, turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and eight-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission.
Expected later this year will be a higher-performance Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, with 302-hp version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter engine. Follow its progress here. https://www.mbusa.com/en/future-vehicles/2021-glb-35
The front-drive GLB 250 starts at $37,595, including $995 freight charge from Aguascalientes, Mexico. The GLB 250 4Matic starts at $39,595.
With options, the front-drive tester came to $49,050 and was equipped with several AMG-line style elements, such as the sport steering wheel ($360), 20-inch alloy wheels ($1,050) and a body kit of a front air dam, flared side sills and deep rear valance with a diamond-block grille, perforated front disc brakes with M-B lettering.
Check current pricing incentives here.
Not the usual
The GLB is different from what might be expected of Mercedes-Benz as the purveyor of luxurious finery. While the GLB has the credibility of Mercedes engineering and solid quality, it is more utilitarian in its mission, which is appropriate for this class of small SUV. It is less pretentious in presence and function.
It is an upright body style, which maximizes interior room for people or cargo. But because of its more-blunt shape and roof rails, punching through the air at highway speeds isn’t as quiet in the cabin as might be expected of a Mercedes. The chassis, however, feels very solid, almost over-engineered, for potential off-road durability.
At 111.4 inches, the GLB’s wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than the GLA and 1.7
inches shorter than the GLC. Headroom is quite tall for a compact vehicle at almost 41 inches (with the sunroof) with front-seat legroom of 41.4 inches, typical for the segment.
As a seven-seater, the third-row provides occasional use for small people with a snug 29.1 inches of legroom and 34.8 inches of headroom (The option is likely an incentive for global customers.). But the second-row seats have an easy-entry function for access to the pair of third-row seats, which include a pair of cup holders between the seats and two storage compartments, each with a USB-C port.
The second-row seats have fore-aft slide up to 3.5 inches or up to 8.7 inches with the third row. It is useful space flexibility for more legroom or more cargo space.
The second-row is raised with a smallish exhaust tunnel and a generous 38 inches of legroom and good footroom under the front seats. The seatbacks have nine settings of seatback recline, to help accommodate large adults or sleeping youngsters. A side window air bag protects the passengers in the third row.
It is a digital world inside, but not threateningly so for an analog type of driver. The optional “digital cockpit” is two 10.25-inch high-resolution screens with configurable displays and multimedia visuals. The central, horizontal touch-screen display is a finger’s reach from the steering wheel not complicated to access features, but changing settings and customizing themes should be done while parked.
The horizontal screen — rather than a deep vertical tablet — allows generous air flow from the three turbine-like vents below. The floor console (not a shift console) packages an e-bin and shelf for a wireless charging pad, cup holders and a wrist-rest to access the central controller for such functions as vehicle settings, navigation, phone and performance modes. The shift “lever” is a stalk on the steering wheel to electronically engage gears.
Sightlines from the driver’s seat are open at the side mirrors and over the shoulder. The large back glass provides more visibility than some swoopier SUVs in this segment, which include the Audi Q3, BMW X1, VW Tiguan and Volvo XC40.
Shoulder room is fairly wide at 55.9 inches window to window and the entire interior space feels larger than a compact-class cabin.
There are number of areas for small-item storage, door-panel bottle holders and a large, locking glove box — and that’s not always easy to provide in compact space. But the visors are of modest depth, do not slide and leave gaps at the windshield pillars where morning and evening sun can glint through.
The M-B Tex upholstery looks leatherlike but without the tenderness of the real thing. The seats are European-firm and might feel hard to some after a couple hours on the road.
A smart design for the door skins extends over the door sills to prevent dirty scuffs on slacks or legs.
For almost $50,000, the tester didn’t include wireless charging, available for $200. But there are five USB-C charging and data ports.
But the adjustable suspension, $900, is worth it for the its adaptive damping, providing a truly comfortable ride, for a German-engineered car. Sport firms up the ride quality, but it is not harsh. And for $360 the flat-bottom AMG steering wheel will return years of pleasurable fit and feel.
The 2.0-liter engine in the GLB 250 feels more powerful than is expected from a four cylinder. With 258 foot-pounds of torque pulling from 1,800-4,000 rpm, the engine fills big shoes. The transmission in standard mode gives mileage-calmed shifting, but sport mode removes any hesitance.
Mercedes’ engineering capably cancels the typical turbo lag and even the time-stealing launch of the dual-clutch automated manual transmission. The auto stop-start at idle function can be switched off, but the immediate response of the engine-restart makes it mostly unnecessary to do so.
Official fuel economy estimates are 23 mpg city, 30 highway and 26 mpg combined, on the recommended premium fuel. (4Matic mileage is 23/31/26 mpg.) In the front-drive tester, I worked up to 34.1 mpg on the highway and had an overall average of 26.4 mpg, according to the onboard computer. The 15.9-gallon fuel tank gives a wide cruising radius.
Electronic oil-level check
It’s also interesting that the engine design has no dipstick to manually check the oil. The oil level is checked electronically through the vehicle’s onboard computer. The results are viewed in the multifunction display (in the gauges) of the digital cockpit. After the engine has warmed up for 30 minutes the system will respond with several messages including that the oil level is OK or if it is below minimum and how much oil to add or if the oil level is too full.
The large four-wheel disc brakes have 13-inch front rotors and 12.6-inch rotors rear. Towing is not recommended for the GLB.
The autonomous drive calibrations keep the car well centered in the lane with only occasional crossing of the Botts dots or white lines. And when it does, the system flashes a red steering-wheel warning light that somehow feels like an admonishment for me not paying attention when it was its own “hand” that crossed the line.
Overall, the support-assist is subtle and without alarming alerts but it will be made clear when driver takeover of steering is necessary.
The rear quarters are cargo ready with a wide opening (42 ½ inches) and a low load-floor height. The two-level floor can be manually moved to the lower slot, which gives another 4 inches of load height. Or fold the back seat for about 6 feet of length.
Compact SUVs are available from every manufacturer from mainstream to luxury. Pricing starts in the mid- to low-$30,000s for a very competent mainstream vehicle. But the difference between $50K and $25K is a lot of rewarding details. Among them, auto lock-unlock sensors for the back doors, not just the front; more meticulous engineering of door hinges for wider opening, nearly to right angles; a carpet-smooth ride; and uncompromising engine technology that transforms a 2.0-liter four-cylinder into a V-6.
The GLB shrugs off a precious luxury label and doubles up on everyday function as a fairly priced family vehicle — welcoming a new generation to the brand.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250
Body style: compact, 5- or 7-seat, five-door SUV, in front or all-wheel drive
Engine: 221-hp, turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder w/auto stop-start at idle; 258 lb.-ft. torque from 1,800-4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed DCT (dual clutch)
Fuel economy: 23/30/26 mpg city/hwy/combined; premium fuel recommended
Fuel tank: 15.9 gal.
Cargo space: 24-62 cu. ft. (5.1 cu. ft. w/third row)
Front head/leg room: 40.7/41.4 in.
Rear head/leg room: 39.3/38.1 in.
Length/wheelbase: 182.4/111.4 in.
Curb weight: 3,638 lbs. *7-seat FWD, 3,759 lbs.
Turning circle: 38.4 ft.
Standard equipment includes: Keyless-start with push-button ignition, M-B Tex leatherette upholstery, rearview camera, power front seats w/lumbar and 3 memory presets, electric parking brake, 40/20/40 folding back seat, power liftgate, LED headlights-taillights and running lights, 5 USB-C ports, 7-inch Mercedes-Benz User Experience infotainment touch screen, touch-pad controller, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto apps, aluminum roof rails
Safety features include: 7 air bags, active brake assist, adaptive braking, crosswind assist, attention assist, predictive brake priming, automatic brake drying, hill-start assist, brake hold, electronic stability and traction controls, front fog lights
Base price: $37,595, including $995 freight charge; price as tested $49,050
Options on test vehicle: Natural grain black Linden wood trim $325; AMG Line sport steering wheel $360; 20-inch AMG wheels $1,050; adaptive suspension $990; satellite radio trial $460; heated front seats $580; Driver assistance package, $2,250, includes active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active distance assist Distronic, active steering assist, active blind spot assist, active speed limit assist, active emergency stop assist, evasive steering assist, Pre-Safe Plus, route-based speed adaptation, extended restart in stop-and-go traffic; Multimedia package, $1,150, includes navigation with map updates for 3 years, MBUX augmented reality for navigation, speed-limit assist; Night package, $400, includes high gloss back grille, mirror covers and window trim; AMG Line body styling, $2,240, includes perforated front disc brakes and M-B lettering and diamond-block grille; Premium package, $1,650, 10.25-inch center touch screen display and 10.25-inch digital instrument panel, Keyless-Go package, auto-dimming rearview mirror and (folding) driver’s side mirrors
Where assembled: Aguascalientes, Mexico
Warranty: 4-years/50,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance; and 3 years of Mercedes Me connect services via smartphone app and over-the-air software updates and free map updates for 3 years