The GLB is Mercedes’ latest offering in their ever-expanding SUV range and yet another interesting derivative based on the A-Class model line.
Number eight. You know, one more than seven. That is how this new GLB places in the list of Mercedes’ SUVs. Like the B indicates, it sits between the GLA and the GLC, so its positioning is not hard to understand.
So why build a new SUV to fill a gap that was quite small to begin with? Well, because Mercedes thinks that more than a gap in that specific space, there was an opportunity to build a small, seven-seat SUV for modern families who wanted something still fit for urban use by not being too big, but that could venture off-road if necessary with the whole family inside.
To me, and this is a personal view, Mercedes said nothing of the sort, the GLB also exists to get back some of the spirit the old GLK had. The square look that Mercedes abandoned after the GLK was discontinued has found a successor in the GLB – which is, therefore, more ‘butch’ than either the GLA or GLC and likely to appeal to a new audience.
If that was the idea, then hats off to Mercedes for finding that gap and filling it with the right product. Time will tell, of course, but these guys have had a perfect record as of late; I wouldn’t bet against the GLB being another commercial winner, even in this time of uncertainty.
Mechanically, the GLB is a product of the A-Class range and built on the same MFA2 platform – with an added 10cm between axles for better interior room and an extra row of seats. There is a choice of four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, front or four-wheel drive and 7- or 8-speed automatic gearboxes.
The interior is pretty much unchanged from all of the compact cars based on the A-Class. Please do not spec a car without the big screens, as you will be losing much of the MBux infotainment system experience and when the time comes to sell the car, its value will be lower than what you saved on them in the first place.
So, 10.1-inches it is. And with it comes a lot of goodies, such as augmented reality for the navigation, besides all those usual treats Mercedes developed for the MBux, which continue to amaze more than two years after it was launched.
As for build quality, well, remember this is not an S-Class, but materials go well together and have a nice touch to them. The seats look really good and after 150km – the longest journey I took – you are fit to go jogging, so no problems there. As for the third row, it is obviously only suited for small children, but that is not a criticism; this is a bonus feature in a car that would normally seat just five.
With the third row in use, the boot is almost unusable though. However, fold the two back seats down and the GLB offers 500 litres of storage space. Fold the second row as well and a whopping 1680 litres become available.
I drove a GLB 220, the range-topping diesel version. With 190 horsepower, it is quite lively – 100km/h comes up in just 7.6 seconds. Dynamically, the GLB suffers from having quite a high centre of gravity, but it corners well and doesn’t disappoint, as long as you know what you are buying into. This is not a sports car, of course.
Comfort-wise, nothing to be said – it’s a Mercedes after all. Just make sure you don’t go for the biggest wheels, as they are unnecessary; the car looks good on 18-inches and if you are thinking about venturing off-road, then the smaller the better. The high-driving position and all-round great visibility give the driver a great sense of security and confidence in the car.
It does have lots of quality rivals to fight off though: Audi Q3, Jaguar E-Pace, BMW X1 and X2, Volvo XC40…to name but a few. So, have Mercedes done enough to make the GLB stand out in such a crowded market – to which it must add their own GLA and GLC?
I would say yes, especially for two reasons: one, the boxy looks – I like them, as they give it a personality lacking in other options in the segment; two, the seven-seats – nonsense to buy the car without that optional extra, really.
Prices start at €42,350 for the 180d (front-wheel drive, seven-speed gearbox), whereas the eight-speed, all-wheel drive 220d is €57,200. Cheap it is not. But nor is it ridiculously expensive. Check the price difference to the GLA and I think it’s a no-brainer. The GLB is the most interesting car by far.
By Guilherme Marques