The GLB is a brand new model that is going to be a huge hit for the German premium car maker. The SUV slots in below the excellent GLC and above the GLA in Merc’s ever expanding ‘G’ SUV range – its up to 8 now – or 9 if you include the Mercedes-Maybach GLS and GLS as separate models!
Built using a stretched version of the ‘A’ small car platform the GLB is quite imposing. The big USP is that GLB comes with the option of having five or seven seats at a relatively low early €40s price point. This people carrying versatility means it does the job of a mid-sized MPV but with all the street-cred of chunky SUV. As a vehicle GLB does nothing more than countless other SUVs do. So why not buy a Peygeot 5008 or Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace? The badge is the short answer – they don’t have a three pointed star!
I first got up close and personal with the GLB at the Frankfurt motor show and I spent a good bit of time wondering why it had taken the Stuttgart firm so long to build a car that was so ‘right on trend’. The GLB is quite narrow, has a long wheelbase and quite a tall stance on the road. It is taller than its more expensive sibling the GLC. The GLC, a car we love, is wider, very slightly longer (22mm) and has a lower roofline (-24mm). You’ll notice the class size-difference more inside the cabin where in the GLB you sit a little closer to your passenger and three in the middle row is very cosy. On the road the GLB has imposing presence despite is underpinnings coming from the Mercedes-Benz A Class range.
The cabin is configured to accommodate a 5+2 layout. The middle seats can recline while the last two seats are integrated and designed to neatly fold flush to the boot floor when not in use. With its seven seats in place I could, after a warm up and a few stretches, get in to the additional seats – removing myself was, shall we say, less dignified. In reality like all 5+2s these are best left to kids or the occasional use by more compact people. In boot is nice and big at 570 litres in the 5 seat only version or 500 litres with 5 seats in place in the 7 seater.
The cabin is accessed through full length doors that won’t get you mucky. Inside the layout and features are the usual high quality A Class affair and class leading. Dual displays are housed inside a lovely one piece centre housing that always impresses passengers. Mastering the touch pads and steering wheel touch controls that are at the heart of the ‘Mercedes-Benz User Interface’ (MBUX) is a challenge for first timers and requires patience. The dealership will earn its money with this at handover time. GLB has an in-built SIM data card facilitates e-call (automatic emergency services call in a collision). The GLB comes prepared (as standard) for ‘live traffic’ information. The “Hey Mercedes’ voice interaction works well and it can do some virtual button pressing for you – if you ask nicely.
All the usual safety and driving aids are available and our Progressive grade test car had lots like: active lane keeping assist (the aggressive kind), parking assist, reversing camera and auto dipping side mirror. Driving aids include dynamic select – three modes of eco, comfort and sport/dynamic plus an individual setting option. A conventional steel spring and multi-link rear suspension set up delivers a good ride quality and comfort and handling are also good. Cruise control/limiter and LED high performance headlamps.
Convenience features include a powered ‘easy-pack’ tailgate, leather seats, sports steering wheel, front and rear arm rests, heated front seats, centre console touchpad for secondary controls and steering wheel mounted display screen controls. My test car is a seven seat GLB 200d in ‘Progressive’ trim. Its two litre diesel 2 litre that pushes out a relatively modest 150hp but more importantly delivers 320nm of torque. The 200d sits in tax band B1 (€270 annual motor tax). This strong pulling power turns the front wheels in our car via an 8-speed DCT automatic gearbox with column mounted selector and paddle shifters. Very capable ‘4Matic’ all wheel drive GLBs are available too powered by Diesel engines in GLB 200 or 220 guise. The entry diesel is a GLB 180d in front wheel drive only. A plug in hybrid (PHEV) version and an all-electric EQB will join the range later.
Automatic and manual gearboxes are offered but seriously a premium SUV must be automatic. Progressive and AMG Line are the two design lines. A limited run of a fully loaded ‘Edition 1’ version is offered too. Petrol power starts with the 1.33 litre GLB 180 A/T with 136hp (from €42,350) rising to the 163hp/200nm (7 speed auto) GLB 200 with a more powerful version of the same engine. A 2 litre GLB 250 delivers 225hp/350nm while a hot 306hp/400nm Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic is the hooligan of the family. The entry point diesel is the 116hp GLB 180d (from €43,190) but the GLB 220d and not the 200d would be the ideal diesel engine choice with 190hp and 400nm.