Words: Calvin Chan
Published: June 15, 2019
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Say hello to Mercedes’ newest compact crossover, the GLB. Following through with the brand’s alphabetical nomenclature, the new GLB slots right in between the GLA and GLC, and sits on the same platform as the A-Class. They call it the little brother of the GLS. As such, the GLB has the ability to swallow up to seven passengers with its optional three-row seating. Mercedes says it combines the best of a compact car and an SUV, and is marketing the GLB as a family-oriented companion with a go-anywhere attitude.
We had a chance to get up close and personal with the GLB, testing out each available seat. The first row is excellent: spacious, roomy, and offers the best in-class headroom in its segment. The second row is tighter than a GLC but for my six-foot figure, I fit perfectly with ample legroom and headroom thanks to its boxy roofline that doesn’t taper back like many of the SUV-coupes.
The third row is where eyebrows are raised. Mercedes says anyone below 1.68m will fit comfortably back there, and despite my 1.80m height, I was able to ingress easily into the back after manually pushing the second row seat forward. My legs were cramped, and I had to hunch my head to fit under the headliner, but it’s more than acceptable for short drives, and I’d leave it at that. It’s a nice option to have for babies, dogs, and cargo alike. Much like other “extended” SUVs like the Lexus RX L and Volkswagen Tiguan, customers love having the extra seats as a contingency plan despite not needing it 90% of the time. The second and third row of seats are able to fold fully flat to the floor as well, allowing for a decent amount of cargo space.
While there aren’t many compact SUVs with three-row seating, the Mercedes GLB will undoubtedly be cross-shopped against the BMW X1 and Audi Q3. The Volkswagen Tiguan might even be a contender but Mercedes doesn’t think so. They view the Tiguan as a city SUV, whereas the GLB is more of an off-roader. Interesting. The GLB does appear rugged with short overhangs, a high waistline, black cladding around the wheel arches, aluminum roof rails, and a front lip underguard. There’s even a selectable Off-Road mode when equipped with the right packages, and a horizontal grab handle on the interior door panel.
The GLB looks exactly what a B-Class SUV would look like: tall, boxy, and functional. It’s a handsome crossover that shouldn’t have a hard time finding a new home. The SUV market is at the boiling point, and the GLB having the ability to swallow not only cargo, but seven passengers without an excessive dimensional footprint, makes it incredibly appealing.
The interior follows the same design theme as the A-Class with an expansive dashboard garnished with piranha-like fan vents, and two large widescreen displays (7-inch standard and 10.25-inch optional) housing the MBUX infotainment system that utilizes the clever “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant feature. The steering wheel contains two touchpad sensors on each side to control both screens. There’s also a newly designed Apple-like trackpad mounted on the center console to control various infotainment functions, replacing the widely used rotary dial. The GLB further utilizes the new augmented reality function on the navigation maps, which takes a video image from the front camera and overlays it with helpful navigational information like street names, arrows for directions, and correct lanes for turning.
The GLB comes in one spec in Canada: the GLB 250 4MATIC. It uses the same drivetrain layout as the A-Class, more specifically a transversely-mounted 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine routing 221 hp and 258 lb-ft through an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four-wheels. That’s enough for the GLB 250 to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds.
The new Mercedes GLB will be manufactured in Mexico for the world, and in Beijing for the Chinese market. No word on official Canadian pricing just yet, but we expect it to be launched later this year.