We get it. When SUVs are popular, automakers respond by offering more SUVs. And brands like Mercedes-Benz, which has a big utility lineup, are starting to split up the segment in order to give the people what they want: more SUVs. But you gotta be smart—offering more of the same old utilitarian vehicles won’t do the job, but positioning SUVs as different players will attract more buyers. That’s exactly what’s happening with the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class, which will slot between the GLA and the GLC. It will offer a 5+2 cabin and is being positioned as a trail ranger.
The GLB’s wheelbase is 111.4 inches, making it 5.1 inches longer than the GLA and 1.7 inches shorter than the GLC. With a spacious cabin, the new Mercedes SUV can comfortably seat five people; the second row reclines, and if you need more room in the cargo area, it also can slide forward. A third row with two seats is optional, but it’s short on head- and legroom and can only fit young children. The second row splits in a 40/20/40 configuration, the third row 40/60. Mercedes says families can install up to four child seats in the rear.
Design wise, the new GLB has a distinct look, with a boxier shape than its siblings. With short front and rear overhangs, it looks adventurous, and the front underride guard and raised beltline give it a robust stance. Because it has been designed for younger families, the GLB is available with cool details like an orange surround on the rims and black mirror caps, depending on the version you choose. The taillights are borrowed from the GLE and GLS, and the GLB’s D-pillar is upright to provide a bit more headroom for those seated in the third row. Mercedes says the GLB was designed with an off-road character in mind.
Enter the cabin, and the first thing you notice is the MBUX infotainment system. The instrument panel is all digital with modern graphics. The rest of the interior has plenty of character. Beefy horizontal door handles and big circular air vents provide a distinct, rugged look, while the aluminum trim on the air vents, door handles, dash, and other surfaces offers a touch of refinement. It’s a different take from what we’ve seen in other Mercedes vehicles, and the interior varies depending on the trim you choose. We prefer the brown and black leather with red stitching over the all-black interior, as it provides a lively atmosphere. And once the sun sets, you’ll also enjoy the ambient lighting, with colors you can program to suit your mood. The ambient lighting has been expanded around the air vents, giving the cabin a young vibe.
In terms of power, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 will carry the GLA’s engine, but it’s been updated to increase power, improve efficiency, and lower emissions. Coupled to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic (instead of the GLA’s seven-speed dual clutch), the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine sends 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque to the front wheels, while Mercedes’ 4Matic AWD system is available as an option. The German brand says that the GLB can get from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, but we’ll verify that once we get a chance to test it on our home turf. If you choose the 4Matic system, you’ll get the Off-Road Engineering package as standard; according to Mercedes, this adapts the engine power delivery and ABS control for easy handling of off-road terrain. The package adds an animation on the infotainment screen indicating the incline angle and technical settings, and a downhill assist helps drivers down a steep trail by selecting a speed between 1 and 11 mph. The all-wheel-drive system provides different driving modes depending on conditions. Eco/Comfort sends 80 percent of the power to the front wheels, and Sport mode sends 30 percent to the rear axle. In Off-Road mode, the all-wheel-drive clutch acts as an interaxle diff lock, splitting the power delivery 50:50.
As you might expect, the new GLB is full of technology. With the new MBUX infotainment system, drivers and passengers can simply say “Hey, Mercedes” to control different parts of the vehicle—from changing the radio station to setting directions in the nav system. The GLB also has plenty of safety technologies. According to Mercedes, the radar and camera systems have been improved for a better experience with semi-autonomous driving. The active distance assist now uses maps and navigation data to adapt the speed before a corner, crossroad, or roundabout. Mercedes also says there’s a new active steering assist and active lane change assist. If the GLB is equipped with active parking assist, it will have the capability of driving in stop and go traffic. We look forward to testing these features later in the year.
As the SUV segment continues to get hotter, Mercedes is playing the right cards by offering a new model that’s boxier, younger, and more rugged. Although it’s essentially splitting up the segment, the German brand wants to give customers different options to choose from. And the new GLB is being positioned for families who spend their weekdays in the city but like to venture into the wild on weekends.
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