2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is Mercedes’ newest crossover, a mid-size that fits five to seven seats in its long wagon body.
It’s more of a family station wagon than a sport-utility vehicle: It can hold 62 cubic feet of cargo with the second and third rows folded, and it puts an emphasis on the luxury and infotainment features found in its well-designed cabin.
Power comes from a 2.0-liter turbo-4 making 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s a gutsy powertrain that nicely combines with the deft handling and smooth ride of the GLB. It’s front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive, affording an all-weather capability that’s confirmed by the off-road driving modes.
The EPA rates the front-drive GLB at 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined. With all-wheel drive, the highway rating actually rises, to 31 mpg.
Neither the IIHS nor the NHTSA have tested the GLB for crash protection. Automatic emergency braking is standard, but other safety features are optional, including blind-spot monitors, adaptive cruise control, a surround-view camera system and automatic park assist.
The $37,595 GLB 250 comes with power front seats in synthetic leather, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, LED headlights, a power tailgate, drive modes, 18-inch wheels and run-flat tires, keyless ignition, Bluetooth, and 7.0-inch infotainment screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
All-wheel drive is $2,000. A few grand more will get 10.3-inch screens, Burmester sound, adaptive dampers, and a surround-view camera system.
The GLB can be fitted with a third-row seat. Also a panoramic roof, leather upholstery, front-seat heating and cooling, wireless smartphone charging, blind-spot monitors, a head-up display, adaptive dampers, and a lighted Mercedes star logo.
At about 182 inches long and 72 inches wide, with short overhangs, the chunky GLB suggests ruggedness, with some SUV swagger. It shares some features with the big GLS SUV, including an upright grille and boxed LED headlights, as opposed to the swept-back look of Mercedes’ other small SUVs. Down the sides, the shoulder line kicks up into taillights that could come from a Volkswagen Tiguan.
It has a long roofline and tall doors that fit nicely with gently rounded corners. There’s no coupe-like roof to slice off head room, no abbreviated hatchback like the GLA or expressive soft contours like the GLC.
The AMG Line and Night appearance packages dress it up with deep chin spoilers, dazzling wheels, and touches of metallic trim.
The GLB cockpit shows extroverted confidence: big round vents, glossy trim, and twin-screen digital displays. There’s a big band of metallic trim across the dashboard, ending in flags of metallic or wood trim in the doors. Lower models have 7.0-inch screens for the driver and the center stack, while higher models use 10.3-inch screens that pulse with vibrant colors. With optional ambient lighting, you choose the color, from cool white to hot pink.
A new MBUX infotainment system combines inputs on the touchscreen and on a console-mounted pad, and has standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility; the optional system with 10.3-inch screens adds voice input that responds to, “Hey, Mercedes.” It can even be fitted with hand-gesture recognition. With all the beautiful high-resolution displays and redundant inputs—including touch-sensitive pads on the steering wheel—it can take time to figure out exactly which input makes sense, what it does, and why a limited set of knobs wouldn’t be a better solution. For example, to “seek” can take three or four taps and swipes in MBUX.
The power synthetic leather front seats wrap around torsos like the performance seats in Mercedes AMG models. They sit high and allow expansive outward vision thanks also to the high roof and thin pillars. Real leather, heating and cooling are optional.
Head room in both rows is excellent. Two adults fit comfortably in the rear, but not three. The outer cushions are supportive but the middle is too narrow, only a kid or small person will fit. The split bench slides on a track and can provide 38 inches of leg room, or it can slide forward to make more room in the available third row. Mercedes-Benz says the third row only works for people shorter than 5-feet-6.
Both the second and third rows are split, giving versatility to the cargo space. Behind the second row there is from 20 to 26 cubic feet, depending on whether the seat is slid forward or back. With it folded, there’s 62 cubic feet.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is a poised and confident wagon, if not a rugged SUV. It uses a turbo-4 engine, 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, standard front-wheel drive, and a conventional strut-and-link suspension. Adaptive dampers and all-wheel drive are optional.
It’s the same 2.0-liter turbo-4 that’s in the smaller CLA, making 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Mercedes claims a 0-60 mph time of 6.9 seconds with all-wheel drive, and a top speed of 130 mph. The engine whirs peacefully through its sound deadening, and the 8-speed shifts with few judders. The all-wheel-drive system can shift up to half the power to the rear wheels for better efficiency and traction.
All GLB crossovers have an independent suspension, electric power steering, and a drive-mode selector that offers Eco, Comfort, Sport, and Individual modes. The GLB has a quick throttle response and assertive steering effort, but it’s better when dialed into Sport mode, where its drivetrain clicks into pleasantly brisk shifts and meaty but not too hefty steering.
The optional adaptive dampers are worth their relatively low cost, since they can be left in softer tune in Individual mode, where they let the GLB relax over bumps without floating. The GLB can be tuned to be a sweet long-distance cruiser, with good highway tracking and a well-damped ride. The bigger 20-inch wheels aren’t recommended if you drive over rutted highways on a regular basis, but all-wheel drive only helps things.
The off-road drive mode remaps all the drive modes into one, with less wheelspin and better ability to slog through mud and slush. But that doesn’t make the GLB a practical off-roader, because there isn’t much ground clearance or high departure angles. If you want such a crossover, look at the GLE.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is the carmaker’s newest crossover. The powertrain, ride and handling, and safety technology are first-rate—and it can tote up to seven passengers with the available third-row seat.
—By Sam Moses, with driving impressions by The Car Connection