2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB

By January 28, 2021

The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB crossover takes a compact platform and stretches and folds it into a seven-seat SUV shape. The GLB’s blocky body enables it to sport three rows of seats, something most similarly-sized competitors can’t offer.

The only major update for 2021 brings standard blind-spot monitors. A new AMG-branded GLB35 joins the lineup soon, however. Standard amenities don’t differ much between the two models, but the GLB35 squeezes a full 302 hp out of its 2.0-liter turbo-4. An 8-speed automatic transmission doles out power to all four wheels.

The GLB250, by contrast, is a much tamer machine. It also uses a turbo-4 which boasts 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. An 8-speed automatic is also employed here, but all-wheel drive is optional.

Stick with the base engine and front-wheel drive and the GLB250 returns 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined. Adding all-wheel drive increases the highway figure to 31 mpg. The EPA hasn’t yet rated the GLB35, but expect it to be thirstier by a decent margin.

The newly standard blind-spot monitors join automatic emergency braking on the list of standard active-safety features. Most other popular driver assists, such as adaptive cruise control, active lane control, lane-change assist, and a surround-view camera system, are optional.

The GLB hasn’t been tested by either the NHTSA or IIHS.

Model Lineup

The addition of the GLB35 to the lineup has doubled the choices buyers can spec their GLBs. The GLB250, now the base model, is priced at $39,045 and includes synthetic leather upholstery, twin 7.0-inch screens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, a power tailgate, and 18-inch wheels.

The GLB35 starts at $50,495. Besides the uprated engine, the GLB35 gets features like twin 10.3-inch screens, sportier seats, 19-inch wheels, and a full gamut of aesthetic and performance upgrades.

Exterior

The GLB doesn’t wear the swoops and arcs of models like the GLA or any of the crossover-coupe variants, but nor does it share the same elegant plasticity of models like the GLC or GLE. Instead, the GLB goes all-in on square. The only models with more right angles are the vault-shaped GLS and G-Class.

The GLB is an attractive car. The angles aren’t as severe as those on the G-Class; the lines on the GLB have been softened, as if the clay mold was left in the sun for just a bit. The crossover is better for it, with a more approachable design that remains attractive.

Interior

The interior of the GLB is just as showy as any other Mercedes, complete with turbine air vents, lots of chrome detailing, and a variety of planes and surfaces. The GLB does a fine job telling the world it’s a Mercedes.

With technology and luxury essentially synonymous at this point, Mercedes gives every GLB a pair of screens each measuring at least seven inches across. The one directly ahead of the driver is the gauge cluster; the one abutting it on the right is the touchscreen-enabled infotainment display. They seamlessly blend into each other, providing 14 inches of digital immersion.

The base setup isn’t as popular as the larger, 10.3-inch screens. The bigger screens don’t add much capability aside from voice control unless the navigation system is optioned. They look much tonier, though.

Such an upright, rectilinear design bodes well for the driver, who is treated to excellent sight lines from the commanding position at the helm. The seats come standard with power adjustments but leather upholstery costs extra.

Another benefit of the GLB’s design? The available third row. No, it isn’t large, but such an option is exceedingly rare in this segment.

Cargo space is a high point as well, with 26 cubic feet behind the second row and 62 cubes altogether.

Driving Impressions

The GLB250 follows a familiar formula: turbo-4 engine, front- or all-wheel drive, independent suspension. That’s the basic recipe that dozens of cars these days follow, but Mercedes stirs in enough of its own special sauce to endow it with some individuality.

The GLB250 is plenty of crossover for most people. It delivers brisk acceleration from its 221-hp turbo-4, and even with the throttle matted the GLB maintains a regal air about it; there isn’t any coarseness or grittiness to mar the experience. The 8-speed transmission quietly and confidently swaps cogs.

The suspension is nicely tuned and well-damped, making easy work out of bad roads. Get ambitious on a twisty bit of pavement and the GLB does a decent imitation of something smaller and sportier, all things considered.

Multiple drive modes help give the GLB its breadth of character. Sport mode brings out the crossover’s most athletic side, and Comfort mode is pleasantly soft without resorting to ocean liner-tendencies. Optional adaptive dampers improve the ride in both settings.

Final Word

The boxy Mercedes GLB has lots of useful space, and commendable technology, all in a package the size of the original 1998 M-Class. It’s the teaser for truly off-road-capable Benz SUVs at the top of the lineup.

 

—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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