The Mercedes-Benz GLB is one of the carmaker’s more flexible crossover SUVs, having a small but strong turbo-4 engine and seven-passenger seating. Its style is refreshing–a wagon-like shape whose spareness makes it charming–and its safety tops. It was new in 2020, so for 2022 there aren’t any significant changes; a few things have been added to option packages.
If the exterior is charming, the interior is extroverted, with two big touchscreens, colorful ambient lighting, and metallic trim galore.
The GLB uses the same powertrain as the smaller GLA, a 2.0-liter turbo-4 with 221 horsepower mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic, and with more weight to carry it’s a tad less quick: 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds for the GLB 250. But then there’s the AMG GLB 35, with 302 hp that chops that time to 5.1 seconds.
With solid handling and a soft ride, the GLB 250 is comfortable on any road, while the AMG GLB 35 with its firmer adaptive damping is confident on most twisty roads. It adds driving modes for the steering, throttle, transmission, and suspension settings.
The GLB can seat five in the first two rows, although the middle back passenger is a bit squeezed. Two more small people can fit in the available third seat, if they must, but its better use is for cargo. Behind the front seat there’s 62.0 cubic feet for cargo, compared to 50.5 cubic feet for the GLA, which gives a perspective of the difference in their sizes.
For a seven-seater, the GLB’s gas mileage is great: an EPA rating of 23 mpg city, 30 highway, 26 combined–and all-wheel drive boosts its highway mileage to 31 mpg. The AMG GLB 35 gets 3 mpg less, 21/26/23 mpg.
The NHTSA gives the GLB five stars in safety, with four stars for the front passenger. The IIHS hasn’t yet tested it. Standard safety equipment includes automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors, with options including adaptive cruise control, automatic park assist, automatic lane changing, a head-up display, and surround-view camera system.
Made in Mexico, the GLB 250 starts at $39,650 and comes with keyless start, power front seats, two 7.0-inch screens, LED headlights, a power liftgate, and 18-inch wheels with run-flat tires. All-wheel drive adds $2,000.
You can easily run up another ten grand in options, such as leather upholstery, a panoramic roof, heated and cooled front seats, the third-row seat, wireless smartphone charging, Burmester audio, a head-up display, adaptive dampers, and a lighted Mercedes star logo.
The AMG GLB 35 starts at $51,000 with the faster turbo-4 engine, 10.3-inch screens that take voice commands, four-piston brake calipers, and 19-inch wheels.
The 4-year/50,000-mile warranty doesn’t include free standard maintenance.
The GLB copies the looks of the larger flagship GLS, with rounded corners, an upright roofline, and elegant detail here and there. It has wagon styling that’s refreshing–not throwback, rather classic–but its square jaws and deep front spoiler convey a touch of rugged.
AMG Line and Night packages add bright trim or dark trim, to suit your disposition.
The cabin also mimics bigger Mercedes SUVs, with its twin digital displays on top of a stretch of metallic trim. They’re 7.0-inch screens on the GLB 250 and 10.3 inches with high definition on the GLB 35, which also accept voice commands. We’ll take the bigger screens, which are optional on the 250.
One of the screens is used for infotainment, while the other displays gauges and controls. The interface also accepts inputs from the steering wheel and a pad on the console.
There’s a lot of plastic to go with the metallic trim, and too many tones of ambient lighting to count. This can be a bit much, but it’s easy to dim with a couple taps on the touchscreen.
The front seats are shapely, in synthetic leather with power adjustment under lots of headroom. The seats have deep cushions and snug bolsters that get snugger on the GLB 35. Real leather, heat and cooling are optional.
The rear seat is a sliding bench, good for two but not so good for three. With a width of 72.2 inches, the GLB is about five inches narrower than the GLE. The optional third row is easily reached when the second row is slid forward, but the wayback is very small.
Behind the third row there’s a teensy 5.1 cubic feet for cargo, while behind row two there’s 27.0 cubic feet and behind the first row it’s 62.0 cubic feet.
With 258 pound-feet of torque to go with its 221 horsepower, the 2.0-liter engine in the GLB 250 can really do the job. The 8-speed dual-clutch transmission is smooth, which couldn’t always be said of earlier versions. That 6.9-second time from zero to 60 mph with all-wheel drive is pretty good, considering the weight of the SUV, nearly two tons.
Even though it’s heavier, the GLB 35 is a lot quicker, thanks to the state of turbo tune of its engine, bringing 302 horsepower; it can shoot to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. The GLB also adds drive modes to create a broad range of road manners, from economical to comfy to edgy. At all times it’s poised and confident. In normal mode the throttle is responsive, and the electric power steering is well weighted; in Sport + mode the throttle gets quicker, and the steering adds weight, adding engagement without taking anything from the fluid feel. It’s nimble in curves and cloverleaf on-ramps or off-ramps.
There’s a mode called Offroad, but it’s misnamed because that’s not what the GLB 35 does best. However, the mode is extremely useful on all types of slick surfaces, maybe especially snow and ice.
We like the optional adaptive dampers. They can be set to Comfort where they better absorb the rigidity from the bigger 20-inch wheels. Overall, the GLB rides better with this adaptive suspension.
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz GLB masks its family-crossover capability with its station-wagon body. Take the GLB 250 4Matic and add the bigger displays and adaptive dampers, for a better experience in both infotainment and ride quality.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection