I know what you might be thinking… Another SUV? Well think twice, because the Mercedes-Benz GLB is different from other. More compact, easy-to-park exterior dimensions but a large interior, making this all-new mid-size luxury SUV a highly practical, easy-to-live-with seven-seater that doesn’t really have any direct rivals. Equipped with high-tech goodies, requisite luxuries and an attention to detail that family buyers will appreciate, the GLB-Class is a very impressive SUV.
The new Mercedes-Benz GLB is cheaper than a top-spec Toyota Kluger, one of Australia’s most popular seven-seat SUVs. OK, so it’s not as big and doesn’t have as much boot space, but equipment levels on all model grades are generous and the interior won’t make you wince.
There are three variants for Australia, all of them propelled by turbo-petrol four-cylinder engines, including the entry-level front-drive GLB 200 (120kW/250Nm), the mid-range all-wheel drive GLB 250 4MATIC (165kW/350Nm) and the piping-hot Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC flagship (225kW/400Nm).
The base Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 comes with the stunning twin-screen infotainment/instrument panel set-up, consisting of two 10.2-inch digital screens with better visual clarity than most OLED TVs. These screens run the MBUX operating system with AI-driven voice commands that work exceptionally well, and there’s a wireless phone charging pad as fitted as standard as well.
Dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and engine start, ambient interior LED lighting, auto-dimming mirrors, illuminated door sills, a decent 225-Watt nine-speaker stereo, powered tailgate with kick control, automatic transmissions with gear-shifter paddles on the steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, aluminium roof rails and 19-inch alloy wheels are also standard equipment.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC adds a bigger, more powerful engine, an extra cog in the automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, adaptive dampers, a twin-pane glass sunroof, power-adjustable/memory/heated front seats and an off-road mode.
At the top of the spectrum is the AMG GLB 35, which adds a rip-snorting 225kW engine with AMG exhaust, upgraded AMG brakes, power steering, ride control sports suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels and an AMG Night Pack, which adds dark visual accents. Inside you’ll be greeted with Lugano leather sports seats, carbon highlights and stainless-steel AMG pedals.
Unlike Mercedes’ small and medium SUVs (GLA and GLC) that it slots in between, the GLB also comes as standard with seven seats across the three rows, with more then decent amount of leg room and comfort.
The power-adjustable and heated front seats in the Mercedes GLB 250 are comfortable and while the vegan-friendly ‘Artico’ upholstery isn’t the plushest material out there (the black/white colour scheme isn’t mandatory – mercifully there’s also black/grey), the overall ambiance in the cabin is special.
Control systems are generally intuitive and getting the most out of the car’s flexible cabin is easy too. The second-row seats can slide 140mm, adding more legroom for the second- or third-row passengers depending which way it’s moved.
Getting in and out of the back seats is easy thanks to the massive back doors that hinge to almost 90 degrees, and thankfully clambering into the back seats doesn’t require hyperextending limbs either.
There are nine airbags in total covering all three seat rows, plus USB-C ports for front, middle and rear seat, along with cup-holders in all three rows and excellent door pockets for more odds and sods. Incidental storage is very good, the butterflied central storage bin a nice touch up front.
Criticisms are few and far between, but the lack of any conventional USB ports is annoying. Sure, USB-C ports future-proof the cabin and offer faster charging and high data transfer rates, but if you’ve only got regular USB cords, you’ll need adapters.
Boot space behind the third row is also so-so, but bear in mind the GLB shares its platform architecture with the Mercedes A-Class hatchback and given the flexibility of the cabin and its folding seats, I don’t think that will be a deal breaker. It is narrower than most medium-sized SUVs, however – including its bigger bro, the Mercedes GLC. Boot capacities are as follows:
- Seven seats in place: 130 litres to seat back, 150 litres to roof
- Five seats in place: 500 litres to seat back, 700 litres to roof
- Two seats in place: 1055 litres to seat back, 1680 litres to roof
The cargo blind has its own integrated storage well beneath the boot, which is neat feature when you need to quickly add another couple of passengers and stow the blind.
There are eight exterior colours in total, two of which use standard paint (white, black), the rest of them adding $1490 for their ‘metallic’ elements (Digital White, Cosmos Black, Iridium Silver, Denim Blue, Mountain Grey) – including this car, with its Galaxy Blue Metallic hue.
Safety and technology
The Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 was awarded a five-star safety rating by local crash-test authority ANCAP. As well as nine airbags, it’s fitted as standard with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot assist, active lane keep assist, active parking assist, adaptive high-beam headlights and a traffic sign recognition feature that comes in very handy on unfamiliar roads when you need to know the legal speed limit.
The 10.2-inch screens for the infotainment system and instrument panel have an incredible amount of depth and customisability. Although the input system takes a bit of getting used to, it’s one of the comprehensive infotainment systems out there.
Owners can download the Mercedes me Connect app which allows a handful of remote vehicle functions, such as a parked vehicle locater (think ‘find my phone’ for cars), remote door locking, geofencing, speed fencing and vehicle tracking and theft notification.
The GLB 250 with its 4MATIC all-wheel drive system also comes with an off-road pack that includes a dedicated drive mode and hill descent control system.
Powertrain and performance
We didn’t get to drive the entry-level Mercedes-Benz GLB 200, which is powered by a 1.3-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine (120kW/250Nm) hooked up to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. But given the GLB 250’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine (165kW/350Nm) is best described as adequate at higher speeds.
With two passengers it accelerates promptly from traffic lights and at speeds between zero and 80km/h it’s suitably responsive. The powertrain feels refined and diligent for daily duties but there is a touch of turbo-lag in comfort mode.
The steering column-mounted gear shifter looks and feels cheap and is at odds with the rest of the cabin. I also found false neutrals on several occasions when attempting to slot it into reverse. Could be operator error, but it happened three times.
Fuel consumption is rated at 7.7L/100km but the best I could manage was just over 10L/100km. The majority of the test loop was on urban roads and the car requires premium petrol (95 RON). It has a 60-litre fuel tank, while the GLB 200 has a smaller 53 litre tank.
Driving and comfort
Together with the highly functional interior, driving and comfort levels are what make this machine stand out from the crowd.
Arguably the most comfortable Mercedes-Benz I’ve driven in the last decade, the GLB’s longer wheelbase (stretched 100mm compared to the A-Class) and adaptive suspension deliver very good ride comfort.
If you have kids in the back and pray they remain asleep, the GLB won’t disappoint, gliding over bumps, cracks and rain-filled pot holes in the road almost as if they weren’t there.
As an urban family transporter, the GLB is tremendous, the ride quality, light steering, responsive low-speed acceleration, good sight lines and small footprint creating a vehicle that’s tailor-made for stress-free school drop-offs, tight on-street parking and busy shopping centre car parks.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 has almost perfected the seven-seat urban SUV concept, yet it’s very capable away from the hustle-bustle, gas-brake-honk of modern-day commuting. Out on the freeway the 2.0-litre engine can be rather frugal and despite the big 19-inch alloy wheels there’s not too much tyre/road noise.
While the GLB 250 isn’t the most dynamic SUV I’ve tested, setting the two-stage adaptive dampers to sport mode does dial out some of the body roll evident in comfort mode. In other words, you won’t feel short-changed when you come across a winding country road and want to dial up the tempo a bit.
The fact there’s no diesel engine and no Australian-engineered towing package means that if you want to haul loads with an SUV wearing the three-pointed star badge on the front, the more expensive GLC is your next stop.
The bottom line
The Mercedes-Benz GLB truly is a unicorn. There’s nothing else like it out there in terms of design, functionality, execution and ease of use.
That it can seat seven people yet slots into even the narrowest of car parks is a bonus and it wants for nothing (except adaptive cruise control), with loads luxury and high-tech features.
Not unlike Tom Cruise, the GLB is brimming with self-confidence and charisma, all wrapped up in a tiny package.
It’s not surprising that Mercedes-Benz Australia has attracted plenty of interest for this all-new model in the lead-up to its local arrival because this is an outstanding SUV, plain and simple.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 overview!
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel: 7.7L/100km (ADR Combined) 10.1L/100km (as tested)
CO2: 173g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety rating: five-star (ANCAP 2020)
Tynan Mercedes-Benz GLB demonstrators here – https://bit.ly/3dCb93T