“Big Things Come in Small Packages”
I know what your thinking, “not another SUV,” The reality is that SUVs are the dominant vehicle style in the automotive world. As a result, their prevalence on the roads and showrooms is going to continue to increase. Manufacturers are continuing to evolve designs, sizes and configurations to meet the changing demands of users. Combine this with the slowly dwindling minivan segment, and you will soon have an SUV that fits what every your needs call for. Take Mercedes; they have no less than ten different SUV variations. With drivetrains to suit the A to B driver to the sports car enthusiast.
Mercedes’s newest offering comes in the form of the GLB250. It slots in between the GLA and GLC. In proportions, it is very similar to the GLC but carries a more traditional boxy SUV design. Imagine a baby GLS if you will. It further entices would-be buyers with an option for a third row and an additional three cubic feet of rear cargo space, thanks to that traditional boxy rear quarter. The closest drive train comparison between the two models is the GLC300 and the only offering thus far, the GLB250. Both are powered by a 2.0L inline turbo four cylinder. The GLB250 is good for 221 bhp and 258 lb-ft of torque vs. the GLC300 at 255 bhp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Engine comparisons stop here; the GLC offers variants going up to the all-mighty GLC63. Nothing offered in GLB form here, at least for now. We will soon be seeing an AMG variant; however, this will top out at the GLB35 (cross your fingers, a GLB45 could be in the works).
The interior is where the GLB shines in comparison to its bigger brother. The GLB receives Mercedes’s modern interior design motif. It has the panoramic dual cluster and center display. In contrast, the GLC utilizes a separate instrument cluster and center screen, although both models use Mercedes’s new MBUX system. One of the most intuitive and user-friendly systems in the industry with Mercedes proprietary AI. As indicated earlier, the GLB is a class leader with a third-row option. Its more traditional design gives the occupants a very airy greenhouse and high driving position. The ability to exit and enter the GLB is a breeze with a low floor and nearly flush door sill. Interior seats are comfortable but lack some supportiveness and adjustability found in the GLC, not unlike other A-Class variants.
The driving dynamics are very similar to the GLC. The latter feeling sportier and more taught than the GLB. The GLB offers a comfortable, predictable driving manner with a front-wheel-drive bias. Power is routed through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission and 4matic all-wheel-drive system. The dual-clutch has limitations in aggressive driving and cold starts. Hence it’s nearly 1 second slower time to 60 as compared to the GLC300. Steering is light and accurate, and when thrown into the twists, the GLB remains composed and flat.
In head-to-head comparisons, typically, we look to what competing manufactures offer. The fact is that the GLB sits in a unique position. Not much is being provided by competitors that fit in this category. Making me wonder, does it have a place? After being behind the wheel for a week, I can honestly say yes. Compact Luxury SUVs are a segment that will likely dominate the industry in the years to come. By creating such a versatile offering in the GLB, Mercedes is coming out of the blocks first to capture new buyers and young families. Giving buyers the ability to keep the GLB longer as their family grows and at the same time not sacrificing interior space and usability.