In between the GLA and GLC |
Gone are the days where, if you wanted an SUV from Mercedes-Benz, you were restricted to the ML, GL, and G Wagon. With the dawn of the crossover age, you can now acquire an SUV in any Mercedes model class, which brings us to the latest SUV from Mercedes-Benz, the GLB…
As the naming protocol conspicuously suggests, the new GLB – Merc’s latest addition to its range of SUV/crossover spin-offs – slots comfortably between the smaller GLA and larger GLC. While we are not to judge the merits of the Mercedes crossover strategy, we could not help but wonder if the profusion of models would possibly lead to cannibalisation in the segment, given how closely matched a few are in terms of value proposition. We took to the streets with keys to a GLB 250 to ascertain whether the newcomer deserves a seat at the Mercedes table.
What is it?
If ever we were asked if Mercedes needed to manufacture a model to slot between the GLA and the GLC, our answer would have been strongly negative. In our opinion, the model range was sufficient. Undoubtedly the SUV market is undergoing an aggressive upsurge, but is offering an SUV or crossover in every range essential? Mercedes believes so, and here we are… with a brand new GLB 250 parked in the driveway.
The GLB is developed on the B Class ancestry, employing SUV DNA to arrive at the crossover platform. The end product does not bear any of the MPV ancestral characteristics, but rather appears in the form of a fun-sized version of the giant GLS.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, the GLB truly looks the part. The form is significantly more defined than that of the GLA, to which it is closely related. The front is boxy and assertive, devoid of the more nuanced appearance defined in the B Class sibling and GLA cousin. LED lights, together with Mercedes’ signature daytime running light design, accentuates the car’s sternness, while the side profile carries a clean, understated demeanour to the rear. It is an elegant design that is interrupted only by a disarranged “kink” at the window line near the C-pillar.
In addition, the rear of the car is also the most handsome feature, and this is where the GLB is a dead ringer when compared to the GLS. The placement and design of the LED taillights are reminiscent of the super SUV, and makes for an elegant backend to admire when out on the streets. To further enhance the appearance, an optional AMG Line package adds snazzy 19” alloys, a more muscular front and rear bumpers (and the integrated rear diffuser), and the “diamond-block” grille, as Mercedes calls it. Add the optional Night package, and you have a dream spec, all-black everything.
Whereas the exterior draws inspiration from the GLS, the interior is nearly identical to that of the GLA. The design language offers a magnificent blend of modern and classic, and is complemented by high-quality materials throughout the cabin. Plastic fixtures are neatly tucked away in areas where tactile interaction is kept at a minimum.
Our top-line spec tester boasted the fully digital instrument cluster, which in conjunction with the infotainment system, enhances the user interface. The systems allow for user-friendly interaction, and take full advantage of Mercedes’ new MBUX system. It recognises voice commands sufficiently and -executes actions with ease. Targeted toward a younger generation, this model is sure to thrive given its amenities.
Cabin space is commendable. Five adults can be seated comfortably. An optional third row of seat, at an additional cost, transforms the GLB into a seven-seater. Storage space is also sufficient at 570 litres, 20 litres more than in the GLC.
Engine options and driving impressions
The GLB is equipped with one of two engine options. The GLB 220d 4MATIC features a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder that produces 140 kW of power and 400 Nm torque. Our test vehicle was equipped with a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, producing 165 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. Both variants are equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission, with power relayed directed to the front wheels in the GLB 250.
Mercedes is no stranger to four-cylinder engines, and their mastery of these pays dividends. The GLB 250 exudes a surprising level of acceleration, complimenting an exhilarating driving experience. With a claimed 7.1 seconds required to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, the GLB 250 holds its own when taking off, or when overtaking slower traffic. In cruise mode, the GLB 250 does not beg for additional power.
Handling dynamics also benefit from the smaller dimensions of the vehicle. Unlike its larger SUV siblings, the GLB 250 has a lower centre of gravity and less mass to haul around, affording it commendable agility for comfortable driving. The large greenhouse also enhances overall visibility. Ride quality is even and comfortable, although the optional 19” wheels account for a less even drive on rough surfaces. With reference to fuel efficiency-, the engine returned an average of 8 l/100 km during daily commutes.
The GLB slots comfortably into a niche segment. However, Mercedes believes that this segment could make greater use of the additional practicality afforded in the GLB. Preferences are constantly changing, and so are lifestyle demands. The variety offered by Mercedes-Benz accommodates a niche within a niche, and we applaud them for this decision. Starting at R831,000, the GLB 250 does not come cheap and is priced in a bracket where one has sufficient alternatives from which to select, both in the Mercedes stable and beyond. To date the GLB is one of our surprise drives for 2021.
Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © Mercedes-Benz