It’s no secret that SUVs are indeed where it’s at these days. Even for established luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, the more SUVS you can shoehorn into your lineup, the better off you’ll be. Well, we have this new entrant, the GLB, and it slots in, you guessed it, between the subcompact GLA and compact GLC. So let’s see if the B offers something different, or if it’s one too many of a good thing.
Without a doubt, a part of making small SUVs such as this 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 a success, is making them look and feel like much larger SUVs.
The new GLB certainly wins in that aspect appearing more old-school utility than luxury car, easily coming in second only to the G-Class for being the bluntest of the Benz SUV bunch.
It sits tall, with a smooth yet decidedly boxy profile that features lots of flatness, short overhangs, and rugged cladding all around. Base models ride on 18-inch wheels, with these 19s optional.
Just 1.7-inches shorter than the GLC, yet the GLB offers a 3rd row that is not an option in the C, and something new for the Mercedes compact utility ranks.
So inside, the layout is quite different; and there’s actually more space for cargo than the GLC, as well as most anything you’d compare it with. Due to the difference in packaging between 2 and 3-row models, the numbers vary slightly; but here in our 5-passenger tester, there’s 22.0-cubic-ft. behind the 40/20/40 split-folding rear seat; and 62.0 cubic-ft. with it folded.
It feels just as techy inside as bigger Benz’s, with everything displayed on the twin screens that blend into one another, as well as into the dash with tablet-like surrounds. You can touch the screen on the right, or use the console touchpad controller, which we’re not fond of; or speak everything into existence with the Mercedes-Benz user experience, which is standard here and worked exceedingly well.
The MBUX’s augmented navigation, part of an available Multimedia package, makes missing your turn less likely.
There’s a clear strategy in place here, and it’s a good one. Things you touch frequently are of high quality, consistent with pricier Mercedes models. But less touchy things are noticeably lower grade, yet still feel plenty durable. And doors close with the resounding thud you expect in a luxury utility.
No shock to find a 2.0-liter turbo-4 under the hood; in this case, it’s a pumped up version of the one found in the A220 sedan. But the 8-speed dual clutch automatic attached to it, is a little bit of a break from the norm, and gets one more gear than the A-Class. Power is quite adequate for a vehicle of this size; 221-horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque.
Front-wheel-drive is standard, with 4MATIC all-wheel-drive available; and depending on drive mode, it transforms from an 80% front bias to a true 50/50 power split.
Under hard acceleration, the turbo engine is a bit noisy, and clearly not as refined as Mercedes north of its price point. If you’re new to the brand, as most GLB buyers will be, you probably won’t notice anything out of the ordinary. 4MATIC grip gets you off the line cleanly, and on your way to 60 in 6.5-seconds.
The dual-clutch really likes to let the engine rev, too; shifts are as quick and firm as you’d want them to be in anything not marketed as a performance car; with the ¼-mile finishing in 14.9-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour.
It’s fairly nimble feeling; while still behaving more like a utility than a sedan; decent steering feel as well. Though as with most SUVs now, once any kind of understeer occurs, it triggers the brakes to stop the vehicle short of its true limits.
GREG CARLOSS: “Sitting behind the wheel of the GLB I’m sensing subtle shades of G-Wagon believe it or not. The windshield is very upright and I have a commanding view of the road. And then combine that with the fair amount of body roll when turning and you have a really traditional SUV experience here."
Through it all, the GLB stays quiet and is very comfortable. And, plenty of technology filters down, including the S-class’ semi-autonomous driving features.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel-drive GLB are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined. We averaged a fine 27.4 miles-per-gallon on Premium fuel. But that only makes for an average Energy Impact Score, with 12.7-barrels of yearly oil consumption, and 5.6-tons of CO2 emissions.
Pricing starts at $37,595, with all-wheel-drive a 2-grand option.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 is one of those vehicles you have a hard time understanding, until you actually drive it. In the grand scheme of things, did Benz really need another SUV in their lineup? Probably not, but the GLB is not just another SUV; this Grand Little Box is easily one of the best SUVs in their ever-expanding realm.
Engine: 2.0 liter
Torque: 258 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.5 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.9 seconds @ 97 mph
EPA: 23 mpg city / 31 mpg highway
Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
CO2 Emissions: 5.6 tons/yr