Debuting as a concept at this year’s Shanghai auto show, Mercedes-Benz’s GLB crossover instantly won an online fan base with its rugged looks and sleek proportions. People even started calling it the “mini G-wagen,” which just might be the nicest thing you can say about a crossover. Now the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is ready for production, and it’s coming our way.
But wait just a dang second. What exactly is a GLB, and why does Mercedes make it? It’s a compact crossover intended to slot just between Mercedes’ existing GLA subcompact and the GLC midsize crossovers. To that end, the GLB has 5.1 inches more wheelbase than the GLA and just 1.7 inches fewer than the recently refreshed GLC (which we just drove).
Regarding its middle-child status, Mercedes has apparently sussed out the use case for a crossover this size, and that includes a desire for a third row. That’s right, despite its sub-GLC dimensions, the GLB can be configured as a seven-seater. No, we don’t expect the two rearmost seats to be viable for many folks much beyond kindergarten—which is just about perfect for young families or empty nesters with occasional family visits.
The exterior design is definitely intended to score with folks who prefer a rugged, off-road-esque look, and the little GLB has some chops to back up the aesthetic. The new SUV will come only as the GLB250 in the U.S., and all use a 2.0-liter, 221-hp, 258-lb-ft turbocharged four-cylinder engine that drives the front wheels, or all four if you order 4Matic all-wheel drive. The 4Matic system offers an 80:20 front-to-rear power split in standard usage, 70:30 in Sport mode, and 50:50 in Off-Road mode. The rear axle in 4Matic models has an integrated multi-plate clutch, with its engagement controlled electromechanically. An eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission handles gearchanges.
Inside the GLB, the layout is configured for maximum utility. In seven-seat versions, the third row folds flat into the load floor when not needed, while the second row in all models can be moved fore or aft up to six inches to deliver more room for legs or cargo behind. The backrests of the second-row seats recline and can fold in a 40:20:40 split, and the seat bottom moves through its travel in a 40:60 split (this latter function is standard on seven-seat GLBs and optional on five-seaters). Total cargo space? Mercedes has only disclosed data for the five-seater so far, but you’ll find 20 cubic feet behind the second row and 62 cubes maxed out.
READ MORE: 2020 Mercedes GLC300 and GLC63 AMG Driven!
The GLB’s interior will be packed with all the design and technology you expect from Mercedes, including the MBUX infotainment system—that’s the setup with the “Hey, Mercedes” digital assistant—operated through a large, central touchscreen. Some of the GLB’s tricks are inherited from the S-class, such as upgrades to the camera and radar systems in the Distronic driver-assist package that now allow the GLB to see up to 1,641 ft down the road. Others are inherited from the Mercedes compact-crossover family, including the optional adaptive damping suspension that enables both sportier and more comfortable settings.
An Off-Road Engineering package is also available, which includes a live display of the vehicle’s current angle of ascent (or descent), attitude, and other technical settings to make off-roading easier. It also includes a hill-start assistance system that allows computer-assisted control of downhill speed on steep grades. Additional standard features include a power liftgate, cruise control, power front seats, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, active brake assist, and LED headlamps.
Pricing hasn’t been announced, but given its position in the lineup, figure the GLB will split the difference between the GLA and GLC and start right around $38,000 when it arrives at dealers in late 2019.