The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is a junior G-Class
For years, we’ve heard rumors about a G-Class-inspired Mercedes-Benz crossover positioned between the GLA and the GLC. It finally materialized at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show, where the German firm introduced a thinly veiled concept named GLB, and the production-bound version made its debut during an event held on June 10 in scenic Utah. It’s scheduled to land on American roads by the end of 2019.
If you’re experiencing déjà vu, it’s most likely because the GLB looks almost exactly like the concept that previewed it. It’s an inch shorter than the GLC, two inches narrower, and less than an inch taller. It wears a boxier design characterized by a more upright front end with rectangular headlights and an angular grille. Its roofline has less of a slope than the GLC’s, a styling cue which clears up a generous amount of interior space while creating a discreet visual link to the second-generation G-Class. Squint and you might also see influence from the now-defunct GLK, the GLC’s direct predecessor. It’s rugged in the right ways, but it’s not as brawny as the timeless G.
Take a seat behind the wheel, and you’ll notice the dashboard is dominated by an extra-wide, high-resolution screen that replaces the instrument cluster and the infotainment system’s display. The left side of it shows the driver key information about the car and its surroundings, like the speed and navigation directions. The right side of it displays the cutting-edge, customizable MBUX infotainment system that’s gradually spreading across the Mercedes portfolio.
Feeling cold? Say it! The GLB automatically turns down the temperature when it hears “hey, Mercedes, I’m cold.” The voice recognition technology also lets users change the music, access their agenda, and make phone calls, among other functions. “Hey, Mercedes, make me a taco” doesn’t work — at least not yet. The internet-connected navigation software can help you find awesome Mexican food in your area, though.
What you may need to look for is a buffet, because the GLC-like dimensions let designers carve out room for seven seats. When it showed the concept, Mercedes promised two medium-sized occupants can comfortably fit in the third row. It hasn’t given us its definition of “medium-sized,” so your mileage may vary. Note that the seven-seater configuration is offered at an extra cost. Stick to five adults and the GLB offers a generous 20 cubic feet of trunk space, while folding the second row down clears up 62 cubes.
The biggest technical difference between the GLC and the GLB is found by peeling off the sheet metal. While the GLC is closely related to the C-Class, the GLB is built on the same modular platform as the GLA, the A-Class Sedan, and the second-generation CLA, among other compact models in the Mercedes family. Power comes from a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine tuned to send 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through an eight-speed, dual-clutch automatic transmission. Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system is found on the list of options.
At launch, the portfolio will only include the GLB 250, which is equipped with the aforementioned turbo four. Rumors indicate a hotter, 400-plus-hp model tuned by AMG will arrive a little bit later during the model’s production run. At the other end of the spectrum, a plug-in hybrid variant and an electric model are allegedly on their way to production, though Mercedes hasn’t publicly confirmed their arrival.
Technology that trickled down from the S-Class, the flagship of the Mercedes family, gives the GLB the intelligence it needs to read navigation data and automatically slow down if it detects a roundabout or a bend in the road. Active steering assist and active lane-change assist are among the other driving aids offered. The GLB isn’t autonomous, but it can lend a hand when driving becomes tedious.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB will go on sale before the end of 2019, and it will begin arriving in showrooms in time for the 2020 model year. When it lands, we expect it will start in the vicinity of $38,000; full pricing will be revealed closer to its on-sale date. It will compete in an increasingly crowded field of soft-roaders that also includes the Audi Q3, the BMW X1, and the Lexus NX.