The new Mercedes GLB mid-sized SUV will cost from around €43,000 when it goes on sale in February. It is bigger than the current GLA but smaller and roughly €4,500 less expensive than the GLC.
Significantly, it has the option of seven seats (an extra €1,200 or so more than the five-seater) which is unusual for this size of car. Expect strong demand for the extra seats.
It is much bigger than I thought. It looks tall but when we compared driving-seat heights with others (such as the Audi Q3) we reckoned we were on a par.
With its own distinctive look and feel, its chunky nature naturally drew allusions to a mini G-Wagon. The choice of grille makes a big difference. I prefer the vertical design.
I warmed to it after driving the 220d version around twisty hills in the Malaga/Marbella region (not a hint of sunshine). It handled well and there was little bodyroll – unusual for a tall-ish SUV. I can attest to a surprising level of off-road prowess too after a good workout around a great course in a 4WD 2-litre diesel.
There was loads of second-row room in the five-seater (967mm rear legroom). But it is a matter of the ‘kids or the cases’ for the seven-seater model. With all seven occupied there’s about enough room for three vinyl LPs in the sliver of a ‘boot’.
The middle row, which slides for either more luggage space or passenger room, will take two adults and a child but not three adults – it is noticeably narrower than the GLC. It was much easier for me to get into the third row – the middle trio slides well forward – than to get out. Should you need lots of space then drop the rear two rows, or remove them, and get yourself 1,805 litres of room.
The 7-seat configuration is possible due to the GLB having the longest wheelbase (2,829mm) in a compact Merc SUV – but short overhangs trim overall footprint.
The 180d and 200d diesel models will be first here, they tell us. And yes, it expects diesel to be the dominant power source.
There will be an electric version in the not too distant future.
The MBUX infotainment system is part of the dash-display and cabin – it claims the extent of it has not been seen in a compact SUV before.
We know it well from so many new Mercedes these days. There are two 7ins instrument cluster and media displays; a sports steering wheel with touch control buttons, and a USB port – and that’s for starters. Special lighting, musical moods and seat massages are optional.
I also drove the AMG35 version of the seven-seater GLB. Weather and traffic militated against us driving it properly. If the wonderful feel of the steering was anything to go by we missed a treat of a drive. Not many will buy one: it will cost into the €70,000s.
On ‘ordinary’ GLBs there will be Style, Progressive and AMG trim lines; 4MATIC all-wheel drive is optional. Comfort suspension with steel springs is standard but there is an adaptive damping option.
Driver assistance includes camera and radar systems that scan the road 500 metres ahead.
The line-up (all 7G/8G automatics) includes: petrol GLB 200 (1332cc), 250 (1991cc), GLB35 4MATIC AMG (1991cc) diesels (all 1,950cc, 8G autos) include the GLB 180d, 200d, 220d 4MATIC, and 220d 4MATIC.
Meanwhile, the new GLA sounds like it will be something else. Now the GLB is on the road it feels it can dramatically differentiate the smaller sibling. It will be 10cm taller and 1.5cm shorter.