Mercedes GLB mostly revealed this time
Benz’s baby G-Class is almost here — again — and it’s bringing some surprises
The world has long known that the Mercedes-Benz GLB was coming, and that it was touted as a baby G-Wagen and Benz’s hard core off-roader in a small size.
The real highlight was that the 4.6-metre GLB could seat seven people with a wheelbase 10cm longer than the B-Class.
The eighth production car off Benz’s heavily upgraded small-car architecture, the GLB was always meant to be the hard-core off-roader of the small crossover category, aping plenty of the design details of the mountain-munching G-Wagen.
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It’s no surprise that its range of engines will be limited to four cylinders, but few people spotted the optional seven-seat thing coming, and Benz insists it will work for people up to 1.68 metres tall.
The odd part of the GLB’s teaser push is that, for all the associations with the G-Wagen, the GLB’s 4Matic all-wheel drive system is an option, though that’s perhaps more a sign of the times.
The all-wheel drive system has three setup “maps”, though mostly drives as an 80:20 front-to-rear splitter. Sport mode takes the rear end’s bite up to 30% and all-wheel drive locks up the inter-axle diff lock at 50:50.
There’s also an Off-Road Engineering package to take the cross-country ability even further though, unusually, it doesn’t lift the body at all or add clunky underbody protection systems. Instead, it tweaks the torque curve of the engine and the ABS to suit the terrain.
It also has its own graphic display in the multimedia display to show the gradient and the climbing or descending angle. Hill descent control governs the descending speed to between 2km/h and 18km/h.
The other cool part of its off-road package is the addition of a special light to help the driver find damaging rocks and logs immediately in front of the car, below the range of the LED headlights.
Copying the design language of the G-Wagen has made the GLB tall, at 1,658mm, and that gives the GLB more headroom than any of the other seven compact machines Mercedes-Benz makes.
Its cargo capacity has risen to 560l, or 1,755l with the seats folded down. There is the option of a 140mm fore-aft sliding system for the 40:20:40 rear seats, which also includes an eight-stepped reclining setup, which helps add up to 179l of luggage capacity.
It’s no rebodied GLA, either, because its wheelbase is 130mm longer, it’s 210mm longer overall and it’s also 86mm wider.
With the GLB due to be built in both Mexico and China, the new nameplate is expected to add hundreds of thousands more SUVs into a Mercedes-Benz sales palate that is now one third SUV.
It shares its front drive-based architecture with the A-Class and B-Class ranges yet it’s the first of them to offer a third row of seating.
The third row is no throwaway, either, with two drink holders between the seats, a pair of stowage compartments and two USB ports, and they’ve been engineered to drop down in the cargo-area floor, leaving a flat surface.
There are five engine options for the start of the GLB’s life cycle, starting with the GLB 200’s tiny 1.33l engine and 120kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
For those who prefer their cars serviced by mechanics, rather than jewellers, the GLB 250 will have a 2.0l, four-cylinder motor with 165kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
The 250 also receives a step up from the 200’s seven-speed automatic to an eight-speed unit and gets all-wheel drive, and cuts the entry car’s 9.1-second 0-100km/h time to a more respectable 6.9 seconds.
There’s also strong talk of a GLB 350 coming not much later in the life cycle, which will score the AMG version of the GLB 250’s motor, bumped up to 225kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
AMG’s earth-shaking 310kW/500Nm powerhouse four-pot isn’t a likely starter for the GLB, though, so don’t hold your breath.
There are three diesel options, with front- and all-wheel drive versions of the GLB 200d and a stronger GLB 220d. All three have 1,951cc capacities, but tuned to produce between 110kW/320Nm and 140kW/400Nm.
The standard suspension includes a strut front end and a multilink rear, with the option of adjustable dampers.
The interior borrows heavily from the G-Wagen’s design language to further link the two machines as little brother and big brother.