German automaker Mercedes-Benz adds another luxury compact SUV to its lineup — squeezed into the space between the current GLA and GLC models. While the all-new GLB is 5.1 inches longer than the GLA, it is only 1.7 inches shorter than the GLC — but it differentiates itself from its siblings with a more traditional SUV look thanks to a boxy, upright design. The GLB also becomes the first Mercedes-Benz compact SUV to offer available third-row seating.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB has an off-road-inspired design with short front and rear overhangs and black protective cladding on the rocker panels, around the fender openings and across the lower portion of the rear bumper. The production GLB looks nearly identical to the Concept GLB that debuted in April 2019 at the Shanghai Motor Show, minus the more aggressive off-road accessories of the concept.
The exterior of the new GLB has an upright, boxy design with minimal body lines. The vertical grille includes the Mercedes-Benz star with dual horizontal elements to each side, flanked by rectangular, swept-back headlights. The hood and the roof are both flat, accentuating the boxy design. From the side, the GLB displays a strong shoulder line while the lower edge of the window opening kicks up at the rear.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is offered in two versions: the front-wheel-drive GLB 250, which starts at $36,600; and the GLB 250 4MATIC with all-wheel drive, starting at $36,600. Both prices do not include a $995 delivery and destination charge. The starting price is fairly low for a Mercedes-Benz, but it rises rather quickly with additional options. The 2020 GLB is now on sale in the U.S.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB gets power from an updated 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder gasoline engine producing 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque from 1800–4000 rpm, combined with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission. According to Mercedes-Benz specifications, the GLB will accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. Dynamic Select allows the driver to choose between standard Eco/Comfort and Sport drive modes. The EPA-rated fuel economy for the GLB 250 is 23 mpg city / 30 mpg highway / 26 mpg combined, and the GLB 250 4MATIC comes in at 23 mpg city / 31 mpg highway / 26 mpg combined.
Available 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive with variable torque distribution allows the driver to use Dynamic Select to choose different driving characteristics. In standard Eco/Comfort mode, torque is split 80/20 between the front and rear axles, and the Sport mode split is 70/30. In Off-Road mode the all-wheel-drive clutch works as a center differential lock for a 50/50 torque split. Standard with 4MATIC is the Off-Road Engineering Package that adjusts power delivery and ABS control for off-road conditions, adds hill-descent control and a screen for the multimedia system to display off-road information.
The GLB interior features a widescreen cockpit with the display and functions controlled by MBUX, the Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Air vents are a familiar sculpted turbine design from other high-end Mercedes-Benz models. On the right side in front of the passenger sits an aluminum-look tubular element. Below the three center vents sits a panel for climate controls with an analog look, and buttons that seem as if they were milled from a single piece of aluminum. The center console also includes tubular elements with a machined look, and the doors include horizontal grab handles that resemble aluminum tubes too.
The standard widescreen display on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB includes a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia display, controlled by MBUX. It can be operated by a new generation of voice control, the center touchscreen, a new touchpad or by touch control buttons on the steering wheel. The system has learning capabilities and intelligent voice control with natural language understanding as well as keyword activation with the verbal cue, “Hey Mercedes.” The optional Premium Package upgrades to a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster and 10.25-inch touchscreen multimedia display.
Additional standard features include LED headlights, integrated fog lights, 18-inch wheels with all-season run-flat tires, 8-way power driver and front passenger seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with touch control buttons, shift paddles, dual-zone climate control, and a power liftgate.
In addition to the dual 10.25-inch screens, the Premium Package also includes blind-spot assist, a Keyless-Go Package and power-folding mirrors. The Multimedia Package includes MB navigation, augmented reality for navigation, and traffic sign assist. The parking assistance package includes a surround view system and active parking assist.
Other options include active LED headlights, multicontour seats, leather seats, wood trim, a Burmester surround sound system, a panoramic sliding sunroof, suspension with adaptive damping, heated/ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a head-up display and an illuminated star in the grille.
The long wheelbase and large greenhouse help create enough interior space to include two individual third-row seats that can be folded separately — flush into the cargo floor. The second-row seatback is split 40/20/40 and can be folded separately to create a flat load floor. The lower cushion of the second-row seat is divided 40/60 and can be adjusted 6 inches fore and aft to balance between third-row legroom, second-row legroom and cargo capacity. Cargo capacity behind the second row is 21.5 cubic feet; 39.6 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
The GLB offers driver assistance and functionality from the S Class line with improved camera and radar systems, and can be driven partially autonomously in certain situations. Available driver-assistance systems include active distance assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adaptations; active steering assist with active emergency stop assist and active lane-change assist; active brake assist with cross-traffic function; active speed limit assist; active blind-spot assist; active lane-keeping assist; and PRE-SAFE plus with PRE-SAFE sound.
On our GLB press drive, the SUV performed admirably well at Tonto National Forest in Arizona. Built on the same platform as the A-Class sedan and the CLA, the GLB feels more like a sport sedan than an SUV, with both the standard suspension and adaptive damping. The GLB is right-sized for a fun drive, but offers comfortable room for five. The third-row seats, if chosen, are strictly for small children transported a short distance. The GLB is comfortable out on the highway and fun to drive on twisty mountain roads.
The turbocharged 2.0-liter engine provides good power with maximum torque under 2000 rpm; the 8-speed DCT provides quick, crisp shifts. In Comfort mode the throttle response is rather sluggish, but switch to Sport mode and it becomes much more responsive. Unfortunately in Sport mode the transmission hangs in lower gears too long, even when no longer accelerating. One solution is to use the paddles to upshift manually; another option is to choose individual settings with the engine in Sport mode and the transmission in Comfort.
The GLB is an attractive, traditional design unlike the sleek, coupelike models that keep popping up. The SUV is comfortable for five — for those who require seating for seven, the GLB probably isn’t the right choice. If you want the utility of a crossover SUV that is still engaging and fun to drive, the GLB 250 offers an excellent powertrain and good driving dynamics.
Pros: Fun to drive; great powertrain; attractive design; roomy interior for size.
Cons: Lane-keeping assist can be aggressive at times; expensive with all options.
Bottom Line: The GLB has attractive, more traditional SUV styling with an excellent drivetrain, good driving dynamics and available third-row seating.