It is the first drive of the first ever Mercedes-Benz GLB in Spain's Malaga region. We are driving the Europe spec cars and its best to call out at the start; we still have no information on any potential India-specification of the Mercedes-Benz GLB. If you count the coupé SUVs in the portfolio, the GLB is Mercedes' seventh SUV now. It plays on its compact positioning and footprint, and yet offers a big car overall. And that is because it is undoubtedly the best Mercedes-Benz SUV yet, as it boasts class higher benchmarks on space and functionality.
Watch Our First Look Of The All-New Mercedes-Benz GLB
Given the popularity of SUVs, most brands are developing multiple models and variants on the same platform. This makes sense because the market worldwide has been swallowing whatever comes its way - of course we are talking of the SUV brigade here. The costs of developing and producing derivatives, is definitely lower than investing in standalone new models. This phenomenon is even more pronounced at Mercedes-Benz and its other premium brand rivals. The GLB shares its MFA-2 (modular front architecture) platform with several siblings - the new generation A-Class, B-Class, and CLA-Class (+ CLA Shooting Brake). And then there's also the upcoming next generation of the GLA. The GLB uses a longer wheelbase of course, and sits taller than the rest.
Watch Our First Look Of The All-New Mercedes-Benz GLB Here
The good news is that, neither is the new GLB simply based on the new B-Class, nor is it simply a bigger GLA. It is a unique and very different car than what we are used to see from Mercedes-Benz. Its engineers and designers seem to have stepped out of the box with the new GLB. They have extended the wheelbase by 100 mm to 2829 mm, and the length of the car to 4634 mm. This way, the GLB easily outclasses rivals such as the BMW X1 and Audi Q3 on size. The thing is that the dimensions of the GLB put it in within spitting distance of the GLC, though of course the two have a clear price point differentiation in Europe. The GLC is priced about € 8000 higher if you take the 200d diesel variant. The GLC is 40 mm longer 60 mm wider and 20 mm lower than the GLB, and is about 100 kilograms heavier too.
At the same time, the curves of the GLB have been transformed into more rigid, but still soft-stroked lines, giving it a more robust appearance and clear resemblance to the largest Mercedes SUV - the luxurious GLS. Of course, its squarish profile and roofline are also reminiscent of the G-Class. Well those square lines, may give the car a very vertical design front and back. But it also makes it roomier. The extended wheelbase definitely helps give the GLB plenty of interior space. There is a tremendous sense of headroom in the front and rear of the cabin. And that is because it is indeed huge enough for professional basketball players! The GLB also offers the optional third row seating, which is expectedly quite modest but is also unique in this class. But don't worry; there will always be room for children there. And this feature is bound to make it very attractive in the Indian context.
The vertical rear styling also contributes to generous boot space - 570 litres to be precise. If you fold down the second row, you get a massive 1805 litres of cargo room. But while even an MPV can give you big cargo space, the GLB is all about being premium. We think you get the right amount of premium-ness, technology and great road manners, to make this an attractive package. The cabin is also well appointed, and you do get the digital cockpit from the A and B-Class.
The car gets the latest MBUX infotainment interface - with the voice assistant and plenty of connectivity options for smartphone users. Ambient lighting and the works are all standard too. Specific features like head-up display, seat warming/cooling, sunroof, etc will be market specific. But driver aids like adaptive cruise control or lane keeping, is mostly standard across variants too.
Speaking of how it drives, we tested the most powerful version of the car - the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic with 302 bhp, which is very quick and actually quite fun to drive. The 2-litre turbo is coupled with a quick 8-Speed automatic transmission, which is smooth and easy to drive. You get tonnes of torque in a wide range of revs which is one reason why it can also accelerate from 0 to 100 kmph in only 5.2 seconds.
What's more, that kind of hard throttle slamming also gives you a rather nice sporty sound! The car was a dream through the corners of the twisty roads in Ronda, Malaga (Spain). The AMG also proved to have a very well balanced chassis and suspension, precise steering and very good road handling. A family car that can easily transform into a fun athlete - that is a good way to describe the GLB!
Off the road the GLB stays true to its SUV status. The GLB has 200 mm ground clearance and an off-road programme - that among other things provides a permanent four-wheel drive. So, the GLB then goes from being a mostly front driven car to all-wheel, with the power transmitted to the rear wheels by the Haldex clutch. Again given this is a family SUV it does admirably well off-road too. Though, this is not being pitched as a hard-core off-roader by any means.
The car handled the course we were taken on with ease. This included the concrete ascents and descents of more than 40 degrees. It also offered us a 25-degree lateral inclination (officially capable of as much as 35-degrees) and easily climbed over the humps that were part of the course. Overall the GLB did well - quite remarkable for a compact SUV, and certainly more capable than the more crossover-like GLA.
And this was true of the other engine variants too, not just the AMG we'd like to clarify. Of course of greater interest to us is the more accessible diesel GLB 200d (with European prices in the € 37-39,000 range). It is very refined and is quiet, powerful, economical and more affordable than the AMG version. Yet it maintains its premium brand status on trim, finish and driveability. The more prudent, however, will definitely think about the petrol GLB 200 with prices starting a tad lower, or the even lower priced entry model - the GLB 180d with similar prices, but for a diesel.
The more powerful engines are better value though given their much better performance. So, it's a toss up. However, all of this is academic at this stage for us in India - since Mercedes-Benz is yet to take an official call on whether or not India will get the new GLB. Given the car's attributes and overall distinct identity, we think it would do well. The GLB 200d would be the ideal car for India in our opinion, with the perfect balance of grunt and sophistication that our buyers would appreciate.