John McIlroy 2019-06-11 03:00
Chunky new Mercedes GLB goes on sale next month and fills gap between sporty GLA and GLC big brother
The GLB sits on the same MFA2 chassis architecture as the current A-Class, B-Class and CLA saloon, but the wheelbase is 10cm longer to give it extra practicality. The result is a car which, at 4.63 metres, is only 22mm shorter than a GLC. There are key differences from the more expensive model – not least air suspension and six-cylinder engines, neither of which are available on the GLB.
That quest for practicality has delivered an unusually boxy profile. If anything, the GLB is closer in appearance to Mercedes’ flagship SUV, the GLS, than it is to the GLA. The firm has been clever with its use of bumper plastics to disguise the GLB’s sizeable flanks and show off its height; it is, in fact, slightly taller than a GLC.
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The GLB is designed from the outset to be available with the option of carrying seven people. It can have up to four Isofix points for child seats – one on each of the outer chairs in the middle row, and two more in the pop-up sixth and seventh seats. In a neat touch, Mercedes has built smartphone-storage areas into the boot wall, and if the third row is specified, these cubbies incorporate USB-C charging points.
A five-seat GLB will have a standard load bay capacity of 560 litres, but if the third row is being used on a seven-seat edition, the area beyond it offers only 130 litres. Even so, that five-seat figure is 65 litres up on a BMW X1’s volume. The maximum load space in a five-seat model is 1,755 litres.
The GLB’s engine line-up will stick closely to that of the A-Class – although the starting point will be slightly higher to reflect the new model’s additional size and weight. The petrol line-up will include GLB 200 and 250 models, while diesel buyers should be able to choose from 200 d and 220 d versions. All but the entry-level petrol come with an eight-speed dual-clutch auto; the GLB 200 makes do with a seven-speed auto.
There’s no word yet on AMG editions but, tellingly, one senior official said the GLB’s maximum wheel size is “20 inches – for now”. There’s said to be customer demand for at least a GLB 35 AMG, and a full-house GLB 45 AMG can’t be ruled out.
Petrol GLBs will be front-wheel drive, while the GLB 200 d variant is available with a choice of front-wheel drive or 4MATIC four-wheel drive, and the faster GLB 220 d is four-wheel drive only. All-wheel-drive cars get an extra “off-road” mode on the Dynamic Select switch, which affects throttle response and steering, and introduces a hill-descent setting and a low-speed cruise control.
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Inside, the GLB gets the same MBUX infotainment system as the A-Class, with the option of twin displays, including a central touchscreen, and voice commands. There are up to three USB-C connection points between the front seats, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are supported. The cabin looks smartly finished, yet the ambience of the car in our images is helped by a panoramic sunroof, which is likely to be optional.
GLB product manager Jürgen Leiter says the car could be the “missing link” in the firm’s line-up. “When we did the first range of MFA cars, starting with the A-Class, there was determination to make everything sporty, and the GLA was a reflection of that,” he tells us as we walk around the vehicle in a studio near Stuttgart. “Now with the second generation of MFA, we know there are some people who wanted an SUV with practicality but not positioned as high as the GLC.”
The GLB will be made at Mercedes’ factory in Mexico. Production is due to start in the autumn, so while UK orders will be taken from the middle of July, the first deliveries aren’t expected until the end of the year. We reckon prices will start at around £30,000.
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Associated Advanced Gallery New 2019 Mercedes GLB muscles in on family SUV class – pictures