2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB – Hawaii Cars

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB

Another compact utility vehicle squeezes into an already-tight Mercedes formation

By MALCOLM GUNN

In football parlance, flooding the zone occurs when the quarterback directs his pass receivers downfield to confuse and outnumber the opposing defense. In automotive terms, it seems that Mercedes-Benz is flooding a different zone: The upscale compact-utility-vehicle market.

The new GLB250, which will launch by the end of the year, is one of six such utilities to wear the three-pointed star. It’s about five inches longer than the GLA (the smallest in the M-B-range), and less than two inches shorter than the next-largest GLC (which cannot be ordered with a third row). The GLE-, GLS- and G-class utility vehicles round out the grouping.

The GLB’s stout appearance belies the fact that it’s built off the Mercedes-Benz A-class front-wheel-drive car platform. The blunt-edge front end and the tall, squared-off roofline gives it an off-road-capable appearance, however following a G class over craggy and deeply rutted terrain is likely not a great idea.

Surprisingly, despite its compact dimensions, the GLB can be ordered with a third-row seat, complete with two cupholders plus a couple of outboard storage compartments and one USB port.

To make sufficient space for two more passengers in a third row, the second-row bench slides up to six inches (it also adjusts in the two-row GLBs) and the seatback can be angled in a more upright position. Note that placing anyone larger than junior-size in the back will be a tight squeeze, and the cargo zone behind is expectedly small.

For moving larger items, the split-folding 40:20:40 second row and 60:40 third row can each be partially or completely folded flat.

The GLB’s front-seat passengers have a full view of an instrument panel that’s nearly identical to that found in the A-class cars. It comes with two adjoining seven-inch or optional 10.3-inch configurable touch screens with the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) voice-activated system. By speaking “Hey Mercedes” aloud, a disembodied voice acts on your requests to — among others — change radio channels, connect with your phone’s contacts, or search for the nearest gas stations or restaurants.

The only available powertrain announced so far is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder that puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s connected to an eight-speed automated manual transmission with paddle shifters. Later in the model year, you can expect more powerful AMG models.

Official fuel-economy stats haven’t been determined, but based on the turbo 2.0 used in the GLA, you can expect about 24 mpg in the city, 33 on the highway and 27 combined city/highway.

According to Mercedes-Benz, the 2.0 will propel the GLB to 60 mph from rest in 6.9 seconds.

Front-wheel-drive is standard, with 4Matic all-wheel-drive optional. The system varies the front-to-rear torque split depending on the mode selected. In Eco and Comfort, the front-to-rear split is 80:20. It’s 70:30 in Sport and 50:50 in Off-Road.

Pricing for the base front-wheel-drive, five-passenger GLB is expected to split the difference between the GLA and GLC, which is about $38,000 including destination fees. That will get you a reasonable amount of gear, but buyers opting for AWD and the third row can expect to pay more than $40,000. They’ll also pay more for options such as a panoramic glass roof, adaptive suspension and an AMG styling kit with a unique grille, bumpers and wheels. A full range of active and semi-autonomous driving technologies is extra.

All football-flooding references aside, in terms of design, content and price, there appears to be enough differentiation — although it might be hard to believe — between the GLB and its immediate larger and smaller utility siblings. It might also be hard to believe that a third-row seat can fit into what will be the second-smallest such vehicle in the range.

What you should know: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250

Type: Four-door, front- /all-wheel-drive compact utility vehicle

Engine (h.p.): 2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged (221)

Transmission: Eight-speed automated manual

Market position: The premium-compact-utility-vehicle segment is becoming increasingly popular (and competitive) as more buyers are indicating a preference for these models over similarly upscale sedans.

Points:
• Squared-off body provides at least the appearance of off-road ruggedness.
• Modern dashboard and control panel adds to the premium-look interior.
• Turbo four-cylinder engine has reasonable performance, but AMG versions will improve significantly on that.
• Third-row-seating option is ideal for small children, but not so much for adults.

Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.)

MPG (city/hwy) 24/33 (FWD, est.); Base price (incl. destination) $38,000 (est.)

B Y C O M P A R I S O N

Audi Q3
Base price: $35,700
Redesigned 2019 model comes with a turbo 258-h.p. I-4 and standard AWD.

Cadillac XT4
Base price: $35,800
New compact utility model is reasonably priced and stylish. AWD is optional.

Lexus NX
Base price: $37,750
Well-equipped with most active-safety tech; hybrid model available. A 237-h.p. turbo I-4 is standard.