Though it might not seem like there's room for another crossover in Mercedes-Benz's budding SUV lineup, here we are, with the brand-new GLB-Class. Happily, the GLB has the good looks to stand out in a crowded class, and after a drive through Arizona, I can say it has the performance and comfort chops to match.
The 2020 GLB slots in between the crossovers, though a glance at the spec sheet reveals it's nearly identical in size to the GLC. It's just as tall as its sibling, at 65.3 inches, but a smidge shorter in both wheelbase and overall length.- and
Instead, what sets the GLB apart is its decidedly more rugged, boxy appearance -- perhaps appealing to folks who miss the squared-off design of the old GLK. The GLB's nose is quite flat, highlighted by an upright windshield and a nearly flat roof, until it cuts down vertically for the rear hatch. It's definitely the anti-coupe-over, and I like that.
A nice, easy driver
My test drive starts off on the open highways near Scottsdale, Arizona. Here, the adaptive cruise control shines -- the GLB can take over the throttle and brake duties, and as with Mercedes' other SUVs, this feature works great. Smooth inputs from the adaptive cruise system take the stress out of long-haul driving. And when I enter a slower, 65-mph zone, the GLB slows down automatically.
The GLB's lane-keeping assist and lane-change assist work as advertised, though the latter is kind of slow in its action. Blind-spot monitoring stays active for up to three minutes after turning off the ignition, to warn drivers and passengers of obstacles like traffic or cyclists that might cross close to the GLB's side.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Those aren't "OMG-so-much-fun" numbers, but they're sufficient for highway merging and passing, especially when you dial up the more aggressive throttle response and transmission mapping of Sport mode.
My tester has the optional 4Matic all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive is standard), which helps keep it composed on twisty stretches of roads. It's not the most engaging SUV on four wheels, but the GLB is just plain easy to drive. An optional Off-Road setting keeps the anti-lock brakes from intervening too soon, and it mutes the throttle tip-in as well. The GLB offers hill-descent control, too, but don't let its rugged-ish appearance fool you: this is not a proper off-roader.
Overall, I'm pleased with the on-road characteristics of the GLB. The eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission gets the job done seamlessly in the background; the ride is smooth an unencumbered. The engine, while not especially powerful, is plenty potent. My only real issue is the brakes: Squishy at first, they grab suddenly then go back to soft and squishy again. I kept thinking my right foot was having the caffeine jitters, but no, the brakes just have a non-linear action.
The base GLB comes with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system and a 7-inch instrument cluster. If large screens are your jam, you'll like the available pair of 10.25-inch screens running Mercedes' MBUX tech. The gauge cluster is reconfigurable, and you can operate the center screen by touch, a center trackpad, two smaller thumb-pads on the steering wheel or via voice control. MBUX is a really robust system, with augmented reality navigation overlays that are the best thing ever.
Mercedes' navigation system also uses the What 3 Words address system, which assigns three random words to every 9-square-meter location on earth. Using the "Hey, Mercedes" natural speech commands, I can ask the system to navigate me to any three-word address. "Speeding ranted dorms" pulls up the Common Grounds coffee shop. It's weird, but hey, it works.
Lots of room inside
The GLB may be a compact crossover, but it's very spacious. Thanks to the upright roofline, you've got 40 inches of headroom, and the second-row seats can slide 3.5 inches forward or backward. With the second row and passenger seat folded, you have 105 inches of load length and 62 cubic feet of space for cargo.
A third row is optional, which seems a little whack-a-doo in a crossover this small. Granted, the second row in the seven-seater can adjust by nearly 9 inches to give those squished people more legroom, and Mercedes says the third row can comfortably seat someone who is 5-foot, 6-inches tall. I'll have to take the company's word for it -- my tester was of the five-passenger variety, so I wasn't able to test that theory. If you want a real three-row Mercedes, consider theor , though they're obviously a lot more expensive.
Still, the interior is nice place to spend time. I love the aviation-inspired design language with round vents and a simple row of climate controls below. The seats are comfortable, with available heating and cooling, and visibility to the outside is great, although the steering wheel blocks the lower left-hand corner of the center screen a bit.
A solid SUV, but it gets expensive quickly
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class starts at $36,600, not including $995 for delivery. You can add $2,000 on to that price for 4Matic all-wheel drive. However, prices can climb quickly when you start adding things like the swanky ADAS features, 20-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, the larger 10.25-inch screens and an AMG appearance package. My tester is $55,340, and that doesn't even include heated seats.
I'm a big fan of the GLB. But I'm a bigger fan of the upcoming, which bumps engine output to 305 hp, and the chassis has a slightly sportier tune. That'll be the one I gravitate towards, but no matter which GLB you choose, it's a stylish daily driver with no shortage of space or luxury. Look for it to hit dealerships later this year.
Editors' note: Travel costs related to this story were covered by the manufacturer, which is common in the auto industry. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow's staff are our own and we do not accept paid editorial content.