By Andy Bornhop
The new Mercedes-Benz GLB slots between the GLA and the GLC in the company’s growing lineup of SUVs, closer in size to the larger GLC. Its long wheelbase and transverse powertrain translate to a vehicle that’s roomier inside than its compact dimensions would suggest. Front legroom for taller drivers is outstanding, and headroom is similarly generous, even with the available panoramic sunroof.
Although the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is available with a third-row bench seat for two, the two-person bench is small. Mercedes acknowledges this, stating with refreshing candor that the rearmost seat is suitable only for people 5-foot 6-inches or shorter. With two or three rows of seats, the second row of the new GLB slides fore or aft about 6 inches to create extra legroom or cargo volume, whichever’s needed.
With its upright windshield and high hood, the new GLB looks boxier and more trucklike than either the GLA or GLC, though not as squared-off as the big Mercedes G-Class SUV. Its chassis, related to that of the A-Class sedan, feels stout but is lithe enough to give this compact-crossover SUV carlike agility. The GLB’s engine, a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with excellent bottom-end torque and almost no turbo lag, endows this small Mercedes SUV with plenty of power and impressive EPA fuel-economy rating of up to 31 mpg on the highway.
On sale now, the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is an impressive new compact SUV, a competitor for models as varied as the BMW X1, Lincoln Corsair, Range Rover Discovery, Volkswagen Tiguan and Audi Q3. But Mercedes may find that there’s one other competitor: the company’s own GLC, which is only slightly larger than the GLB and is based on the more traditional C-Class sedan with its longitudinal powertrain.
Front- or all-wheel drive
Roomy for its size
Standard Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
Optional 3rd-row seat
Turbo 2.0-liter engine produces great torque
Price starts at $36,600 but can climb to nearly $60,000
Optional 3rd-row seat is small
Blind-spot warning isn’t standard
Overly aggressive lane-keep assist
Driving the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
KBB recently sampled a 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250, a 4Matic model fitted with just about every possible option. As such, it carried an MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) of $58,250, a huge jump from the GLB 4Matic’s starting base price of $38,600.
That stated, how did this new Mercedes SUV feel? Great. The GLB is quiet, easy to see out of and a delight to drive around town, with ample power, natural-effort steering and powerful brakes. The upright windscreen makes it easy to see the front corners of the GLB, and the 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission always seems to be in the right gear, without being too busy. And whenever it does shift, it’s silky-smooth. The standard shift paddles on the back of the steering wheel are much appreciated, especially when a downshift or two is ideal for keeping speeds in check on long downhills.
Throughout our daylong drive in Arizona, we experimented with the latest generation of the standard MBUX voice-activated user interface, using the spoken “Hey, Mercedes” prompt to change the interior temperature, get a weather report or set destinations on the navigation system. While its ability to understand commands is impressive, sometimes a quick nudge of a rocker switch is a much easier way to adjust the interior temp of the GLB.
We’re still glad that the GLB has traditional buttons and a touch-sensitive center screen to help us accomplish most tasks in a more traditional way. By the way, the GLB’s optional 10.25-inch screens convey information clearly, but the display looks like a digital tablet (think iPad) that has been laid on its side and placed on the GLB’s small dash shelf. A bit more integration would be most welcome.
With its excellent overall comfort, good ride quality, assorted drive modes and contemporary interior, the new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 is refined enough for everyday use and totally suitable for a long cross-country drive, while also being a fine companion on dirt back roads, aided by its respectable clearance and short overhangs. On a long road trip, however, we would shut off the available lane-keep assist program, which intervenes much too aggressively with automatic applications of the steering and brakes if you start crossing a lane-marker line without signaling beforehand.
Where is the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB built?
The new Mercedes-Benz GLB, a compact 5- or 7-seat SUV, is built in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in the same plant that also builds the A-Class sedan.
Is there an AMG version of the new GLB?
Not yet, but the GLB 250 can be ordered with an AMG steering wheel, black 20-inch AMG wheels and an AMG option package that includes unique body styling, vented brake discs and a diamond-block grille. Look for a Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 to appear for model year 2021.
What’s in the GLB’s Off-Road Package?
The Off-Road Package, standard on all 4Matic GLBs, alters the power delivery and ABS for improved control in the dirt. In off-road mode, power delivery is locked at 50/50 front-to-rear (it’s 80/20 normally). All the while, an animated display shows the gradient of the hill you’re climbing and the GLB’s side angle of inclination.
Driver Assistance Package. This available technology package on the new GLB is super thorough. It includes adaptive cruise control (with route-based speed adaptation based on upcoming curves), active steering assist, emergency braking, lane-keep assist, a blind-spot warning and even Pre-Safe Sound, which emits a sound to protect the driver’s hearing in the event of a large (and loud) impact.
Off-Road Engineering Package. Standard on all 2020 GLBs with 4Matic all-wheel drive (AWD), this package changes the GLB’s torque distribution from 80/20 to 50/50, while also tailoring the power delivery and ABS for better driver control on the dirt or snow.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB interior
Inside the new GLB, a 6-foot-tall person can sit behind a driver of the same height, and tall drivers will appreciate how far rearward the seat travels. So far back, in fact, that it can eat into all the available rear-seat legroom. That stated, the headroom is excellent, even with the large panoramic sunroof. With its rear seats (and front-passenger seat laid out flat), the 2-row/5-seat GLB offers 62 cubic feet of cargo volume inside that power rear hatch.
As a brand-new Mercedes SUV, the GLB is equipped with the latest voice-controlled “Hey, Mercedes” MBUX multifunction infotainment system, plus digital gauges and a host of the latest driver-assist and safety programs. While we’re happy to report that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, we’re not overjoyed that a blind-spot monitor, the larger 10.25-inch screens and active cruise control are available only as a part of a $2,250 Driver Assistance Package that also includes active lane-keep assist, active braking assist, active steering assist and route-based speed adaptation.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB exterior
Some KBB staffers aren’t wild about the blocky and upright lines of the 2020 Mercedes GLB, stating that it looks too far removed from the smooth and handsome lines of the company’s larger GLC and GLE SUVs. But others think the new GLB looks great, a 2-box design with powerful proportions that speak to the vehicle’s desired off-road character. One thing we can agree upon: Apart from a couple of muscular creases in the hood, the GLB is devoid of any styling lines that might be there strictly for styling’s sake.
The GLB’s standard grille features two horizontal bars flanking a central 3-pointed star. On the AMG Line-equipped model, a diamond-block grille is bisected by a single crossbar with a large Mercedes logo. Do you want the logo illuminated? That’s an extra $350.
All 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLBs sold in the U.S. are GLB 250 models powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that sends 221 horsepower to the wheels via an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. Base models are front-wheel drive; 4Matic GLBs have full-time all-wheel drive with no low-range gearing but a standard off-road mode that optimizes vehicle performance on dirt.
Other standard GLB hardware includes power front seats, dual-zone climate control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, LED headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels (with run-flat tires), the voice-activated MBUX infotainment system and a power liftgate. A multifunction steering wheel also is standard, along with a Dynamic Select drive-mode selector, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and a 7-inch multifunction touch screen.
Apart from a large panoramic sunroof, most popular GLB options are grouped in packages, and the Premium Package is high on our list. It includes the larger 10.25-inch digital instrument panel and 10.25-inch touch screen, plus blind-spot assist and power-folding side mirrors.
If you have an interest in autonomy and safety tech, the Driver Assistance Package is a must. Besides active cruise control, active steering assist and automatic emergency braking, this package includes lane-keep assist, lane-change assist and even a system that emits a sound to protect the driver’s hearing in the event of a big (and loud) impact. What’s more, with its improved cameras and radar, the GLB can “see” up to 1,641 feet ahead and drive partially autonomously in certain situations.
Also worthy of serious consideration is the AMG Line Package, which features unique styling elements, an AMG grille, aluminum shift paddles, an AMG steering wheel, vented front brakes, sport seats and AMG-specific 19-inch alloy wheels. The available AMG Night Package adds a sinister look with its gloss-black exterior elements and 19-inch alloy wheels with black accents.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB safety highlights
Active Brake Assist. Using cameras and radar, Active Brake Assist senses how quickly the GLB is closing on another vehicle. If the driver doesn’t apply enough braking pressure to prevent a collision, the system will automatically apply maximum stopping power. This standard safety system also will apply the brakes autonomously if the driver fails to react.
Attention Assist. Drowsy driving is dangerous driving, and this standard system, which monitors steering and several other parameters, will suggest that the GLB driver take a break if it senses any drowsiness.
Crosswind Assist. Another standard feature, Crosswind Assist helps the GLB stay in its lane on gusty highways. Using the sensors of the stability-control system, Crosswind Assist automatically applies the brakes to the wheels on the side of the vehicle facing the wind, creating a yaw force that helps to keep the GLB in its lane while also minimizing the chance of a potentially dangerous driver overreaction.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB engine
The Mercedes-Benz GLB is available with one engine: a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that produces 221 horsepower at 5,500 rpm and a whopping 258-lb-ft plateau of torque from 1,800 to 4,000 rpm. It’s an aluminum-block powerplant with iron cylinder liners, and the bores are “trumpet-honed” to minimize friction and improve fuel economy. Note: There’s no sacrifice in EPA fuel economy if you order a GLB with 4Matic. In fact, in the EPA Highway test, the 4Matic AWD model is one mpg better than the standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) GLB.
2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4
221 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 1,800-4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 23/30 mpg (FWD); 23/31 mpg (AWD)
How much does the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB cost?
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB lineup starts at $36,600 for a front-wheel-drive GLB 250. The all-wheel-drive GLB 250 4Matic starts at $38,600. The destination fee for both models is $995.
As mentioned, the GLB price can climb quite quickly from there. The GLB 250 4Matic that KBB recently sampled had nearly $20,000 in options, ringing in at $58,520. The most expensive option, the Driver Assistance Package with active cruise and other semiautonomous features (see above) was $2,550, while the AMG Line, with its AMG styling, vented front brakes and other enhancements, added $2,240.
Another major option was the $1,650 Premium Package, which we recommend because it includes the larger 10.25-inch screens and blind-spot assist, plus power-folding side mirrors. Other options on our GLB 250 4Matic included a multimedia navigation package ($1,150) a Parking Assistance Package with a 360-degree camera ($1,090) and active LED headlights ($900).
This story originally ran on KBB.com .