Typically when one thinks of compact luxury CUVs, third row seating is usually not the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, when one looks at the bulk of the offerings avalible, two row configurations dominate this sector of the utility market with 7-passenger offerings a seldom seen sight. Mercedes-Benz is out to shake things up, and has formally unveiled the all new 2020 GLB Class which brings third row seating to the German luxury giant’s compact CUV lineup for the first time ever.
That key development aside for a moment, trying to discern what else is new here may be somewhat challenging at first glance, with the GLB adopting a very traditional boxy SUV shape (a fact highlighted by the GLB Concept when it appeared in Shanghai.) Thankfully, despite the heavy A-Class influence on hand, the look is still very sleek, and the wheelbase is a full 5 inches longer than its cousin the GLA, and is a mere 1.7 inches shorter than the bigger GLC. That’s impressive, and it makes up for the rather frumpy rear end which is arguably the one lone wart in the GLB’s otherwise balanced presentation. The extra length also plays a key role in adding an optional third row seat to the GLB, with Mercedes engineers adding some handy features to make things seamless. The airbags for example were designed to protect third row occupants, and Mercedes highlights the avalibility of child seat anchors in this particular space. A set of USB ports and two cupholders between the seats offer reasonable accomodations, but we will reserve final judgement until we have a chance to climb back there to see just how roomy it really is.
When used as a five seater, the GLB brings more cargo capacity to the fray, with the ute easily swallowing 62 cubic feet of cargo. Second row passengers can move the seats fore and aft to make full use of the 38 inches of rear leg room. The front passengers are treated to an enviroment that is largely reminiscent of the A-Class, but the GLB’s bigger dimensions deliver noticeably more headroom versus its hatchback penned cousin. As mentioned in our past GLB coverage, the GLB’s interior comes packed to the gills with technology, and includes a 7.0 inch touchscreen infotainment system with a separate 7.0 inch screen for the gauge cluster. The infotainment system comes bundled with the latest iteration of Benz’s MBUX software, and even includes voice control and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capability. Other standard goodies include active braking, crosswind assist, and a rear mounted backup camera.
As expected, the list of options is quite extensive, too and includes items such as a Burnmester premium audio system, bigger 10.25 inch screens, park assist, heads up display, and more. Like its cousins, look for the GLB to benefit from a wide range of accesories and individualization features to both help it stand out from the crowd, and to please style conscious younger buyers.
When the 2020 Mercedes GLB eventually makes its way to dealer lots, it will be avalible in either front or all-wheel drive. But at launch, the first models that hit are shores will be 250 grade models, with Merc’s 2.0 liter M 260 four cylinder being the only engine avalible. Good for a modest 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, Mercedes claims that it can make the sprint to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds in all-wheel drive trim which is on par for the segment. An eight speed DCT rows through the gears, and it promises to bring a heallthy balance of smoothness and eagerness to drivers.
Both the GLB 250 and the GLB 250 AWD will make their way to U.S. showrooms towards the end of the year, with final pricing expected to be released closer to its official debut, but we suspect that it could start in the mid $30,000 range with optioned examples surpassing the $40,000 barrier. Rivals include the Land Rover Discovery Sport, as well as the BMW X1.