In the world of automotive journalism, often automakers talk about an "all-new" vehicle. But most of the time, it's either a facelift or perhaps a significant reworking of an already existing model. The new Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class, however, really is an all-new machine, though it does borrow heavily from the compact A-Class. Whereas that's a small, entry-level hatchback or sedan, the GLB-Class offers buyers a classic SUV shape on a compact platform with something not often found at this level – the option for three-row, seven-passenger seating.
That's a good starting point to discuss the new GLB-Class, as it's the first compact offering from Mercedes to offer such seating. The optional third row offers accommodations for two, with cup holders between the seats and USB power ports for phones or other devices. The GLB's side airbags are designed to protect third-row passengers, and Mercedes points out the availability of anchor points for child seats. Two things not mentioned at the rear are headroom and legroom, and though we'll reserve final judgment for our GLB-Class first drive, we have the distinct impression Mercedes is aiming the seven-seat capacity of this compact SUV towards small children at the back.
As a five-seater, the new GLB sounds a bit more adult friendly. With the rearmost seats folded, the people mover offers up to 62 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Second-row passengers also have the ability to move the seats fore and aft to better accommodate people or things, with 38 inches of legroom available with the seats pushed back. Up front, driver and passenger are greeted with an interior quite similar to the A-Class, albeit with a bit more headroom.
A digital cockpit with a 7.0-inch instrument screen and a 7.0-inch center touchscreen display dominate the dash, the latter allowing access to a multitude of standard-issue tech including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The automaker's MBUX system with voice control is also standard, as are a suite of driver assist systems including active braking, crosswind assist, and a rearview camera. Optional packages include blind spot assist, navigation, parking assist, larger 10.25-inch displays, an upgraded Burmester surround system, heads-up display, and much more.
Though the GLB-Class adopts a more traditional SUV exterior look, it's not quite as boxy as the early camouflaged prototypes suggested. Yes, there are A-Class bones underneath it all, but the wheelbase is over 5 inches longer than the GLA-Class and just 1.7 inches behind the GLC-Class. In its base form, the GLB will turn just the front wheels though we suspect most buyers will choose the optional 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system, which comes standard with an Off-Road Engineering Package that adds an additional drive program to the GLB's selectable modes, conquering the roads less traveled with a 50/50 power distribution. Otherwise, 80 percent of the power goes up front in eco mode, with a 70/30 split for sport mode.
Speaking of power, you won't be surprised to find Merc's M 260 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder on active duty under the bonnet. In the GLB-Class is makes a modest 221 horsepower (164 kilowatts) and 258 pound-feet (350 Newton-meters) of torque, which Mercedes says is enough to send the small SUV to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds in all-wheel-drive trim. Shifting is handled by an eight-speed DCT.
At launch, Mercedes-Benz will offer two models – the GLB 250 and GLB 250 4MATIC.