Merc’s flashy new SUV lands in Oz
Mercedes-Benz offers more SUVs than any other brand.
It has 26 high-riding models spread across nine different body styles, so expectations are high for its latest arrival, the GLB.
Priced from $59,900 plus on-road costs (about $66,000 drive-away) in front-drive GLB 200 form, the SUV is also available with all-wheel-drive and a more powerful engine as the GLB 250 for $73,900 plus on-roads (about $81,500 drive-away). A Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 performance version is due in August, packing 225kW/400Nm performance for about $97,000 drive-away.
The GLB costs more than expected. The car represents a new approach from Mercedes, riding on its compact platform while bringing the versatility of seven seats for nearly half the price of its next-largest seven-seater.
Mainstream rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Skoda Kodiaq and Mazda CX-8 take a similar tack by jamming occasional-use chairs into the boot of high-riding wagons. The GLB is smaller than all of them, which is impressive if you want a car with compact dimensions, but perhaps less so if you're asked to sit in the third row.
The maker's press material says the GLB's back seats "offer people up to a height of 1.68 metres a comfortable amount of space" but realistically they are for incidental use when the kids want to bring a friend home.
While it's not a big car, the GLB is practical. There are ISOFIX anchor points for four of the five rear seats, giving parents the flexibility to put little ones in the second or third rows. Curtain airbag coverage extends all the way back, and there are cupholders, storage spaces and USB-C power outlets spread throughout.
A sliding middle bench allows owners to prioritise leg room or cargo space as required.
There's a generous 500 litres of boot storage in five-seat mode, but barely enough room for a couple of schoolbags with the third row in use. Front occupants get to play with twin widescreen dash displays, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satnav and wireless phone charging. Other niceties include ambient lighting, a powered tailgate, smart keys and connection to the Mercedes Me suite of voice-activated online services.
Safety gear includes a reversing camera, nine airbags, autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring, though active cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert and a stop-go function for traffic jams are part of a $1900 driver assistance pack.
We tested the GLB 250, which comes as standard with adaptive suspension, a panoramic sunroof and heated memory seats trimmed in faux leather.
Riding on 19-inch wheels as standard, it is also available with smaller 18-inch rims to improve ride comfort. Configured as such, the GLB is impressively plush on the road, soaking up bumps better than any small Benz.
Easy to drive, thanks to its relatively small size and light controls, the GLB offers outstanding visibility courtesy of a high driving position and large windows. The same is true of a spacious back seat positioning passengers higher than the driver, which could make kids less likely to get carsick.
The trade-off is tall suspension that can feel floaty at times, and a tendency to lean in bends.
The engine and eight-speed dual-clutch auto are a mixed bag. Though impressively rapid (100km/h arrives in just 6.9 seconds), the GLB 250 is let down by the odd lumpy shift and an occasional thump when selecting reverse.
It's a good car, but it's not Benz' s best.
Comfortable, packed with tech and thoughtful family-oriented touches, the Mercedes-Benz GLB is a worthy option for wealthy inner-city families. More standard safety kit would be welcome for the price.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLB 250 VITALS
Price: About $81,500 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 165kW/350Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unlimited km, about $2000 for 3 years
Safety: 5 stars, 9 airbags, AEB, lane keeping assistance, blind-spot monitoring, traffic sign recognition
Cargo: 500 litres
Spare: Space saver
Originally published as Merc's flashy new SUV lands in Oz