Mercedes G-Class, baby! Merc’s new GLB takes a dash of G-Class cool, stretches it over an A-Class chassis, then throws in seven seats. By Jake Groves.
By stretching the A-Class’s platform to the absolute limits, Mercedes has finally created the baby G-Class that’s been rumoured for years. Its new, chunky GLB is the exact opposite of the ungainly, not-that-practical and long-in-the-tooth GLA tall hatch. It might even take the shine off the new (and actually quite good) B-Class by offering the option of two more seats, that hip SUV shape and a wheelbase some 100mm longer.
Some of the outrageous details from the concept – namely the integrated overhead foglights and 17-inch off-road tyres – have been whisked away. But the boxy dimensions are a stark differentiator from the rest of Merc’s sleek and rounded small car range. The lofty glasshouse makes for plenty of headroom and, at 560 litres, the five-seat version has a larger boot than the GLC. The practicality bonus in the three-row version is even more interesting when you realise the GLB has a smaller footprint than a Skoda Kodiaq, but can carry just as many people.
Even so, Mercedes admits the seven-seat model’s third row is for folks under 5ft 6in only – if you regularly carry basketball players, look elsewhere. Up to four child seats can be fitted: two in the second row, two in the third.
The second row splits 40:20:40 in every model and can slide fore and aft by 140mm, providing extra legroom or boot volume, and you can tick the box for a folding front passenger seat if you’re the type who regularly carries a surfboard or moves house every few weeks. The third row folds flush into the boot floor, and Merc’s ‘easy entry’ function (a lever for better access to the rearmost pews) is standard on the seven-seat version. Those relegated to the third row get their own cupholders, storage area and USB port. See? It ain’t so bad.
To give it that G-Class edge, short overhangs front and rear and underbody guards protect against scraping on sudden inclines. The door panels, meanwhile, cover the sills to ensure you don’t get your shins muddy. AMG Line models sacrifice some of that approach angle in favour of a gurning front end with suitably unmissable road presence.
Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive isn’t available on every model, though. Where fitted, the system’s power is distributed 80:20 front/rear in Eco and Comfort modes; Sport is split 70:30. There’s also an Off-Road mode, like the new GLE, which locks that ratio to 50:50. Go for a version with the 4Matic drivetrain and the Off-Road Engineering pack is thrown in. It has a live graphic of the incline you’re tackling and your wheel articulation. Hill-start assistance is optional. MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension is standard on all versions (unlike the lower-spec A-Class models), with optional adaptive dampers, which should provide a smoother ride.
Given the GLB uses A-Class underpinnings, the engine range will sound familiar. Turbocharged fours are your only options: 1.3-litre ‘200’ (161bhp) and 2.0-litre 250 (221bhp) petrols, and 2.0-litre 200d (148bhp) and 220d (187bhp) diesels. All have a dual-clutch automatic transmission; lower-powered models have seven speeds, others get eight.
The MBUX infotainment system is standard, as are turbine air vents and the button-infested steering wheel. Fat grabhandles line the doors and passenger side of the dashboard, G-Class style. Merc’s less-than-convincing Energising Comfort fragrance sprayer system is available, and you can pair it with your Garmin smartwatch so the car can, like, totally empathise with how you’re feeling… On sale later this year, the GLB packs a lot of kit into a handsome and pint-sized package.
Three-row version optional – only for those 5ft 6in and under, mind. Glitzy like an A-Class, chunky like a G-Class – what’s not to like?