Málaga, Spain. In a way, the all-new 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is an admittance that Benz made a mistake. This mistake, mind you, paid off something ridiculous and has paved the way for this new mini-Gelandewagen, the 8th SUV in Mercedes-Benz.
The “error” was replacing the Mercedes-Benz GLK, a muscular and angular compact SUV, with the softer egg-ish-like styling of the Benz GLC. The GLC has been nothing less than a tremendous hit for the luxury car company but I tend to believe that a more truck-like SUV would have found even more success. Thing is, and I’m convinced, Benz had this planned all along. They figured that if they sell a GLC and introduce a cool, more affordable and compact GLB, they’ll double down on volume.
Designed to sway
I did not need to travel to a cloudy and wet South of Spain to know, and share with you, that the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 and 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 are designed to capture the attention of SUV lovers the world over. It’s profile physically sells the truck the most. It’s a brilliant mix of the previous-generation GLS and the G Wagen in a visually manageable size.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB shares its platform with the new Benz A Class however in order to accommodate an optional 3rd row of seats, the wheelbase was stretched by 100mm. The resulting length allowed Mercedes designers to properly adapt the GLS’s proportions on a smaller scale for wonderful results. This also enabled the GLB to wear 20-inch and 21-inch (AMG) wheels without their looking comical on an essentially smaller SUV.
The highlights are numerous but some of my favorites are the rising beltline from the “C” pillar, the larger than typical greenhouse as it gives the GLB a more traditional SUV like appearance and the rounded-out edges. I think I got this right – M-Benz calls these rounded edges “squargles” and they are matched in the head- and taillight details.
There are numerous differences between the 250 and the 35. Notably, the AMG has large round tailpipes, revised and sportier front and rear ends, a cool vertical slat grille typically reserved for AMG 45s and available 21-inch wheels.
Tech- and luxury-packed
The cabin benefits heavily from the A Class’ superb dashboard layout, twin 10.25-inch screens (in the tested vehicles – 7-inch units will be standard) as well as the extended wheelbase. The second bench slides fore and aft and the seatback reclines. I did peek at a unit with the optional 3rd row and it clearly serves as a backup plan for kids only. With or without the 3rd row, the Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 and AMG 35 still boast a 560-liter boot with ideal accessibility.
The full suite of MBUX goodness will be available, with its augmented reality navigation function (more of a distraction than helpful in my opinion) along with Apple CarPlay, Satellite radio, Voice Assistant and much more. For the time being, I cannot share pricing details as they’ve not yet been ironed out. In my video, I guessed $35,000 to start however I think I accidentally low-balled the number. More than likely, it’ll start around $40k.
Benz 250 and AMG 35
We do know that Mercedes’ 4MATIC AWD system will be standard in Canada and that both the GLB 250 and AMG GLB 35 will have a turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine bestowed upon their engine bays.
About 4MATIC, there was an off-road portion to the launch event however due to heavy precipitations, and ensuing mud, it was called off. The 4MATIC system can vary torque distribution up to 50% to the rear and in numerous other combination. With convincing approach and departure angles, I’m certain it is more than capable of handling what owners will throw at it.
The 250 will feature 221-horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque mated to an 8-speed DCT transmission. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is the wiser, more mature powertrain option. The 8-speed ‘box keeps the engine in the juicier part of the torque as often as possible – it is quite good at its job. Its only shortcoming is from a dead-stop especially in “comfort” drive mode where there’s a considerable delay getting underway.
This turbo 2.0-litre is plenty powerful for both urban and highway cruising. When push comes to shove, the GLB 250 will reach 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, crucially, it feels faster than that.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is a similar and yet very difference little animal. The moment I got behind the wheel, the extra bracing throughout the structure is immediately apparent in all the controls. The other obvious differences are the 302-horsepower and 295 lb.-ft. of torque at the driver’s disposal. The Speedshift version of the 8-speed DCT aids in getting the 35 to 100 km/h in only 5.2 seconds.
The GLB 250 is the sage choice
The best way to envision the differences between the two is by saying the GLB 250 is dialled to 9.5 while the AMG 35 is a full 11. Both tested units had adjustable dampers however they are not available with the 250 in Canada. With them, the GLB 250 was surprisingly comfortable as well and nimble and agile. The latter two aspects will be unchanged without the dampers however I suspect the level of inherent comfort will not be as great.
Despite this difference, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB is immensely pleasing to drive. Its size is ideal for all areas. At one point during the drive, my partner and I took a wrong turn and found ourselves navigating some of the tightest roads (alleys?) I’d ever seen. With millimetres to spare, we survived the excursion. A GLE would have been lost to time…
Success is only months away
With the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 and the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, Benz has not only added an 8th member to its SUV family but has insured that nearly 7 million, and counting, SUVs they’ve sold in about 20 years will continue to grow. Since 2014, SUVs have outsold cars at Benz and this trend will endure for a few more years.
In conclusion, the new Mercedes-Benz GLB will compete starting in Q1 2020 with the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport, BMW X1, MINI Countryman, Volvo XC40 and a few others. It has its hands full but it also holds all the necessary talent to take them all on. The AMG GLB 35 lands in late Q3 next year and an electric version will arrive in 2021. Both will be busy fighting off competition.