The compact, three-row Mercedes-Benz GLB fills a tiny market niche
Mercedes-Benz is splitting the luxury SUV market into yet even thinner slices with the introduction of the Concept GLB at the 2019 Auto Shanghai auto show. The three-row, seven-passenger SUV will slot between the GLA compact utility and the midsize GLC.
It appears that M-B will position the production version of the GLB as a larger, more rugged alternative to the “coupe-like” GLA. The 111-inch wheelbase and large greenhouse provide a more spacious interior, while the short front and rear overhangs (overall length is 182 inches) are more suitable for off-road use.
A “muscular” shoulder, rising beltline, and gloss black protective cladding are supposed to accentuate the Concept GLB’s off-road cred, as are front and rear underguard panels, the fronts with integrated air inlets. Inside, “off-road-type” milled aluminum tubes accent the dashboard. Other tubular brushed aluminum elements carry the rugged look to the center console, and are incorporated into the door handles.
Since it’s nominally a concept vehicle, the Concept GLB has additional features to emphasize its rugged character, including faired-in roof-mounted LED lighting, black roof rails, a roof box at the rear of the vehicle, and aggressive off-road tires that likely won’t be on the production GLB.
The off-road cred is fine for marketing but most potential buyers, who will likely be looking for something to carry their family, will probably focus on the seating.
The GLB is M-B’s first small three-row SUV, with the third row featuring two individual seats that can be folded into the floor for additional storage. The automaker says they are more than just temporary-use jump seats but rather offer enough space for “medium-sized occupants,” which probably means school-age children.
The middle seat, which can also be folded down for more cargo space, has 5.5 inches of adjustable travel for either more cargo space in the back or more leg room for second row passengers. The backrest of the second row seating can also be reclined.
The second row seats have what M-B is calling an Easy-Entry function, with a lever on the outer edge of the backrest that enables the seat to flip and slide forward.
The Concept GLB is powered by M-B’s M260 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 224 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, driving through an eight-speed dual clutch transmission. The engine features Camtronic variable valve timing with two-stage intake lifts for lower gas cycle losses under partial load. The pistons have low friction rings and integral cooling ducts. Like most big inline-fours, the M260 has balance shafts, and to make the GLB run even smoother, there is a centrifugal pendulum damper on the drivetrain. Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system with three selectable modes is standard. Power split ranges from an 80/20 front axle bias in Eco/Comfort mode, to 70/30 in Sport, and in off-road mode the center clutch locks up and power is distributed equally to the front and back axles.
There is no word whether a production GLB will come to the United States, but like the 2013 Concept GLA, the Concept GLB appears production-ready so we’ll likely find out within the next 12 months.