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Mercedes GLB 2021 In-Depth Review - Best Luxury Seven-Seater?

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Published on Feb 13, 2021
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The Mercedes GLB delivers to the market the first properly practical mid-sized SUV from the Three-Pointed Star. There's enough room for seven seats, enough capability for light off road excursions and enough of a premium feel to make other class rivals feel rather low rent.

Background

So, yet another Mercedes SUV - this is actually the eighth. But this one has a little more substance than its compact stablemates. The GLA suits only quite small families and the GLC is too expensive for larger ones - and can't be ordered with the third seating row that many of them need. In the same way that at the top of the Stuttgart brand's SUV range, the G-Class offered a practical alternative to a GLE, such is the role of a GLB against a GLA or a GLC. Still with me?

If you are, then you'll be interested in the way that Mercedes wants to use this car to address a growing niche on the mid-sized family SUV class, that for seven seats. The VW Group currently does quite well here with ones like the Skoda Kodiaq, the SEAT Tarraco and the VW Tiguan Allspace. The Koreans provide the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Sorento, plus there are 7-seat versions of the Nissan X-Trail and the Honda CR-V. There have to be buyers in that sub-sector who'd like a premium badge. The GLB, mostly offered in 7-seat form, caters directly to them.

Driving Experience

The GLB offers the same engine and powertrain combinations that you'll find in other compact Mercedes models. This means that the starting point to the range is provided by the same Renault-derived 1.3 litre petrol turbo engine you'll find in an A-Class. In the GLB 200, it puts out 163hp and drives the front wheels through a 7-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox. If you want the option of 4MATIC 4WD, you'll need to move to a diesel, the 150hp GLB 200d. In the next model up, the GLB 220d with 190hp, you have to have the 4MATIC system, a variant that can be specified with an optional off-road engineering package. This gives you hill start and descent assistance, LED Multibeam headlights and an extra off-road driving mode which includes a special infotainment display showing gradient, technical settings and your various incline angles.

At the top of the range sits the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 performance model, which gets the 306hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol unit from the A 35 hot hatch. Power comes through an 8-speed dual-clutch auto gearbox with a race start function. Plus there's an AMG Dynamic Select driving modes system that as well as the three modes featured in other GLBs ('Comfort', 'Sport' and 'Individual') also features two further ones ('Slippery' and 'Sport+').

Design and Build

The look of the GLB draws inspiration from Mercedes' grand 'G-Class' 'Gelandewagen' - which you need to know because otherwise, you might wonder why it's quite so squarical and van-like. Even Designer Robert Lesnik describes it as 'a box with rounded edges'. The dimensions are a little confusing too, this car actually being almost the same size as the GLC model it supposedly sits beneath in the Mercedes SUV line-up; this GLB's 4.63m length sees it measuring in only 21mm shorter than a GLC - and it's actually 18mm taller than that car.

Inside buyers get much the same 'widescreen cockpit' instrument layout as you'll find on all the company's modern compact models. And as usual, it's controlled by the brand's MBUX voice-activated interface. All this hardware integrates into a rather unusually shaped dashboard, this one with an aluminium-look 'tubular' lower element. In the second row, the boxy shape contributes towards quite a spacious feel. And if you're going for a GLB with 7 seats, you'll get an easy-entry feature to reach them. As for the boot space, well there's 560-litres of it in the 5-seat model, which to give you some perspective is 140-litres more than you'd get in an Audi Q5. And you can expand that by flattening the 40:20:40-split backrest to free up 1,755-litres. In 7-seat GLBs, the third row pews fold flat into the floor when not in use.

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