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The Mercedes-Benz GLB Correctly Answers a Question No One Was Asking

The GLB looks to stand out with rugged good looks.

When you hear that a new vehicle is called the “Mercedes-Benz Concept GLB,” you may groan as you wonder whether the world really needs yet another thin slice of the crossover pie. Of course it doesn’t. But if someone is going to keep slicing the pie anyway, the result really ought to be just like the GLB: funky, functional, and as Mercedes as it gets.

Making its debut at the 2019 Shanghai auto show, the GLB is the go-anywhere, sporty middle brother to the smaller GLA crossover and the more mature GLC. “We asked ourselves whether there is still space between the GLA and GLC in our successful SUV range. The concept GLB is the answer to this question. With it we are demonstrating the creative ideas we have for this segment, too,” says Britta Seeger, member of the board of management of Daimler AG. “The GLB is a durable and practical SUV with nonetheless compact dimensions. Whether it is a generous, seven-seater family vehicle or a versatile leisure-time companion, we are certain that this concept will be of great interest to our customers.” Needless to say, despite it being called a concept, the GLB will reach production.

Being a concept, this version of the GLB is design-forward. Its rugged embrace of its sport-utility roots gives it a handsome, ready-for-action vibe, with muscular proportions, BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A tires, a roof box, and LED spotlights. Inside, the design is still rugged but decidedly more opulent, with open-pore walnut wood trim, Nappa and nubuck leathers, and contrasting orange trim and accents. We wonder about crafting such an outwardly off-road persona for what will be another front-drive-based compact Mercedes model—it shares a platform with the A- and CLA-classes, as well as the next-gen GLA—but it’s clear that many people still purchase SUVs for their outward projection of capability, not any actual abilities themselves. And it will be distinctive, with Mercedes’ other small SUVs being less boxy and softer to the eye.

Of interest to family types will be the third row, a first for Mercedes-Benz in this size class. Seating for seven is bound to be tight in such a compact vehicle, but some clever tweaks may make it more usable than you’d think. The second row has a 40/20/40 split-folding arrangement, can be slid fore and aft through a range of 5.5 inches, and features backrests that recline through eight positions of tilt. To make access to the third row easier, the second-row seats fold forward and flip up. For those with a large and full nest, a total of four child safety seats can be fitted to the second and third rows. When the third row isn’t in use, the seats fold flat into the floor, leaving more room for gear.

Mercedes’ next-gen MBUX infotainment system powers the massive dual display that stretches across most of the dashboard, bringing with it the tri-pointed star’s latest in navigation, entertainment, and AI-based assistance. Under the hood, the Mercedes Concept GLB sports an M260 four-cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine rated at 224 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, paired to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. And as you’d expect of any luxurious Mercedes crossover, the GLB will offer 4Matic all-wheel drive with variable torque distribution and three different configurations: one for economical, everyday driving (with an 80/20 front/rear power distribution); one for slightly sportier behavior (70/30 split); and one for off-road use, engaging the all-wheel-drive clutch as a central locking differential, with a 50/50 torque split.

Look for the production version of this concept and its attendant info dump to come along this summer, and for the GLB to go on sale in Europe by the end of the year. American sales should start shortly thereafter.

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