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[Behind the Wheel] Why Mercedes-Benz GLB has it all

Through curvy Andalusian mountains, GLB variants shows why Benz went with 7-seater compact SUV

MALAGA, Spain -- It may be difficult to have it all, but Mercedes-Benz’s new compact SUV lineup of the GLB has certainly tried its very best.

It’s a luxury family car with enough spacious cabin room for a third row of seats. It has strong and adaptive suspension and an intelligent four-wheel system that increases driving pleasure even on curvy, steep and inclined mountain roads.

Above all, the spirit of a traditional SUV is intertwined with the latest auto technology, including the advanced driving assistance system. 

The GLB 200d 4MATIC descends from a hill during an off-road experience session held in Andalusia, Spain, on Nov. 24. (Mercedes-Benz)
The GLB 200d 4MATIC descends from a hill during an off-road experience session held in Andalusia, Spain, on Nov. 24. (Mercedes-Benz)


The eighth model based on the second-generation of the Mercedes-Benz’s MFA A-class platform is longest car of its segment, definitely bigger than the GLA, but not much different from GLC.

It is 4.63 meters in length, very close to 4.66 meters of GLC, and has a wheelbase of 2.82 meters that creates the room for seven seats -- the first compact vehicle by Mercedes-Benz to do so, according to the company.

Targeted for customers in their mid-40s with a family of more than two kids, the SUV was developed over the last six years to fill the narrow gap between the compact car and SUV segment of Mercedes-Benz, said Michael Bauer, an engineer who led the GLB project.

His team was aware of “still growing demand for SUVs” even in the beginning of the project, and tried to inject “emotional aspects” such as the masculine underguard to give “an impression of being protected, dominant and sporty.”

The GLB was not developed with a specific geographic market in mind, as the German carmaker has enthusiasts all over the world, demonstrated by the scale of the media test-drive session -- a two-week event that invited around 400 auto journalists from across the globe.

Held in the mountains of Andalusia between Malaga and Marbella in Spain, GLB gasoline and diesel variants -- GLB200, GLB 250 4MATIC, GLB180d, GLB200d, and GLB 220 d 4MATIC -- were put to the test.

The GLB 200 4MATIC
The GLB 200 4MATIC


The GLB 220d 4MATIC The Korea Herald drove had the first impression of a mini G-Class because of its boxy look, but produced the feeling of comfort and efficient driving -- a true family car but with sophisticated design, rather than one with irrepressible power. Powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine matched with Daimler’s new eight-speed dual clutch, the vehicle accelerated to 100 kilometers per hour in seven seconds with fuel economy rated at 7.2-7.4 liters per 100 kilometers.

The off-road engineering package is optional for all four-wheel drive of the segment and was fitted to the GLB 200 4MATIC for the test drive, demonstrating its downhill speed regulation system. The system controls the car when descending from and ascending steep hills with inclination upto 35 degrees, said an instructor at a remote off-road experience center set up in Andalusia. The video that shows objects and road conditions forward also aids in safe off-road driving, he added, recommending to press the video button before going down a steep hill.

The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC is at the top of the GLB range. And frankly speaking, it made the GLB 220d 4MATIC comparably weaker in terms of speed, power and suspension. It has a bespoke version of the eight-speed dual clutch and a 225-kilowatt/400-Newton-meter version of the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-gasoline that enables it to accelerate to 100 kilometers per hour in just 5.2 seconds, nearly two seconds faster than the GLB 220. The most overwhelming impression of the car was that it felt much lighter when accelerating. Thanks to its suspension stability control, the amped-up version of the GLB had less body rolling or pitching. 

The  Mercedes-AMG GLB 350
The  Mercedes-AMG GLB 350


Will the GLB be electrified?

Yes, said Bauer. The team is working on a pure electric version of GLB, or likely to be dubbed as EQB, “100 percent,” without elaborating on details and the timeline of the project, he said. “It is going to be a perfect EV.”

Competitors in Korea?

It is still unknown when exactly the GLB will arrive in Korea next year. But when it does, it is likely to face a group of competitors -- BMW X3, Volkswagen’s Tiguan and Toyota’s Rav4, to name a few.

Inside the Mercedes-AMG GLB 350
Inside the Mercedes-AMG GLB 350


Of all the rivals it is likely to face, the Genesis GV80, which has yet to make a market debut, seems likely to be the strongest rival. The GLB and GV80 do not fall into the same SUV segment, since the latter is categorized as a large SUV. But they are both new SUVs and are likely to compete in terms of price range of between 60 million and 70 million won ($50,400-$58,800). The GLB entry model is priced at slightly under $40,000 in the US, according to reports. 

By Cho Chung-un, Korea Herald correspondent (christory@heraldcorp.com)



The Korea Herald ratings

Design: 4 stars
Fuel economy: 3.5 stars
Safety: 4.5 stars
Price (unknown)

Overall: 12/15
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