2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class Test Drive Overview
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2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class Test Drive Review
The highly versatile 2021 GLB-Class makes room for itself in the Mercedes-Benz luxury SUV lineup with an optional third row.
With an approachable starting price and a flexible interior layout, the compact 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB makes its mark by offering an optional third row of seating, bringing its passenger capacity from five to seven. Add that to an already capable and attractive crossover SUV, and you’ve got a reason to join the Mercedes-Benz family with your family.
Look and Feel
The Mercedes-Benz GLB was all-new in 2020, joining an already extensive collection of SUVs: the G-Class, the GLS, the GLE, the GLE Coupe, the GLC, the GLC Coupe, the GLA, and, of course, the Mercedes-Maybach GLS. The GLB slots in alphabetically and size-wise between the smaller GLA and larger GLC. The GLA is 4.41 metres long with a 2.72-metre wheelbase; the GLB is 4.63 metres long with a 2.83-metre wheelbase; and the GLC is 4.67 metres long with a 2.87-metre wheelbase.
Despite the distinct measurements, you might have to sneak around to the tailgate to read the badge of a GLB in order to positively distinguish it from its lineup-mates. Mercedes-Benz has definitely imprinted its styling DNA on each SUV, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The GLB is an attractive, taut SUV with an athletic stance. Part of this look can be attributed to a healthy 20 centimetres of ground clearance (both the GLA and GLC are low-slung at roughly 12 centimetres). While this is nothing to brag about among off-roaders, it is definitely a more forgiving amount of clearance for soft roads and even speed humps.
Inside, the GLB is a modern stunner. Two design elements stand out right away. The conscious repetition of round shapes across the dash is striking and effective. The carefully crafted HVAC vents, one on each side and three together horizontally in the centre stack, are very cool, evoking an aerospace vibe with their polished metal details and simple operation. The single panel that houses both the virtual instrument cluster and the infotainment screen is elegant and attractive. The cabin has Mercedes-Benz levels of fit and finish, which is to say excellent. Grabbing on to the beefy steering wheel with its perforated leather upholstery is a charge.
The GLB gets just one engine choice, a turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-4 gasoline unit (specs are 221 horsepower/258 lb-ft of torque) hooked up to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (DCT) with wheel-mounted shift paddles. (A higher-powered AMG line version of the GLB is available and covered in a separate review.) 4MATIC all-wheel drive (AWD) is standard in Canada. Natural Resources Canada estimates for fuel consumption are 11.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city/8.9 hwy/10.1 combined.
Like the GLA, the GLB is built on a front-wheel drive (FWD) platform (the GLC and other Mercedes-Benz SUVs use rear-wheel drive (RWD) platforms). Four-wheel independent suspension (MacPherson strut front/multi-link rear) with 235/55R18 wheels keeps the chassis from dragging on the ground.
Considering the GLB’s curb weight of 1,765 kilograms (3,891 pounds), the SUV's powertrain is a decent performer. Mercedes-Benz reports a 0-100 km/h time of 6.9 seconds on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 210 kilometres per hour. That’s not going to win any trophies, but the power is spooled out in a linear, predictable fashion, and feels like enough for a family hauler. Enthusiasts can step up to the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 SUV (starting at $57,500) to trim the 0-100 time down to 5.2 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz’s 4MATIC AWD drivetrain gets you the benefit of better handling in foul weather, but you’ll also enjoy much better driving feel on dry roads and during cornering maneuvers. If you plan to stray from paved roads at all during your ownership of a GLB, the 4MATIC all-wheel drive system will treat you right. It comes with hill-start assist, downhill speed regulation, and an animation program that can display a realistic presentation of gradient, inclination angle, and technical settings to help you judge off-road maneuvers correctly.
Form and Function
Perhaps the critical choice to make on a GLB is whether to add the third-row rear seats as an option. Unlike some vehicles where the third-row seat doesn’t really change much, on the GLB it affects the second row and cargo compartments. The second row’s seatback s is divided 40:20:40, and each passenger can adjust their own angle of recline with seven stages of inclination. The seat bottom is divided 40:60, and each section can slide six inches. In three-row GLB SUVs, the second row gets an “Easy-Entry” function, sliding and folding forward with one-hand touch. The third row of seats is retractable, folding flat when not needed.
Cargo space for the five-passenger/two-row GLB is 764 litres behind the second row and 1,755 litres behind the first row with the second row folded. In the seven-passenger GLB, you can fit 144 litres of luggage behind the third row; 679 litres behind the second row; and 1,605 litres behind the first row. So, the priority is clear—passengers or cargo. Considering the modest legroom (73.9 cm) and headroom (88.3 cm), the third row is only really appropriate for children or brief trips for smaller adults.
That’s fine because the rest of the GLB cabin is really well-sorted. The front row of seats, as usual for Mercedes-Benz, is high on comfort, highly adjustable, and suitably supportive, with eight-way power adjustment and three-position memory. Heated and ventilated seats are available, as is a heated steering wheel. The second row is also very comfortable for two adults in the outboard seats – you wouldn’t want to be the third adult in that sandwich, except for a quick ride. All of the modern amenities, like door pockets with bottle holders, map pockets in the back of the front seats, cupholders in the centre console and rear armrest, meet expectations.
Even though the GLB could be considered an entry-level Mercedes-Benz, it is packed with technology, both standard and available. On the standard side, the GLB gets the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) infotainment system, with new-generation voice control, natural language understanding, and keyword activation. You can use the phrase “Hey, Mercedes” to alert your GLB to an upcoming command, or you can personalize the phrase—perhaps with a pet name for your car.
The GLB gets a 7-inch digital instrument cluster and a 7-inch touchscreen multimedia display, along with a new-generation touchpad in the centre console. A rearview camera uses the multimedia display, and the audio system interface is also activated there. Smartphone integration with Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto is included. Keyless start is standard, as is cruise control. A power liftgate is included, with maximum height adjustment.
Step up to the Premium Package, and the technology starts stacking up. The digital instrument cluster and touchscreen media display get upsized to 10.25 inches each. Keyless start gets upgraded to keyless go, so you no longer have to take the key fob out of your pocket to gain entry to the vehicle. Audio can be upgraded to a Burmester Surround Sound System (you want this).
Navigation is part of the optional Navigation Package, which also includes augmented reality (AR) for navigation and traffic-sign assist. AR navigation incorporates graphical navigation instructions and traffic information into live images using a camera in the windshield. The camera feed runs in the media display, and superimposes certain information, like house numbers and street names, over the mapping info. It also switches to a live view ahead when you’re stopped at a light, so even if your eyes aren’t on the road when the light changes, you’ll be aware of any pedestrians, vehicles, or obstacles in your way.
Adaptive suspension damping is available. 64-colour interior ambient lighting, inductive wireless device charging, NFC pairing, parking assistance with surround view, active parking assist, and a head-up display (HUD) are just a few of the advanced options you can add to your GLB.
Mercedes-Benz is a recognized leader and innovator in safety technology, and this status is a benefit in the GLB. Standard technology includes active brake assist, adaptive braking technology with hill-start assist and brake hold, crosswind assist, attention assist, and Mercedes-Benz emergency call service.
Available safety features include active LED headlamps, adaptive high-beam assist, active distance assist Distronic adaptive cruise control as part of the Technology Package, as well as blind-spot monitoring. The Advanced Driver Assistance Package upgrades the GLB with route-based speed adaptation, active steering assist with emergency braking assist and active lane change assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, active speed limit assist, active blind-spot assist, and active lane-keeping assist.
Pre-Safe has been around for years now, activating safety measures in the cabin when it detects an imminent rear collision. It pre-tensions seatbelts, applies the brakes, and takes other measures to reduce the severity of injuries. Pre-Safe Sound is new. It emits a brief interference signal when it detects an imminent collision. This triggers the stapedius reflex in the human ear, a protective reflex that can help reduce hearing loss from a car accident.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB has not yet been rated for safety by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Pricing for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC starts at an MSRP of $46,500. In Canada, fees vary by dealership and region. The AMG GLB 35 SUV starts at $57,500.
It is possible to check all of the boxes and get your GLB build up into the mid $60,000s, but a prudent selection of essential options, like the Driver Assistance Package, Burmester sound system, and Navigation Package will get you a really well-equipped GLB in the mid-$50,000s.
Mercedes-Benz calls out the BMW X1 (starting at $39,990), the Land Rover Discovery Sport (starting at $51,100), and the Volkswagen Tiguan (starting at $29,795, or $31,995 with AWD) as the main competitors for the GLB. We might add Volkswagen Atlas (starting at $40,095), Lexus RX L (starting at $60,250), Infiniti QX60 (starting at $54,995 for the new 2022 model), and Toyota Highlander (starting at $44,490) to the list of competitor rankings. Mercedes-Benz is certainly a more prestigious brand than that list, but the entry-level GLB is likely to be of interest to the same group of shoppers.
We’re not sure about the actual benefit of the third row in the GLB, but the rest of the vehicle is very nicely done, and well worth consideration for buyers who are looking to step up to a premium brand in their next SUV without breaking the bank to gain entry to the exclusive club.
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