The GLA currently holds down the fort for Mercedes-Benz compact SUVs in India, taking on the likes of the BMW X1, Audi Q3 and Volvo XC40. While all these cars are crossovers, and not full-on SUVs, in the truest sense, the GLA perhaps strays a bit from the SUV side of the spectrum with its low, sloping roof and curvaceous styling. It’s also not the most spacious on the inside, offering not much more in terms of cabin and luggage space than an A-class or B-class. This is where the new GLB comes in. It even packs a small third row of seats.
Styling wise, the GLB is everything the GLA isn’t. It’s bolt upright with a bluff nose and a boxy cabin. The model follows the classic Mercedes SUV template, with the two rugged slats peeling off from a supersized star grille (there is a sportier AMG Line option with the diamond-mesh grille), headlamps that are big rectangles with DRLs mimicking newer SUVs like the GLC and even the G-Wagen, and a few rugged touches too – like short overhangs and the skid plates at the front and the rear. The car you see in the pictures is riding on 20-inch wheels, but 17- or 18-inch wheels are more likely for our market. Another interesting touch is the near-vertical rear end that makes it look like a scaled-down version of Merc’s other seven-seat SUV – the GLS.
Under the skin, the GLB (codename: X247) uses the same MFA II platform as the new A-class, B-class and CLA; and that means it’s primarily front-wheel drive but of course there will be all-wheel-drive options – just like today’s GLA. It measures 4,634mm in length, 1,834mm in width and 1,658mm in height, with a wheelbase of 2,829mm – rather long for a compact luxury SUV.
This space includes the option of a third row of seats, a first for this segment. It clearly is very much a 5+2 rather than a full-on seven-seater, of course, and space in the third row is entirely dependent on where you’ve set the second and first rows. Access to the last row is not the easiest either; but with a bit of compromise from all occupants, you can get seven people in here. The option of seven seats is better than none at all.
Bear in mind that boot space is almost nil with the third row in position, but if you don’t want the third row, it folds flat and flush into the floor, in which case you get a whole 560 litres of space (drop the second row and you get 1,755 litres).
The rest of the interior is as well appointed as you’d expect of a modern Merc, with lots of leather, metal and wood. It even sets itself apart from the A- and B-class cars with a few rugged design elements on the dash and doors. However, you still get the cool turbine-like air-con vents with LED ambient lighting integrated into them. As is the case with each all-new Mercedes-Benz car, infotainment duties are handled by the all-new MBUX dual-screen system, with each screen measuring up to 10 inches across. The system not only features the usual host of connectivity options, but also an AI-driven voice assistant, augmented reality satellite navigation and a host of electronic driver aids.
When it comes to powertrain options, there will be two four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engines – a 1.3-litre that makes 163hp (GLB 200), a 2.0-litre that makes 221hp (GLB 250) – and one 2.0-litre diesel engine available in either 150hp (GLB 200d) or 190hp (GLB 220d) guise. All except the base GLB 200 (it gets the old 7G-DCT) will use Mercedes’ new 8G-DCT 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and 4Matic all-wheel drive will be available. You can even get an off-road package and adaptive dampers. And since a bit more performance never hurt anybody, expect a pair of hot AMG versions – a 300hp GLB 35 and a 415hp GLB 45 – to follow soon.
Mercedes-Benz India is maintaining a strict ‘we do not comment on speculation’ stance about whether or not the GLB will be launched in India; but frankly, it would be foolish not to bring it here. Its bold styling is bound to be a hit with Indian buyers, as would the added practicality of a third row of seats.
It would fit, of course, between the GLA and GLC, with a price of approximately Rs 42-45 lakh, ex-showroom, taking on higher-end variants of the X1 and XC40, and the new Q3 as well. Of course, there’s been no word on if and when the GLB will come to India, but it’s a safe bet that it will in the second-half of 2020.