The baby G: that’s how Mercedes-Benz describes its latest model, the GLB.
The reference to the G-Class suggests the new SUV model has, in some way, a direct link with the military-grade off-roader, but don’t be fooled by the marketing pitch. Although its distinctive exterior design may display some vague similarities, the GLB is a vastly different proposition from the G-Class – and not just on price, which expected to start at around £30,000.
For one thing, the GLB is based on a stretched version of Mercedes’ second-generation MFA platform, which it shares with the A-Class. But at 4.63m long and with a 100mm-longer wheelbase than the A-Class, it sits firmly above the upcoming second-generation GLA and slightly below the GLC. Mercedes knows that, despite its relative popularity, the GLA lacks the outright space of established SUVs such as the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Volvo XC40.
Jochen Eck, the Mercedes engineer responsible for vehicle testing in the compact segment, said: “We wanted a roomier car – more multifunctional from an everyday point of view with the ability to accommodate seven occupants when required.” The idea for the new model came after the company’s management decided against a long-wheelbase version of the B-Class MPV.
The GLB will go on sale in the last quarter of 2019, so the camouflaged test car we’ve been given the chance to ride in is a pre-production example.
The definitive production version shares broadly the same bodywork as last month’s GLB concept but its detailing is far less off-road oriented. Our prototype is a GLB250 4Matic – the most powerful model at the initial UK launch. The 2.0-litre M264-designated four-cylinder unit makes 221bhp and 248lb ft. Those outputs are set to be boosted significantly for the AMG-tuned GLB35 due later this year.
We find ourselves inside the GLB on northern Sweden’s notoriously demanding roads in late February. Along with subzero temperatures, there is also a heavy dumping of fresh snow for engineers to cope with as they rack up valuable mileage in one of more than 100 GLB prototypes.
Stepping into the new Mercedes is easy, with a low sill and large door apertures. Most of the prototype’s interior is covered up, although we know the design will be familiar to those who’ve been in the latest A-Class. It also gets the same supportive front seats, albeit mounted higher for a more commanding view of the road.
There’s plenty of leg room in the rear seats, which slide fore and aft by 140mm and split 40/20.40. The nearly vertical side glass and the lack of a sloping roofline make the GLB feel like it leads the class for head room. The third row, optional in the UK and stowed in the floor when not required, is certainly more suitable for children than adults.