The hulking Mercedes-Benz GLS and GLE won't be the only seven-seat options in Mercedes-Benz’s SUV range, thanks to today’s announcement that the more compact (and budget-friendly) GLB-Class is on its way, toting three rows of seats within its comparatively small frame.
European sales are set to commence by the end of 2019, with an Australian arrival the following year. Based on the MFA platform that underpins the new-generation A-Class and B-Class, the Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class will be a bigger-on-the-inside companion to the GLA-Class that’s been Benz’s entry-level SUV offering since 2014, and a more affordable three-row option to the soon-to-launch next-gen Mercedes-Benz GLE-Class.
However its key point of difference to the GLA, besides slightly larger base dimensions and larger cabin volume, is its ability to seat an extra two passengers in a third row of seats – a first for an MFA-based Mercedes SUV.
Positioned to compete against the slightly bigger BMW X3 and upcoming next generation Audi Q3 (which will move up in size to distance itself from the Audi Q2), the GLB-Class measures 4634mm long and 1834mm wide overall, and sits astride a 2829mm wheelbase.
Compared to the B-class MPV it’s around 10 centimetres longer overall, while it’s around 20cm longer than the GLA-Class and just 22mm shorter than the GLC-Class.
Its upright and boxy design, with generously sized windows affording good outward vision, also makes the GLB look like a GLS-lite, while also contributing to increasing cabin space by maximising headroom.
The packaging advantage of the transverse-engine MFA platform also means the GLB provides a more capacious cabin than the GLC, with the optionally-available third row said to be usable by passengers up to 1.68m in height.
And there’s a 560 litres seats-up cargo capacity too, expanding to 1755 litres with the seats down in the GLB five-seater. The second row is also able to slide forward, and doing so while adjusting the backrest into a more vertical position can liberate an additional 179 litres of cargo space above the official seats-up capacity, while still allowing five people to squeeze in.
As with the A-Class, the GLB’s interior will be dominated by a twin-screen arrangement that fuses an all-electronic instrument panel together with the centrally-located infotainment screen, all run by Benz’s latest MBUX operating system.
Gimbal air vents, now a Mercedes hallmark, deliver air to passengers, while the design much use of aluminised surfaces for a premium feel.
Mechanical details are still yet to be ironed out for Australia, however the engine range will be entirely comprised of four-cylinder turbo petrol and turbo diesel options. Low-spec models will take power to the front wheels, while 4Matic all-wheel drive will also be available – and likely standard on more powerful variants.
In Europe, the range will open with the 120kW/250Nm 1.3 litre GLB 200, however it’s expected that the 165kW/350Nm 2.0-litre GLB 250 will be the base in Australia. A pair of diesels, the GLB 200d (110kW/320Nm) and GLB 220d (140Nm/400Nm), round out the rest of the range, while all bar the GLB 200 petrol use an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
AMG-engined variants will eventually arrive, likely kicking off with a GLB 35 using the same powertrain hardware as the Mercedes-AMG A35 hot hatch
The AWD underpinnings feature a default 80:20 front/rear torque split (which switches to 70:30 in Sport mode), however this can be locked to an even 50:50 split in off-road mode.
The Off-Road Engineering package, meanwhile, brings a range of information ‘pages’ to the instrument cluster, displaying things like vehicle tilt, wheel position and more, while also adding another drive mode tailored specifically to maximise grip on slippery surfaces.
Mercedes-Benz Australia has confirmed that the GLB will be heading our way, though its arrival isn’t expected to occur any sooner than the third quarter of 2020. Precise pricing and features have yet to be announced, as has whether the three-row capability will be available in our country.