First Drive: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB Delivers Practical Luxury

All-new compact SUV even offers an optional third-row seat

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB SUV

Update: Since this first drive was originally published in February 2020, we finished testing the GLB.

See the complete Mercedes-Benz GLB road test.

The Mercedes-Benz GLB is boxier and more rugged-looking than the mechanically similar GLA. These attributes may help it appeal to buyers looking for a practical compact luxury SUV while still delivering the brand cache that comes with a Mercedes.

The GLB is an all-new model, and sizewise it slots above the GLA and below the GLC SUVs, while utilizing the same front-wheel-drive-based platform that anchors Mercedes’ A-Class and CLA small sedans. Despite the GLB’s compact dimensions (182 inches long overall, similar to a Honda CR-V—a nonluxury compact SUV that easily costs $10,000 less than the Mercedes), it is offered in both five- and seven-passenger configurations, the latter by way of an optional third-row seat.

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Prices start at $36,600 for the front-wheel-drive GLB 250, with the GLB 250 4Matic (all-wheel drive in Mercedes-speak) beginning at $38,600, before a $995 destination charge. Both models are powered by a 221-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. GLB competitors include the Audi Q3BMW X1Jaguar E-Pace, and Volvo XC40.

We put the GLB 250 4Matic we purchased through more than 50 tests at our 327-acre Auto Test Center and out on the road. These tests included evaluations of acceleration, braking, fuel economy, handling, headlights, and controls.

The review below is based on our first impressions, from driving the GLB over a thousand miles.

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What we bought: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4Matic
Powertrain: 221-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine; eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission; all-wheel drive
MSRP: $38,600
Options: $7,840, including Premium package (10.25-inch instrument cluster, 10.25-inch infotainment screen), panoramic sunroof, Parking Assistance package (surround-view camera), Galaxy Blue metallic paint, blind spot warning, heated front seats, heated steering wheel
Destination fee: $995
Total cost: $47,435

CR's Take

The all-new GLB is yet another example of an automaker trying to make sure it has an SUV in every size and price to suit almost anyone’s needs. While the mechanically similar GLA is more of an SUV-coupe, lower to the ground and with limited usefulness, the GLB takes on a more traditional upright SUV look. It’s a vehicle for someone who wants to get into the Mercedes brand at a reasonably low price, and wants a small vehicle that is easy to maneuver and park yet doesn’t need a whole lot of cabin room.

Stylingwise the GLB’s tall and boxy shape harkens back to the GLK compact SUV that was last seen in the 2015 model year before it was replaced by the sleeker GLC.

The good news is the GLB drives considerably better than the GLA (a new version of which is set to arrive this summer), not to mention the A-Class and CLA sedans. That’s thanks in part to the improved low-speed drivability of the all-new eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission vs. the seven-speed unit fitted to the A-Class and CLA.

The GLB’s cabin is dominated by a wide screen that stretches across most of the dashboard, serving as both the instrument cluster and the infotainment system. This setup is cumbersome and distracting to use while driving. Also, in spite of the GLB’s upright shape, the rear seat is short on leg support for adult passengers.  

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