Mercedes-Benz has one of the most expansive ranges of cars in the country, but it has managed to find a new niche to fill. And with next to no natural competitors can the all-new GLB SUV become a sales success? We find out.
The Mercedes-Benz GLB represents the latest craze: a compact seven-seater.
The three-tier range starts at about $66,000 drive-away and rises to about $97,000. We are testing the mid-spec GLB250 costing about $81,000.
The GLB doesn’t really have any luxury rivals. Mainstream alternatives include the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace, Skoda Kodiaq and Mazda CX-8.
The 250 is packed with luxury features and features a range of cutting-edge technology.
Earlier this year Mercedes made the long-awaited plunge and guaranteed its vehicles with a five-year/unlimited km warranty. Servicing prices are fixed but cost a hefty $2650 over three years, at 12 month or 25,000km intervals.
The big news is the third row of seats, which the maker says can accommodate people up to 1.68m in comfort.
The reality is the final row is best used on the odd occasion when carrying extra kids, not teenagers or adults.
From the outside the GLB looks like a regular mid-size SUV, but inside it feels cavernous, thanks to its tall profile and the fact that designers have pushed the wheels out to the corners of the car to maximise space. A standard panoramic sunroof adds to the expansive feeling inside.
Front-seat passengers are treated to heated and electrically adjusted faux-leather seats. Customisable ambient lighting and a nine-speaker stereo with a booster amp and subwoofer make night driving feel like a full club experience.
Connectivity is taken care of with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto accessed through a 10.25-inch touchscreen, which is also controlled through a centre console touchpad. If you prefer voice commands the MercedesMe digital assistant fires up when you say “Hey Mercedes”.
There are USB-C ports in all rows, but you will need an adaptor if you have an iPhone. The third row misses out on aircon vents.
Benz has gone a bit light on standard safety equipment for the GLB. Auto emergency braking, blind-spot detection and lane departure warning are standard, which is enough to get it a five-star ANCAP rating. But if you want active cruise, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-change assist you’ll need to tick the $1900 Driver Assistance Package on the options list.
Overall the GLB is a comfortable ride around town and it has excellent vision thanks to the high driving position. Its relatively compact size makes it easy to negotiate narrow inner-city streets.
The GLB has a tall profile for an SUV of its size and it tends to lean through corners and float over bigger bumps.
Benz’s turbocharged four-cylinder is a willing unit, delivering plenty of grunt off the mark. All-wheel-drive makes it easy to launch in a hurry and takes the SUV to 100km/h in a fairly brisk 6.9 seconds. The eight-speed dual-clutch can be slightly indecisive when changing gears.
Fuel use of 7.7L/100km is reasonable for an SUV this size, but it requires more expensive premium unleaded.
The GLB is luxurious, spacious and loaded with tech but you’d expect better standard safety for a family car at this price.
Mazda CX-8 Asaki AWD, priced from $66,000 drive-away
Has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in and comes with an efficient diesel engine. Lacks the tech and polish of the Benz and badge not as impressive to the neighbours.
Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace 162TSI, priced from about $60,000 drive-away
Loaded to the hilt with a spicy turbo engine, but the cabin ambience can’t match that of the Benz.
Audi Q7, priced from about $116,000 drive-away
Audi’s only seven-seat SUV is a full size bigger, but matches the Benz’s luxury pedigree. Expensive.
MERCEDES-BENZ GLB250 4MATIC VITALS
Price: From about $81,000 drive-away
Warranty/servicing: Five-year, unlimited km / $2650 over three years, every 12 months or 25,000km
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol 165kW/350Nm
Safety: Five stars, nine airbags, auto emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane keep assist, driver attention warning and speed sign recognition.