Mercedes-Benz can rightfully claim quite a bit of credit for the current luxury SUV boom with their first model, the ML or M-Class, beating most other soft-roaders to the tills. Two decades later, I test-drove one of its direct descendants.
To quickly run you through the line-up of three-pointed SUV stars, their origins lie with the G-Wagon or Geländewagen (German for all/terrain vehicle). This donated its initial to the entire SUV range which gave us the compact GLA, mid-size GLC, larger GLE and the big GLS. Those last two were formerly called ML and GL.
Overseas there was another culprit called the GLK which – much to my dismay – was only ever built in left-hand-drive. The basis of its beautifully boxy shape was closely related to the C-Class of the time but from 2015 onwards that slot was taken over by the ever-popular GLC derivative; which falls in line with Mercedes’ current design language.
But now, happily, the boxy-ness has returned with this brand-new GLB. And while it hardly looks like its new namesake – the latest B-Class – it shares a few new Mercedes cabin niceties. Chief among these are the wonderfully sculpted dashboard, premium materials and crisp displays with tons of digital toys.
Real-time power output and temperature gauges? Check. Latest-generation voice recognition? You bet. In between all this you’ll find every imaginable media source, communication option and a great variety of customisable settings to get your new GLB feeling just right in terms of lighting, audio and ventilation.
Thanks to those aforementioned boxy looks, the driving position of the GLB is fairly upright; and so is its packing space. Think wardrobe more than hatchback. This GLB250’s ride, handling and steering are incredibly refined, while also managing that painful split between good comfort and great (sporty) feedback.
Powering all this is an equally efficient petrol engine of around two litres, divided through four cylinders and charged up by a turbo. Maximum outputs of 165kW or 350Nm are driven through the front wheels via an eight-speed automated (dual clutch) transmission. 0-100km/h should take 7.1 seconds and top speed is 240km/h.
I could hardly detect throttle hesitations or turbo gaps, thanks to the quick-shifting gearbox and that altitude-beating turbocharger.
So what about off-road ability, I may have heard someone whisper? Well, mild excursions like farm roads or pavements shouldn’t be a problem while the stout front-wheel drive German offers a clever traction control system and 135mm of ground clearance for anyone with bigger off-roading ambitions.
Our test vehicle wore 17-inch wheels with 215/65 rubber on each corner and while 18, 19 and 20-inch options are available, I have to point out that each inch of metal diameter will diminish the car’s ride comfort… while upping its kerbside appeal. It’s that age-old dilemma: trading comfort for jaw-dropping looks.
In summary, the Mercedes-Benz GLB250 is a very practical and unique-looking crossover SUV with space-age toys and superb levels of craftsmanship. For further information and a very pleasant test-drive experience, I recommend you visit your nearest Mercedes-Benz dealer immediately!