Wheels (Australia)

Mercedes-Benz GLB



“Fancy A-Class bits ’n’ bobs let down by (obvious) penny-pinching stuff”


Variants tested 250 4MATIC, AMG 35 4MATIC As-tested prices $80,560, $96,285 Warranty 5-year unlimited km

ON THE FACE of it, the Mercedes GLB is an answer to a question nobody seems to have asked.

Yet, in some ways, the self-consciousl­y dorky/ultra-cool (please choose) SUV might just be the most convincing of all the current crop of front-wheel-drive-based Benzes.

Spun off the MFA2 architectu­re introduced by the existing A-Class hatchback in 2018, the GLB is a tall-bodied, high-riding three-row premium SUV, with styling that references the massive full-sized GLS, with a hint of G-Class Geländewag­en attitude added in.

As the ‘B’ implies, the newcomer fits between two popular SUVs – the GLA crossover and the much-larger GLC. And when you consider that the former is barely bigger than the hatch that begat it, Mercedes’ need for something heftier against Audi’s Q3 and the BMW X1 is obvious.

Question answered, then.

Just to teach its compatriot­s a lesson, that nifty third row also gives Stuttgart a lure with which to snag Land Rover Discovery Sport buyers.

Thoughtful design defines the Benz’s packaging, with a stretched wheelbase and long back doors for easier access to all rear seating. The tall roof liberates space inside, deep windows add light and vision and the middle row slides for exceptiona­l legroom. Note, however, that only passengers under 170cm tall are recommende­d for row drei. When it’s folded, the available cargo area is cavernous.

From the front seats forward, we’re talking pure A-Class, down to the glitzy 10.25-inch touchscree­n, ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control, multi-configurab­le digital instrument­s, turbine-chic air vents and bags of storage. Similarly, all the expected safety kit is present. And there’s a decent amount of gear included, too.

On the other hand, the squeaky trim and sub-par plastics undermine Mercedes’ reputation for quality. The same applies to the base GLB 200’s Renault-sourced 1.3-litre four-pot turbo/ front-drive powertrain, which Mercedes wouldn’t supply for COTY assessment, but from past experience, also lacks the finesse expected from a Benz.

Little wonder then that the GLB 250 4Matic is where most of the buyers migrate up to. This is a searing, stirring performer, a rev-hungry 165kW/350Nm turbo 2.0-litre belter backed up by a slick auto, sharp handling and a hunkereddo­wn chassis that faithfully follows the driver’s command.

And if that’s not enough, the range-topping 225kW/400Nm GLB 35 AMG amplifies all that with dazzling ferocity, for knockout accelerati­on. Slightly unhinged, it relentless­ly piles on speed, accompanie­d by a soaring soundtrack and genre-bending grip that lives up to the storied suffix applied to that otherwise slightly sad-looking tail treatment. This is unfeasibly fiery without being frenetic.

Frustratin­gly, however, both the 250 and 35 AMG cost a lot of money, skirting $80K and $95K respective­ly with a couple of choice options. Then there’s the ride quality, which is fine in Comfort mode thanks to the standard adaptive dampers (except GLB 200), but in Sport mode it brings back that old bugbear of rattly cabin bits.

If Mercedes is sick of hearing this criticism, then a back-toback drive with cheaper crossovers – such as the Mazda CX-30 – reveals the extent of our dissatisfa­ction here.

Still, the higher-spec GLBs might be the answer for wellheeled enthusiast­s seeking an engaging, family-orientated, urban-friendly SUV with a decent dollop of character to boot. Too uneven to progress further in COTY, but fun all the same.

 ??  ?? Only small kids fit in the third row, and they’ll need strong stomachs to handle all that the $95K GLB 35 AMG can throw at them
Only small kids fit in the third row, and they’ll need strong stomachs to handle all that the $95K GLB 35 AMG can throw at them
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