If the growing number of SUVs on the road and in automaker lineups—compact, full-size or otherwise—wasn’t enough of a sign of their popularity, Mercedes has lobbed another example into the fray. On Monday, the carmaker revealed the all-new GLB Concept, aimed at filling the (small) gap between the GLA-Class and GLC-Class. And while the GLB Concept that’ll be on display at Auto Shanghai later this month will be sporting a few upgrades aimed at making it more off-road-worthy; the product itself is hardly vaporware; the GLB-Class is already scheduled to go into production later this year.
“We asked ourselves whether there is space between the GLA and GLC,” Britta Seeger, a Mercedes-Benz board member, said. “The GLB is the answer to this question: a durable and practical SUV with nonetheless compact dimensions.”
If this year’s Detroit Auto Show was anything to go by, manufacturers are catching on to the increasingly popular overlanding trend—either by showing off production-ready concepts like the GLB shown above, or committing to adventure lifestyle-centric option lists as with the Ford Ranger. With this crossover, Mercedes-Benz seems to be taking a “two birds with one stone” tactic: create yet another option in the fast-selling, high-profit-margin crossover segment, while also cashing in on the adventure lifestyle wave via that same vehicle. (Sure, Mercedes already offers a capable off-roader in the form of the G-Wagen, but it’s not exactly an affordable four-wheeler.)
The new compact SUV will initially be powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder good for 224 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque; a 302-=hp AMG-tuned GLB 35 will eventually top off the range, with an electric EQB model planned further down the road. It’s the interior however, that promises the biggest surprise: Mercedes is launching the GLB-Class with an optional third row, which means this diminutive crossover smaller than the GLC-Class will officially be a seven-passenger SUV.
Mercedes didn’t disclose pricing, but logic dictates it’ll likely land somewhere between the $33,950 GLA-Class and the $40,700 GLC-Class. We’ll know later this year when sales books open up. And hopefully by then, Mercedes will announce which off-roading options will also make it to the streets.
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