Meet Mercedes-Benz’s Affordable New Off-Roader, the GLB

The new Mercedes-Benz GLB may be a small SUV, but with available seating for seven and an off-road package, it punches well above its curb weight.

Sometimes, you gotta give the people what they want — and these days, people want SUVs. Lots of them, in every conceivable size and seating configuration. So to satisfy that craving, on Monday, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the newest edition to its ever-evolving lineup of off-roaders and soft-roaders: the GLB-Class. It’s a machine that fits snugly into that lineup–conceptually, at least, if not quite visually.

Indeed, next to the boxy and purposeful G-Class, the hulking GLS, and the sleek and sporty GLC and GLA, the new GLB compact is a bit of an awkward fit, stylistically. It’s tall, but narrow and short, possessing a modest bumper-to-bumper distance of just 187 inches. But its upright, slightly nerdier disposition compared to its cooler siblings serves a purpose: The GLB is a seven-seater — an important (if optional) capability for families that surprisingly few vehicles offer–and it appears to offer legitimately good utility and off-road capability.

The proof of this latter quality lies not just in the presence of an all-wheel-drive system with finely tuned off-road modes, but also the short front and rear overhangs, which help with approach and departure angles while clamoring over hills and along trails. Plus, Downhill Speed Regulation helps keep descents in check by automatically modulating speed to between 1 and 11 mph.

The GLB, as with all new and redesigned Mercedes-Benz models going forward, will have the new widescreen Mercedes MBUX infotainment system; unlike some other Benzes, it also has the ability to slide the middle row six inches forward and backward, to give those in the third row some breathing room. (Or rather, legroom.) It will also come with newly enhanced “partially autonomous” drive capability, thanks to camera and radar systems that can look up to 1,641 feet ahead of the vehicle and adjust speed to driving challenges such as roundabouts and corners. The system now includes Active Lane Change Assist, in which the car can change lanes by itself while the adaptive cruise control is active.

The GLB will be powered by an updated turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine, making 221 horsepower and 258 pound feet of torque — enough to send it bolting from 0-60 mph in a claimed 6.9 seconds. The new SUV will arrive in showrooms later this year, and will certainly make a splash among those who want plenty of options for their hauling and recreating. Price hasn’t been released yet, but considering the GLB is set to occupy one of the lowest rungs of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, we expect it to land somewhere between the $33,950 GLA and the $40,700 GLC. Considering the average new car now costs about $38,000, that would make this little Benz practically a bargain.

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