Mercedes-Benz unveiled the production version of its GLB compact crossover at an upscale resort in the mountains above Salt Lake City, Utah, on Monday.
Channeling the snow-capped peaks and flowing creeks of the region, the 2020 GLB is intended to be a rugged small crossover with a twist. It will be among the smallest crossovers to have an optional third row, making it capable of carrying seven passengers.
The concept version of the GLB debuted at Auto Shanghai 2019 earlier this year. But it will be a global vehicle, going on sale in the U.S. late this year. Mercedes sees the BMW X1, Range Rover Discovery Sport and VW Tiguan as its main competitors.
Mercedes’ GLB launch targets changing consumer preferences in the U.S. and abroad. Buyers are shunning traditional sedans for the upright seating position and rear hatch cargo space of crossovers and SUVs. Globally, one out of every three Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold is an SUV.
As its name implies, the GLB slots between the GLA and GLC crossovers in Mercedes’ lineup. At 111.4 inches, the GLB’s wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than the GLA and 1.7 inches shorter than the GLC.
An updated version of Mercedes’ four-cylinder gasoline engine anchors the GLB. The automaker has modified its 2-liter M 260 engine to increase its power and fuel economy while reducing emissions.
It produces up to 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The five-seat GLB goes from 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds. It has a top speed of 130 mph. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The automaker is giving the GLB off-road ability so that it functions as a city commuter during the week and an adventure vehicle on weekends.
“It’s a true all-rounder,” said Axel Heix, Mercedes-Benz’s SUV engineer.
“You can fit into smaller parking spaces in the city but also go off-roading into the wilderness,” Heix said.
Buyers can upgrade to a permanent all-wheel-drive system with variable torque distribution. In off-road mode, the all-wheel-drive system provides a balanced 50-50 power split between the front and rear wheels. In normal driving mode, the rear wheels get 20 percent of the power, with the majority going to the front.
The off-road package includes other helpful features. The media display depicts an animation of the GLB’s setting. It will provide a realistic presentation of gradient, inclination angle and technical settings to help the driver judge maneuvers correctly.
There’s also a hill-start assistance system with downhill-speed regulation. That feature automatically holds the vehicle to between 1 and 11 mph to retain control during steep downhill driving.
Mercedes designers describe the GLB’s styling as a compact SUV with “off-road genes.” It has a touch of muscle and bulk for a compact vehicle. There are protective claddings on the wheel wells and door sills that emphasize the vehicle’s off-road character.
The cargo area has 20 to 62 cubic feet of space on the five-seater for gear and equipment, depending on whether the second-row seats are up or down.
The GLB’s infotainment system is a version of the automaker’s MBUX, or Mercedes-Benz User Experience. Mercedes has designed the system to answer natural language commands and questions starting with a “Hey Mercedes” query. The system has a head-up display, navigation and what Mercedes describes as learning-capable software. The feature learns a driver’s frequent routes, calls, radio stations and other preferences to anticipate commands.
The GLB has a suite of driver-assistance systems from Mercedes’ flagship S-Class vehicle lineup. The adaptive cruise control and collision-alert system uses camera and radar systems to look up to 1,641 feet ahead. It has automatic emergency braking. The vehicle can drive partially autonomously in certain situations when using an active steering-assist system that can guide the vehicle through gentle curves. Mercedes, however, limits hands free-driving to no more than 30 seconds.
Mercedes said it will provide both price information and the GLB’s fuel economy rating closer to its sales launch.