In football parlance, flooding the zone occurs when the quarterback directs his pass receivers downfield to confuse and outnumber the opposing defence. In automotive terms, it seems that Mercedes-Benz is flooding a different zone: The upscale-compact-utility-vehicle market.
The new GLB250 is one of six such utilities to wear the three-pointed star. It’s about 13 centimetres longer than the GLA (the smallest in the M-B-range), and about five centimetres shorter than the next-largest GLC. The GLE-, GLS- and G-class utility vehicles round out the group.
The GLB’s stout appearance belies the fact that it’s built off the Mercedes-Benz A-class front-wheel-drive car platform. The blunt-edge front end and the tall, squared-off roofline give it an off-road-capable appearance, however following a G class over craggy and deeply rutted terrain is probably not a great idea.
Surprisingly, despite its compact dimensions, the GLB can be ordered with a third-row seat, complete with two cupholders plus a couple of outboard storage compartments and a USB port. Interestingly, the next-size-up GLC cannot be ordered with a third row.
To make sufficient space in the GLB, the second-row bench slides up to 15 centimetres (it also slides in the two-row GLB) and the seatback can be angled in a more upright position. Note that placing anyone larger than junior-size in the back will be a tight squeeze, and the cargo zone is expectedly small.
For moving larger items, the split-folding 40:20:40 second row and 60:40 third row can each be folded flat.
The GLB’s front-seat passengers have a full view of an instrument panel that’s nearly identical to that found in the A-class cars. It comes with two adjoining seven-inch or optional 10.3-inch configurable touch-screens with the latest Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) voice-activated system. By speaking “Hey Mercedes” aloud, a disembodied voice acts on your requests to — among others — change radio channels, connect with your phone’s contacts, or search for the nearest gas stations or restaurants.
The only available powertrain announced so far is a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder that puts out 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It’s connected to an eight-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Later in the model year, you can expect more powerful AMG models.
Official fuel-consumption stats haven’t been released, but based on the same engine used in the GLA, you can expect about 10.5 l/100 km in the city, 7.8 on the highway and 9.3 combined city/highway.
According to Mercedes-Benz, the 2.0 will propel the GLB to 60 mph (96 km/h) from rest in 6.9 seconds.
Mercedes-Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive is standard. The system varies the front-to-rear torque split depending on the mode selected. In Eco and Comfort, the front-to-rear split is 80:20. It’s 70:30 in Sport and 50:50 in Off-Road.
Pricing for the base five-passenger GLB is expected to split the difference between the GLA and GLC, or about $46,500, including destination fees. That will get you a reasonable amount of gear, but expect to pay close to $50,000 when adding the third-row seat. You’ll also pay more for options such as a panoramic glass roof, adaptive suspension and an AMG styling kit with a unique grille, bumpers and wheels. A full range of active- and semi-autonomous driving technologies is extra.
All football-flooding references aside, in terms of design, content and price, there appears to be enough differentiation — although it might be hard to believe — between the GLB and its immediate larger and smaller utility siblings. It might also be hard to believe that a third-row seat can fit into what will be the second-smallest such vehicle in the range.
What you should know: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250
Type: All-wheel-drive compact-utility vehicle
Engine (h.p.): 2.0-litre DOHC I-4, turbocharged (221)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Market position: The premium-compact-utility-vehicle segment is becoming increasingly popular (and competitive) as more buyers are indicating a preference for these models over similarly upscale sedans.
Points: Squared-off body provides at least the appearance of off-road ruggedness. • Modern dashboard and control panel adds to the premium-look interior. • Turbo four-cylinder engine has reasonable performance, but AMG versions will improve significantly on that. • Third-row-seating option is ideal for small children, but not so much for adults.
Active safety: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (opt.); lane-departure warning (opt.)
L/100 km (city/hwy) 10.5/7.8 (est.); Base price (incl. destination) $46,500 (est.)
Audi Q3 Quattro
Base price: $41,000
Redesigned 2019 model comes with a turbo 258-h.p. I-4 and standard AWD.
Cadillac XT4 AWD
Base price: $40,900
New compact utility model is reasonably priced and stylish. AWD is optional.
Base price: $46,150
Well-equipped with most active-safety tech; hybrid model available.
If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today!
-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media