One up from the entry level of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup is the GLB which is available in a plethora of models, configurations and trims starting at $38,600. The one we tested was a GLB 250 4MATIC which featured a healthy dose of nearly $10,000 in options bringing its total to $50,995.
Base on a front-wheel drive architecture with a transversely mounted four-cylinder turbocharged engine, the GLB 250 has 221 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque which here flows to all four wheels when the two front ones aren’t getting it done. The sole transmission here is an 8-speed dual clutch automatic.
Styling is boxy and utilitarian in a basic kind of way. This is to say I find it a bit spartan looking at curbside with its kind of hiking boot silhouette and upright conservative lines. Not a bad thing, but it doesn’t have the luxury tone and swagger Mercedes-Benz vehicles typically ooze.
Inside, the utilitarian theme continues with an interior that while bringing to its stage many of the luxury high end touches found in the rest of the brand’s higher end vehicles, lacks the kind of fashion and panache I expect from a Mercedes-Benz.
Materials are of course of a high quality and fit and finish is good. It’s just a surprise to find trims with phony metal or carbon fiber looking patterns here instead of the real thing. Most of the nearly $10,000 in of options were here in the cabin yet we still sat on vinyl seats, not leather. The seating was indeed comfortable however with power adjustments for the driver, manual for the passenger.
Even though much money was spent upgrading the audio and infotainment system, it still lacked a lot of basic functionality, features and sound quality found in a Hyundai costing half the price. Using the system was a joy for what its worth as its menus and graphics as well as the user controls are top notch. It just didn’t have a lot going on behind the curtains for this price range.
Driving the GLB was a joy. While I am still the camp of drivers who don’t really find a front-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz to be a real Mercedes-Benz, it’s feel and personality are enjoyable around town and on the highway. With the upgraded adjustable dampers, the default setting had the traditional Mecedes-Benz float which at least made it feel like one. You can adjust that away if you prefer a more firm ride and feel.
Power from its 2.0-liter four is plenty in the GLB250, though if you want more you can option that with the GLB 35 AMG. The 8-Speed DCT does take some getting used to as its shift feel is more akin to a manual as well as its power take up and launch. Once past the learning curve of feel, it works well.
Fuel economy was impressive as well. It’s rated at 22 city, 30 highway and 25 mpg combined. In my week with it I actually hovered around 27 mpg with mostly city driving.
My key takeaways are that this little Benz is a nice choice if you are already brand loyal and don’t mind spending up for the quality, engineering and feel that comes along with it, and you’re also ok with the fact that this particular model doesn’t exactly announce your arrival like other models of the three-pointed star do.
If on the other hand you comparing against other luxury marques that include Japanese or Korean brands, there are ways to get a lot more for your dough when it comes to features, style, performance and pizazz.