By Peter Perrotta
Just about 7 years ago, when I was selling Mercedes Benz automobiles, a representative from the German automakers North American headquarters gave a presentation to our sales crew on where the product lineup was heading.
It was generally upbeat. But, decidedly pointed in one direction.
“We are going to get smaller.”
That was the clear-cut message. What the Mercedes rep meant, more specifically, wasn’t that Mercedes, as a company, was going to shrink. No company looks to the future and says that.
Rather, he was saying that the product lineup and offerings in the North American market were going to lean towards offering smaller cars and SUVs with smaller engines that are less expensive and get better gas mileage.
Lo and behold, his message was right on target.
In the coming years, Mercedes introduced the smaller CLA class sedans, the smaller GLA class crossover/SUVs, the even smaller A class sedans and in 2019 the smallest of its SUV/crossover line the GLB class.
Basically, unchanged since its 2019 inception, I recently jumped behind the wheel of the 2021 Mercedes GLB250 4matic SUV for one week to get a first-hand look of this new product trend for Mercedes.
First off, if you are a veteran Mercedes owner or observer, and you are looking for this relatively new GLB offering to be comparable to the larger GLC or GLE SUVs the German automaker has offered for years, you will be disappointed.
The GLB doesn’t have the same luxury feel and solid quality build standards as its larger brethren GLC or GLE crossovers. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid contender in the smaller, compact crossover space.
With a base price $40,050 for the 4matic – or 4 wheel drive – version of the GLB, its starting price point makes it available to a wider range of buyers.
However, with a small 2.0 liter inline four cylinder turbo charged engine that puts out 221 horsepower, you won’t be winning too many road races with this one.
So, for judging the GLB for what it is, you can expect a comfortably designed compact crossover with enough amenities to make it feel luxurious.
The ride quality is adequate, but not above average.
For the week I drove the GLB, I took several longer trips with it in inclement weather and I must say it held up quite nicely handling in the rain. For that performance, I would give the GLB high marks.
Where I feel the GLB falls a tad short is in the performance and handling category. I think the performance and handling quality of its larger brethren GLC or GLE crossovers is a notch above what you get with the GLB.
It’s not that the GLB is all that bad in the ride and performance category, it’s just that it isn’t as athletic or agile in tight or high end driving situations as we have come to expect from a Mercedes.
That being said, not everyone who is looking to own a compact crossover like the GLB may even care about how athletically this vehicle performs.
For some, it may be more important that the GLB is roomy and comfortable for a vehicle in this class and it can carry a couple of kids, a dog and your weekend camping supplies rather nicely. If that’s the case the GLB works just fine.
While the base price of my tester came in at $40,050, the bottom line sticker price of my car was a heftier $54,035 with added options and $1,050 for destination and delivery.
Some of the added options included: $1,450 for leather; $720 for Patagonia Red metallic paint; $325 for black wood trim; $1,500 for a panorama sunroof; $1,700 for a driver assist package; $1,750 for a premium package; $1,295 for the multi-media package.
The EPA fuel consumption ratings for the GLB come in at 26 miles per gallon overall – 30 mpg in highway driving and 23 mpg in city driving.
The EPA estimates that on average it will cost about $1,900 per year in fuel costs for the GLB as it uses about 3.8 gallons of gas per every 100 miles driven.
This model GLB has not been crash safety test rated by the government’s 5-star safety rating test yet.
The editors at Car and Driver give the fairly new GLB high marks for having a “compelling base price”, “cool” infotainment setup and a “roomy” first and second row for passengers.
Car and Driver have the GLB low marks for not offering much in the way of standard equipment for having a “sluggish” throttle response, and “tight” passenger space in the optional third row.
I agree with the optional third row assessment. It is rather tight back there, really only suited for small children.
However, I don’t agree with the infotainment system setup being “cool.”
While I think the screen set up and graphics of the MBUX infotainment system is “cool” looking, I think it leaves a lot to be desired in its functionality and ease of operation. It’s far too convoluted and difficult to figure out.
However, overall the GLB has a lot to offer for its price point and should be a serious contender on anyone’s short list of compact, luxury crossovers.
Peter Perrotta’s On The Road column appears weekly. He can be contacted for questions or comments at email@example.com.