About a third of new Mercedes-Benz vehicles sold aren’t cars at all. They’re crossover SUVs, and it’s hard to imagine that Mercedes could have expected it when its M-Class hit the road about two decades ago.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 that bowed Monday expands the automaker’s current crossover SUV lineup to six models, and yet it has plenty in common with the original M-Class that arrived in 1997. The new GLB stretches about 182 inches from bumper to bumper and measures about 72 inches wide, figures nearly identical to the M-Class (and considerably smaller than the GLE that traces its lineage back to the ML320).
MORE: Read our 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class preview
Similarly, the GLB is the first smaller Mercedes SUV to offer three rows of seats, an option that also set the M-Class apart from many of its period rivals. Among the GLB’s rivals today, only the Land Rover Discovery Sport squeezes in a third row.
Otherwise, the GLB is thoroughly modern. It rides on a version of the Mercedes GLA’s car-based platform stretched about five inches between the wheels to improve rear-seat leg room and cargo space. The second row seats three passengers and can be moved forward and backward about six inches to open up as much as 38 inches of leg room or 26 cubic feet of cargo space. With the second row folded flat, five-seat GLBs can lug about 62 cubic feet of cargo. The third row consists of a pair of individual seats that separate warring kiddos with two cup holders and will pacify them between arguments with a pair of USB-C ports.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class
Front-seat riders look at a GLA-like dashboard fitted with the latest version of Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment software, which can be controlled via the touchscreen, a center console-mounted touchpad, hand gestures, or even a spoken “Hey, Mercedes!” command.
The GLB is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-4 rated at 221 horsepower teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to all four wheels. Adaptive dampers are optional, a relatively unusual feature for a crossover SUV sized like the GLB.
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class
Mercedes promises some off-road ability to go with its boxier looks drawn from the big GLS-Class SUV, though four-wheelers aren’t likely to stop in the automaker’s showrooms unless they’re after a G-Wagen. The GLB sits low to the ground and counts only standard all-wheel drive and an off-road drive mode available at the tap of a button among its outdoorsy tools.
The GLB instead stands out for its unusually high level of available safety tech. The automaker hasn’t detailed standard and optional fare yet, but it did say that an adaptive cruise control system that anticipates curves and adjusts the vehicle’s speed accordingly will be available. Additionally, advanced blind-spot monitors look for open spots in traffic and can automatically enter a different lane at the tap of the turn signal switch.