A shrunken G-Class?

The Mercedes-Benz GLB is an upcoming crossover that will slot between the company’s smallest SUV offerings yet, the GLA and the GLC. The GLB is based on the new platform underpinning the latest A-Class. Spotted testing on public roads since 2017, the GLB will stand out compared to the GLA and GLC due to a much boxier design. The crossover is often referred to as the baby G-Class.

Like most premium automakers, Mercedes-Benz took the crossover market by storm in the 2000s. In 1998, the M-Class joined the G-Class as the company’s second SUV, but since then the German carmaker launched no fewer than five crossovers plus a pickup truck. And Mercedes isn’t stopping here. Rumors about a new model surfaced back in 2012, when Mercedes unveiled the Ener-G-Force Concept at the Los Angeles Auto Show. Created by the company’s Advanced Design Studio in Carlsbad, California, it looked like a futuristic version of the G-Class and had a hydrogen-powered drivetrain. The rumors turned into certainty when a small but boxy crossover was spotted testing on public roads.

Update 01/02/2019: We’ve caught the baby G-Class on camera as it stopped to take in a little fuel in Sweden. The GLB has moved a little closer to production, and we’ve finally been able to peek inside for the first time too. Check out our spy shots section below for all the details.

Spy Shots

January 2, 2019 – 2020 Mercedes GLB Sucking Down Some Fuel in Sweden

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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From what we can see on this specific prototype, very little has changed since the last sighting. It’s wearing production headlights and taillights while the grille is the typical Mercedes decoy grille design. It even looks like it’s wearing official wheels and roof rails too. Clearly, it takes on the boxy ambiance of the G-Class, but inside, you’ll be able to tell that it’s all A-Class DNA. In fact, the interior is nearly identical with one big exception – the center console. It does look familiar; yes, but it’s actually a bit boxier than on the A-Class hatchback. Expect the interior to feature the same seat and dash design while the MBUX infotainment system will take on Merc’s latest update, including augmented reality, but the time it makes its long-awaited debut. Expect to see it in the metal sometime this year with production starting for the 2020 model year.

Exterior

  • Boxy, G-Class-inspired design
  • Some cues from the Ener-G-Force Concept?
  • Unique styling for a small crossover
  • Aggressive AMG package
2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The spy shots hint toward a boxy design with angular lines taken off the G-Class

While the Ener-G-Force Concept is often quoted as the main inspiration behind the GLB, the production model won’t look as radical as the show car. It won’t get its massive ride height either. Instead, the spy shots hint toward a less aggressive design with angular lines taken off the boxy G-Class. Details are tough to spot with all that camouflage on the body, but it’s pretty obvious that the GLB won’t be as sleek as the GLA.

The bumper appears to be a big solid block of plastic, while the main grille is massive and rectangular. So far, it looks as if Mercedes is indeed transferring some of the G-Class’ features onto the GLB, but we won’t know for sure until some of the camo comes off. However, the grille sports the same horizontal slats as most Mercedes SUVs, while the engine hood isn’t as angular as the G-Class. Also, unlike the G-Class, the GLB doesn’t have round headlamps. These look more like the ones on the GLC.

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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The rear end is all-utility with an almost vertical tailgate and a sturdy bumper

The GLB’s profile is significantly boxier than the GLA and GLC, but not as spartan as the G-Class. The door frames are smoothly integrated into the pillars, while the side skirts are of the small crossover variety. I’d say that the profile is very similar to the old GLK, but the camo could hide sportier rear haunches.

The rear end is all-utility, with an almost vertical tailgate. This is a breath of fresh air from the sporty designs seen on most small crossovers. The GLB also appears to have a wide loading area above the sturdy bumper, while the license plate recess is placed right below the window. The taillights have nothing in common with the G-Class. While big SUV has rectangular lights just above the bumper, the GLB features regular two-piece taillights like the GLA and GLC.

Needless to say, the GLB could turn out to be one of Mercedes’ most unique crossover designs. Sure, it might look a bit like the G-Class, but at least it won’t look like all the other crossovers in the lineup.

Interior

  • Based on A-Class
  • Large infotainment display
  • Digital instrument cluster
  • MBUX infotainment system
  • 64-color ambient lighting
2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
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The cabin will share many features with the new-generation A-Class hatchback

Out paparazzi finally managed to shoot a photo of the GLB’s interior and we have confirmation that the crossover is indeed based on the latest A-Class. Sure, there’s still plenty of camo on the dashboard, but the center stack and dashboard are out in the open and they look very familiar.

As you can see, the instrument cluster and the infotainment display are connected to each other, just like in the A-Class, which borrowed this features from larger sedans like the S-Class and E-Class. Both screens measure 10.25 inches and this setup will probably be standard on the more expensive trims only.

The center stack also looks very similar to the A-Class and B-Class, sporting three round A/C vents just under the infotainment display and a thin control bar below.

2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Exterior
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Expect the GLB to come with Merc’s latest technology, including the MBUX infotainment system

More importantly, it will come with all the cool features found in the A-Class and B-Class, like a 64-color lighting system and the new MBUX infotainment system. The latter has the ability to learn thanks to artificial intelligence and includes a navigation system with augmented reality and intelligent voice control and natural speech recognition.

The steering wheel also looks identical to the A-Class and features the upgraded controls that detect swiping movements like a tablet. Several seat options should be available, including seat climate control and maybe even a massage function. It should be the most luxurious vehicle in its class.

Expect the GLB to offer more luggage room than the B-Class, which can swallow up to 54.4 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

Drivetrain

  • MFA2 platform
  • Four-cylinder engines
  • 224-horsepower unit in the U.S.
  • Diesel options in Europe
  • AMG version possible
2018 Mercedes-Benz A-Class
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Chances are that the GLB will get its drivetrains from the latest A-Class

While the G-Class that inspired the GLB hides a V-8 engine under the hood, don’t expect to find big powerplants in this little crossover. Given the platform is sits on, chances are that the GLB will features the same drivetrains as the latest A-Class. The hatchback was unveiled with three powerplants and all of them seem suitable for the mini SUV.

The base model will probably get the 1.4-liter four-cylinder that cranks out 163 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine will be available with either a six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic. More oomph will come from the brand-new 2.0-liter four-pot, rated at 224 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of twist. This one will get the automatic gearbox only. This is also the configuration that will probably make it to the U.S.

European customers will get diesel engines too

European customers will get a diesel too. Motivation will come from the new 1.5-liter four-cylinder unit with 116 horsepower and 192 pound-feet of torque. The GLB should also benefit from the 2.0-liter oil burner that Mercedes introduced with the B-Class. The transverse-mounted diesel has an aluminum crankcase, a stepped-bowl combustion process, and an extended exhaust after treatment with an additional underfloor SCR catalyst. The new engine is also certified in accordance with the Euro 6d standard, which will become mandatory for new cars starting in 2020.

Two flavors are offered in the B-Class and could be extended to the GLB too. There’s a 150-horsepower and 236-pound-foot version and a 190-horsepower and 295-pound-foot variant. Fuel consumption is of around 4.5 liters per 100 km in the hatchback and should remain below the five-liter mark in the crossover.

An AMG version is also likely, alongside a less powerful model with EQ Boost hybrid technology. But I don’t see any of these coming sooner than 2020.

Prices

While logic suggests that the GLB will be placed between the GLA and GLC (which cost $33,400 and $40,050, respectively) pricing-wise, it could actually cost almost as much as the GLC. My bet is on a sticker set around the $38,000 mark.

Competitors

BMW X2

2018 BMW X2 - Updated
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The X2 is BMW’s newest crossover and if my predictions are corect, it should be a perfect competitor for the GLB. Slightly bigger than the popular X1, the X2 is a pretty unique vehicle in the lineup. Despite wearing an even number next to the "X" in its badge, the X2 isn’t a coupe-style vehicle like the X4 and X6. It’s slightly boxier than the X1, and even though it’s not as utilitarian as the GLB, it has a somewhat massive look thanks to the big grille and the tall bumper up front. The interior comes from the X1 and while it looks modern and comfortable, it’s not as fancy as the A-Class, so Merc might win this one. Drivetrains options are diverse and start off with a 2.0-liter gasoline four-banger rated at 189 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. A more powerful version, also offered in the U.S., sends 228 horses and 258 pound-feet to the ground. A 2.0-liter diesel rated at 190 horsepower and 295 pound-feet is already available, but more oil burners will be launched in the future. U.S. pricing information is not yet available, but the X2 could retail from around $30,000 before options.

Read our full story of the 2018 BMW X2.

Audi Q2

2017 Audi Q2 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The Q2 is nowhere near as imposing as the GLB, but it’s a cool design exercise and the first Audi crossover that strays from the big Q7. It has quite a few unique features of its own and it feels boxier than other Audis out there. The interior is based on the A3 hatchback and looks rather bland, but it has all the modern technology, including a fully digital instrument cluster, a seven-inch infotainment display, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB, navigation a Bang & Olufsen sound system. Just like the X2, the Q2 is available with a wide array of drivetrains in Europe. The gasoline range begins with the 1.0-liter three cylinder unit rated at 116 horsepower and 148 pound-feet. This engine mates to a six-speed manual standard and a seven-speed DSG optionally and comes in a front-wheel-drive configuration only. Next up is the familiar 1.4-liter TFSi, a four-cylinder that’s available 150 horses and 184 pound-feet and comes standard with FWD and the six-speed manual, but quattro AWD and the seven-speed DSG can be selected from the options list. The 2.0-liter TFSI engine pumps 187 horses and 236 pound-feet of twist through a seven-speed DSG and quattro all-wheel drive. The Q2 is not yet available in the U.S.

Read our full review of the 2018 Audi Q2.

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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Judging how all crossover niches how expanded in recent years, the GLB is a necessary addition to the Mercedes-Benz lineup. With BMW and Audi already present in this segment, Merc needs to step up a offer a solid competitor. The fact that the GLB will have a boxy, G-Class-inspired design could play an important role here, as it will allow drivers access to a more affordable, more city friendly version of the military-style SUV. That’s something BMW and Audi can’t offer right now. And the only option available is the Jeep Renegade, which won’t be a match for the GLB in terms of premium features and technology.

  • Leave it
    • Will the most expensive in its niche
    • Still at least a year away

References

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