2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 Test Drive

Ron Sessions | Mar 19, 2020

Introduction

2020 Mercedes-Benz front and side view

Photo: Ron Sessions

The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 is the luxury carmaker’s latest entry into the fast-expanding premium compact sport-utility segment. That segment includes such competitors as the BMW X1, Land Rover Discovery Sport, Lexus NX300 and Volkswagen Tiguan. In terms of price and size, the new Mercedes-Benz GLB250 squeezes into the space between the brand’s smallest SUV, the GLA, and its best-selling, the GLC. GLB buyers get a choice of 5- or 7-passenger seating and front- or all-wheel drive.

In front-wheel-drive trim, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 starts at $37,595 including the $995 destination charge. When equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive, the new SUV has a base price of $39,595 with destination.

With a modest (by luxury SUV standards) option load including 19-inch wheels, a panoramic sunroof, adaptive damping, heated steering wheel and front seats, SiriusXM, gray metallic paint, a Driver Assist package adding advanced safety and driver-assistive tech, a Multimedia package including navigation and a Premium package adding a pair of 10.25-inch high-resolution dash displays, plus a few other niceties, the AWD GLB250 test vehicle topped out at $50,480.

Styling and Design

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 design profile

Photo: Ron Sessions

The all-new GLB250 is built off the Mercedes-Benz Global Compact Car Platform that also serves as the basis for the A-Class sedan, CLA Coupe and GLA SUV. Unlike most of the offerings in the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup with fast-sloping, coupe-like profiles, the GLB250 gets back to basics with an upright, squared-off design that’s very space-efficient. It has a tall roofline, upright roofline and raised hood.

Compared to the GLA Class entry SUV, the new GLB stands nearly a half foot taller and is nearly as long, bumper to bumper, as the next-class larger GLC. The GLB’s generous 111.4-inch wheelbase positions the standard 18-inch aluminum wheels at the corners, projecting a confident stance. The GLB250 offers surprising roominess for an SUV with a compact exterior footprint. It’s more spacious inside than it looks from the outside courtesy of a relatively boxy shape with straight sides and a tall roof.

Available appearance upgrades include optional AMG 19 and 20-inch wheels upgrades, AMG Line appearance packages and other trim upgrades with carbon fiber-look mirror caps and a rear spoiler. Also optional are Mercedes-Benz logo pool lights that illuminate the ground under your feet when you open a door, as well as an illuminated three-pointed star in the grille.

Comfort and Cargo

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 max cargo

Photo: Ron Sessions

The GLB250’s theme of luxury fitments at mainstream prices is in evidence upon entering the cabin. Standard kit includes faux-leather covered seats. Both front seats are power-operated with 3-position memory and feature a manual bottom cushion extender to support longer legs. Other standard niceties include dual-zone automatic climate control, pushbutton start,a leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel with shift paddles, rain-sensing wipers and basic cruise control.

Over on the optional side of the ledger, leather seat coverings are a $1450 option while heated front seats are $580 and heated steering wheel an extra $250. Heated and cooled front perches add $1,030 to the tally. A $2,600 AMG Line adds sport seats, a sport steering wheel and a host of other sporty upgrade. For $310, an optional ambient lighting package brings a festive, 64-color interior light show, which cycles through a rainbow of hues on the dash, console, doors, speakers and air conditioning vents.

Usually, in the compact SUV class, back-seat passengers get short shrift--literally. However, with the GLB250’s relatively long wheelbase and tallish roof, a pair of second-row passengers can partake of decent headroom and legroom. Folding nearly flat for cargo, the second-row seat backrests are divided 40/20/40, recline to any of seven positions and slide fore and aft up to 6 inches.

There is also a tiny optional third-row seat suitable for children only. Speaking of children, the GLB250 has a total of four child safety seat ISOFIX and TOP tether anchor points available for the second and third rows.

The squarish shape of the GLB250 also works to its advantage in terms of available cargo space. There’s up to 62 cubic feet of space available with the second- and optional third-row seats folded. In the two-row version, there’s a full-size sedan-like 21.5 cubic feet of cargo space even with the rear seats up. A standard power-operated lift gate provides access to the cargo bay. Its opening height can be set to accommodate garages with low ceilings. Under the cargo floor, there’s additional stash space to hide valuables. The GLB250’s standard run-flat tires means there is no traditional spare tire there.

Safety and Technology

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 navigation system

Photo: Ron Sessions

Front and center in every 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 is a pair of high-resolution color displays atop the dash, one for the driver and the other the infotainment system. The standard screens measure 7-inches diagonally, but the optional 10.25-inch screens arrayed like a pair of landscape-format tablets shown here in the photo is what you really want. They are included with the $1,650 Premium Package.

Both the 7- and 10.25-inch screens are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto cellphone apps and icons. NFC Bluetooth pairing capability is also standard with all models.

The standard Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) content on the center screen can be accessed via a console-mounted touchpad, steering wheel controls, the touchscreen itself, or natural language-enhanced voice control. The latter features keyword activation. Once you give the system a name, you can talk to it as you might Amazon’s Alexa at home. There are no buttons to push. Just remember, once you name the system, it will be listening for that keyword. It has enough AI to respond to simple declarative statements such as, ”Mercedes, I’m cold” by raising the set climate-control temperature a couple degrees.

Another really neat GLB250 feature is Augmented Reality. It is included with the $1,150 optional Multimedia Package that also brings high-resolution navigation with topographical detail. The Augmented Reality can display a live camera shot of the road ahead in real time including traffic and provide animation showing the direction of the upcoming navigation instruction or turn.

As with most European luxury brands, the bulk of the GLB250’s advanced safety and driver-assistive systems are extra cost, part of the $2,250 Driver Assistance Package. It bundles DISTRONIC adaptive cruise control with active steering assist and speed adaptation ahead of curves, tollbooths and such, blind-spot monitoring with active braking, active speed limit assist that automatically adjusts to the posted speed, auto emergency braking plus lane keeping with active steering and braking assist. The latter system’s brake snubs and “corrective” steering torque can be quite distracting on narrow, winding roads where it’s difficult to avoid touching a white line and frustrating when avoiding a jogger or bicyclist on the shoulder, but you can turn off the corrective steering function if you want. Another neat DISTRONIC feature is lane change assist which can execute a semi-autonomous lane change on a 4-lane highway after signaling if the lane is clear.

A simple backup camera is standard but an optional $1,090 Parking Assistance Package adds a surround-view camera display plus active parking assist. With the active system, once a driver has driven past the parking spot for the system to size up, it can operate the steering, gearshift and brakes to maneuver the GLB250 into the space semi-autonomously using cameras and sensors.

Driving Impressions

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 action

Photo: Ron Sessions

Keeping in mind the GLB250’s elevated ride height, all-season tires and forward weight bias, the compact SUV handled twisty sections of pavement in the foothills and mountains grades north of Phoenix, Arizona with precision and finesse. Even in sharp turns, body roll was kept to a reasonable level. The optional $990 adaptive damping suspension seamlessly adjusted shock settings in real time and maintained good control of vertical ride motions, even over dips and moguls that may have flummoxed lesser SUVs. The electrically boosted steering offered “just-right” weighting and was precise and direct in response to inputs. Though optional drilled-rotor AMG binders are available, the standard 4-wheel disc brakes did just fine, offering crisp pedal response and ample, fade-free performance in mountain driving, even over extended downhill sections. Even with the standard Dynamic Select set to Comfort mode, the GLB250 felt relaxed and ready for the road ahead.

The GLB250’s sole engine is a 221-hp 4-cylinder turbo shared with the CLA250 compact 4-door coupe. While this engine doesn’t quite have the old money feel, say, of a Mercedes-Benz 6 or 8-cylinder, its healthy 258 lb-ft developed over a broad range from 1800 to 4000 rpm and fast-spooling turbocharger enable good throttle response in pretty much all driving situations. It’s hooked to a quick-shifting 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission with a short-ratio first gear and can accelerate from a stop to 60 mph in less than 7 seconds.

EPA fuel economy estimates are 23 mpg city/30-31 mpg highway/26 mpg combined on the recommended premium unleaded fuel, which delivers a comfortable 475+ mile cruising range. I averaged just under 30 mpg according to the onboard trip computer.

The optional Mercedes-Benz 4Matic all-wheel-drive system constantly apportions drive torque to the wheels with the most traction. The Drive Select system defaults to a baseline 80% front/20% rear distribution in Eco or Comfort modes, 70% front/30% rear in Sport mode and locks in at a even 50% front/50% rear in Off-Road mode. Over a few short off-road segments, some with ruts and gullies using all of the GLB250’s 7.9 inches of ground clearance, the 4Matic system delivered seamless traction even with the standard all-season tires.

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB250 rear view

Photo: Ron Sessions

Although it’s unlikely you’d want to risk scratching and scraping the GLB250’s expensive looking, passenger-car comfortable underbody hardware, it’s nice to know that if you keep its more tender parts clear of big rocks and boulders, the small SUV will follow your three-pointed star to some pretty awesome spots.

And in everyday driving, the 2020 GLB250 brings big comfort and roominess in a small package. It can provide a path for buyers to jump from a mainstream brand to a luxury one without breaking the bank, provided the buyer exercises a modicum of restraint checking the enticing array of optional equipment boxes.

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