Would you buy a small crossover with seven seats?
Picture the scene: You’re at a Mercedes-Benz dealer, and you’re looking to buy a new crossover. You have a wide range to choose from, and Mercedes is potentially giving you one more choice. Meet the Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept, just revealed prior to this week’s Shanghai Auto Show. It slots between the subcompact GLA and compact GLC crossover, but it can seat seven people. Wait, what?
At just 182 inches long, the Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept is just a couple inches shorter than the GLC. It also has a 2.1 inch shorter wheelbase, at just 111 inches. Mercedes says that’s long enough to seat seven passengers, but is smaller than its best-selling crossover, which only seats five. Currently, you have to step up to the GLE or GLS to get three-row seating. That makes sense, since you’d consider a larger car to transport more people.
Apart from the seating layout, the Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept has a host of rugged, go-anywhere kit to make it more rugged than its stablemates. Up top, there’s a roof rack and LED lighting, and you get black mirror caps and door handles. Black cladding surrounds chunky BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires and 17-inch wheels.
The GLB Concept has a more rugged, upright appearance than the GLA or the GLC. The shoulder line also goes straight down each side, giving the SUV a broader, more muscular look.
Underneath, the Mercedes-Benz GLB packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four with 224 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Unlike the GLA which uses a 7-speed automatic and the GLC which uses a 9-speed unit, the GLB splits the difference with an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Then there’s the interior. It stands out from other Mercedes models with its darker, earthy tones of brown and orange. That’s a fresh change to the blacks, whites and silvers we’re used to seeing. Apart from the highlights, there’s also a honeycomb pattern in the doors and dashboard, as well as some other flourishes. Like virtually every other Mercedes these days, the GLB Concept has a familiar control layout. It also has dual digital displays, with Mercedes’ latest MBUX infotainment system.
Just a concept, for now
Like most concepts, the Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept and its overlanding theme strikes me as something of a flight of fancy. However, unlike some concepts, this one looks pretty close to production ready. It uses a lot of components out of the Mercedes parts bin, so it wouldn’t take much for the company to green-light this model for production.
In production form, I suspect the GLB will lose the rugged persona and fill the niche between the GLA and GLC. The three-row option would likely make it through, since America’s thirst for crossovers knows no bounds. And the move for small, seven-seater crossovers isn’t entirely unprecedented. You can buy a Volkswagen Tiguan with a third row, after all.