What Is It?
Selling nine SUV model lines in America, Mercedes-Benz offers a sport-utility vehicle for practically every need imaginable. One of the latest SUVs joining the lineup is the right-sized GLB, slotted logically between — you guessed it — the GLA and GLC. With signature Mercedes-Benz styling and a surprisingly roomy cabin, the fun-driving 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB serves as another entry point to the German automaker’s burgeoning SUV family.
Mercedes-Benz provided us with a 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC painted in eye-catching Galaxy Blue Metallic. As with any Mercedes vehicle, the GLB comes festooned with standard features, and the test vehicle also included a Multimedia Package, AMG Line exterior styling, a Premium Package, 64-color ambient lighting, heated front seats and adjustable damping suspension for a total MSRP of $49,725. Competitors to the GLB include the Audi Q5, BMW X3, Cadillac XT4, Jaguar E-PACE, Lexus NX, Lincoln Corsair and Volvo XC40.
Unlike many small crossovers on the U.S. market today, the GLB maintains classic squared-off SUV styling. Not only does this give the GLB a strong stance, it also maximizes interior space. The familiar Mercedes-Benz grille ties this entry-level SUV to the larger, more expensive models in the brand’s lineup.
The GLB 250 isn’t a high-performance AMG model, although it still has a powerful, commanding presence. Large fender flares and lower cladding give the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB a beefy appearance, and the rear spoiler with integrated dual exhaust outlets at the rear complete the look.
Our GLB test vehicle came equipped with a Premium Package featuring a 10.25-inch center display as well as the integrated 10.25-inch instrument cluster. Looking like a single, large screen, this setup gives the GLB a high-tech vibe. The large circular vents, flat bottom steering wheel and piano-black trim add some sporty flair as well.
We spent several hours behind the wheel of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB during a road trip to the Washington Coast. With red accent stitching and effective side bolsters, the front seats are attractive and comfortable. Extendable front-seat bottoms provide additional support for occupants with longer legs. Although there is minimal storage between the front seats, two cupholders and a wireless charging tray provide adequate space for devices and other small items.
The rear seats of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB also have red accent stitching, and with plenty of legroom and headroom the aft area is comfortable enough for two adults — three on short trips if they’re friendly and don’t mind feeling a bit cramped. Seats slide forward or backward to provide more space for cargo or an available third row. The seats can be folded flat with a 40/20/40 split for added versatility.
With the third row folded flat, the GLB offers an impressive level of cargo space for a small premium crossover — almost 40 cubic feet. We had no problem fitting luggage and supplies for a weeklong visit to the coast. The GLB’s large cargo hatch permits easy loading and unloading, and it makes an excellent ersatz bench while parked beachside.
Under the Hood
A 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine motivates the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB, producing 221 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque — the latter available at a low 1800 rpm for a responsive driving experience. The engine gets teamed with a smooth-shifting 8-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Mercedes-Benz claims the GLB will scamper to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds, although it feels quicker than that.
According to the official U.S. EPA numbers, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC is rated at 23 mpg city / 30 mpg hwy / 26 mpg combined. During our 160-mile drive from the Seattle area out to the Washington Coast in predominantly highway driving, the GLB’s display read 33 mpg — impressive results.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB allows drivers to choose from multiple modes that adjust engine response, suspension, steering and stability systems to better set up the crossover for a particular drive route. These attributes can be set independently or with presets such as Comfort or Sport. Sport mode provides a noticeable difference in driving dynamics with improved responsiveness and tighter steering.
The GLB we drove came equipped with Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive with variable torque distribution, which allows the driver to use Dynamic Select to choose different driving characteristics. In standard Eco/Comfort mode, torque gets split 80/20 between the front and rear axles, and the Sport mode split is 70/30. In Off-Road mode the all-wheel-drive clutch works as a center differential lock for a 50/50 torque split. We discovered the system works well while cruising soft, shifting sands on designated driving beaches of the Washington Coast.
On the Road
Although we were initially concerned that the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB’s 4-cylinder engine might feel underpowered, those worries were quickly quelled. With plenty of low-end torque, this crossover feels fast off the line with more than adequate power when needed.
With a solid, quiet ride, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB doesn’t feel like a small crossover — it feels like a Mercedes-Benz. Cruising at 70 mph is incredibly comfortable thanks to little road or wind noise infiltrating the cabin; thus occupants will appreciate the GLB’s German engineering.
Into the Corners
As good as the GLB is at highway cruising, it can be a lot of fun when the road starts winding. After putting the GLB into Sport mode, we soon appreciated this entry SUV’s responsive manners and commendable acceleration out of turns. Steering is point-and-shoot precise, making the GLB great fun to drive with a bit of brio.
On the Beach
And although we wouldn’t call the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB an off-roader, the test vehicle did have available all-wheel drive so we drove it out onto the sand (where legal) near Pacific Beach, Washington. The SUV has excellent sure-footed traction and the ride remains comfortable on uneven surfaces, although a bit more ground clearance would be preferred before attempting to drive through anything more challenging.
Even though the 2021 GLB resides near the entry point of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, it certainly doesn’t feel entry level. With familiar Mercedes-Benz styling and proper SUV proportions, this diminutive crossover looks good inside and out. The GLB provides decent room for a small family, including plenty of cargo space and an accommodating interior. Add in great performance and fuel-efficient operation and the GLB becomes a smart option in the extremely competitive compact premium SUV segment.