Mercedes SUV gets more family-friendly

Mercedes SUV gets more family-friendly

The enduring popularity of SUVs speaks volumes for their pragmatic appeal to Aussie families.

The high driving position, extra luggage space and general ease of getting kids and equipment in and out often make them the first choice for many.
 
Having made the decision to buy an SUV, the next big call is whether it should be a five- or a seven-seater.

With the Australian Bureau of Statistics declaring the average Australian family size is just 2.6 persons, it’s clear that a standard five-seater will suffice, for most people most of the time. 

However, as anyone with children knows, the little cherubs have a habit of attracting friends like bees to pollen, meaning an extra row of seats is a nice-to-have, if not necessarily a must-have. 

The downside, of course, is that to get the extra perches, you often need to go up a class and purchase a bigger vehicle, when a large and cumbersome SUV is not necessarily what you want or need.

Enter the Mercedes-Benz GLB, which offers an elegant, if somewhat pricey, solution to this dilemma by cleverly packaging a third row of seats into a relatively compact package.

This isn’t the first time this feat has been attempted, of course. The early Mitsubishi Outlander’s were compact seven-seaters, and Volkswagen also offers a long wheelbase Tiguan with a third row. 

<Mercedes-Benz GLB

But this is the first time the German prestige car maker has squeezed a third row into its expanding range of compact vehicles. 

"Every third Mercedes-Benz is now an SUV, every fourth a compact car. So a compact SUV such as the GLB blends all the success factors of our two highest-volume segments,” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG

The GLB is based on the Mercedes-Benz MFA2 platform, which also underpins such models as the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA. 

The secret to its spaciousness is an extended wheelbase, which at 2829mm is 100mm longer than the B-Class, hence freeing up critical space for the extra row.

A high roofline helps passenger comfort as well, with Benz claiming best-in-class front-seat headroom and third row seating that is comfortable for passengers up to 1.68m tall. 

Having extra seats is all well and good but you still need somewhere to put the prams, shopping and other detritus of life, and here the GLB comes to the party with a load space that expands from 560 litres with the second row in place, to 1755 litres with both the second and third rows stowed.

The two third-row seats stow flush with the load compartment floor when lowered, to maximise cargo capacity. 

Safety equipment for the third row includes retractable head restraints, seat belts with belt tensioners, a side window airbag, plus ISOFIX and TOP-Tether anchorages for suitable child seats. 

Mercedes-Benz GLB

In total the GLB offers four ISOFIX points across the two rear rows, endowing it with an impressive level of kiddie-carrying flexibility. 

The second row of seats can also be moved fore-aft by 140mm, and the seat-back is conveniently split 40:20:40 for added versatility.

A multi-stage back rest means second-row passengers can mimic inconsiderate airline passenger and crush the knees of the person behind. 

Fortunately, there are no tray tables to speak of but there are other nods to third-row civility, like drink holders mounted between the seats, and outboard stowage compartments on either side fitted with a USB port. 

The GLB’s off-road-oriented design and impressive carrying capacity has attracted plenty of praise in Europe, where it went on sale last August, and Mercedes-Benz Australia claims to have been fielding strong customer enquiries and pre-orders for its new model, which is due here later this year. 

"Its iconic design lends the Mercedes-Benz GLB an unmistakable SUV character," said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer at Daimler AG. "The clear forms, with reduced lines and powerful surfaces, convey our design philosophy of Sensual Purity."

When it does arrive, the new compact SUV will be available in three different specifications, starting with the Mercedes-Benz GLB 200, priced at $59,900 (MRLP).

Powered by a 1.3-litre, direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the GLB 200 sends its 120kW and 250Nm outputs to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Standard features include the MBUX multimedia system with a widescreen cockpit featuring side-by-side 10.25-inch digital screens.

Other key features include keyless entry and start, electric tailgate, climate control, smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, satellite navigation, and leather-trimmed multifunction steering wheel with shift buttons, reversing camera, and 19-inch Multi-Spoke alloy wheels.

Mercedes-Benz GLB

Standard safety features across the range include active parking assist with PARKTRONIC, adaptive high-beam assist, blind-spot assist, traffic-sign assist, active lane-keep assist, active brake assist with semi-autonomous braking, and nine airbags.

Stepping up to the $73,900 (MRLP) GLB 250 4MATIC brings a larger and more powerful 2.0-litre, direct-injected and turbocharged petrol engine that produces a meatier 165kW and 350Nm and drives all-four wheels via an eight-speed automatic.

Standard equipment includes a panoramic sunroof, electric and heated front seats with memory, adjustable dampers, a Sports Direct-Steer System, 19-inch wheels, and an off-road engineering package. The latter includes downhill speed regulation and an additional driving mode to adapt the engine power delivery, all-wheel drive system and ABS intervention for mild off-road driving. 

At the top of the tree is the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4 MATIC, priced at $88,900 (MRLP) and powered by an AMG-tuned 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol punching out a muscular 225 kW and 400 Nm via an AMG-enhanced  eight-speed auto and  4MATIC all-wheel-drive. 

An extensive suite of AMG performance-focused features includes sports exhaust, high-performance brakes, speed-sensitive power steering and sports suspension with electronically controlled damping.

Other exclusive features include an AMG performance leather steering wheel, leather sport seats, brushed stainless steel pedals, carbon interior trim, dark-tinted privacy glass, AMG-specific body styling and 20-inch alloy wheels.

The GLB 200 and 250 are on sale now, while the GLB 35 is expected to land here in August.