New Mercedes GLB concept previews 2020 production model

The Mercedes Concept GLB combines practicality and performance by offering bags of space, rugged looks and all-wheel-drive

With a third of all Mercedes current sales SUVs – a total of 820,000 in 2018 – it’s difficult not to resist the temptation to add another. So enter the new Mercedes GLB – in concept form for now – which will make it eight SUVs in the brand’s line up. It’ll sit, unsurprisingly, between the GLA and the GLC.

The seven-seat Concept GLB has been revealed at the Shanghai Motor Show and is a thinly disguised version of the production car that will go on sale early in the UK early in 2020, with prices starting around the £30,000 mark.

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It shares its chassis tech, engines and many of its interior fittings with other models from Mercedes’ A-Class and B-Class ranges, but unlike the more coupe-like GLA, the GLB puts more emphasis on spaciousness and robustness, according to its makers.

This is the largest car to sit on the A-Class platform architecture, measuring 4,634mm long (217mm longer than the GLA), 1,890mm wide (up 86mm) and 1,900mm high including its roof box (a total of 406mm more). The 2,829mm-long wheelbase provides enough space for three rows of seats, with seats six and seven suitable for people up to 5’6” tall.

Elements of the exterior design nod to the bigger GLS, according to exterior designer Achim Badstübner. “The upright side glass and black pillars pay homage to the GLS,” he told us. “There are also elements of the G-Class in there, but this is a little more elegant.”

Badstübner also confirmed that the Concept GLB is pretty close to the real thing, saying, “All the white bodywork is production bodywork, but the concept car has different wheels and track, and gloss black trimmings.”

The bold chrome undertrays at the front and back are also likely to be for the concept only, but the front and rear lights with their intricate LED arrangements and the oversized front grille are all expected to carry over pretty much unchanged.

This is a car that will have real off-road presence, providing a more rugged-looking rival to Range Rover’s new Evoque and Volvo’s XC40. Short front and rear overhangs hint at the car’s off-road potential, while the doors overlap the sills to stop you getting dirty as you get in and out.

The interior also uses familiar bits from the A- and B-Class although the dashboard has its own unique form. The fabulous twin widescreen displays from the A-Class dominate the dash, while circular aluminium-look air vents also feature. “The interior form is exactly what production will be,” Badstübner told us.

Mercedes’ MBUX infotainment system features with ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control and, for the concept, gesture control, too.

The fancy Chestnut-coloured nubuk and nappa leather interior may not carry over, but the 40:20:40 split rear second-row bench will, as will the ability to slide it back and forward by up to 140mm to improve luggage space, or legroom if the two rearmost seats are raised.

To match the Concept GLB’s rugged looks, permanent all-wheel drive is fitted along with an eight-speed auto box. Three drive modes alter the power distribution from 80:20 in Eco/Comfort mode, through 70:30 in Sport mode to 50:50 in Off-road with the all-wheel drive clutch acting as an inter-axle differential lock.

Although the Concept GLB gets a 221bhp, 350NM 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine under its bonnet, the production GLB is expected to offer a similar line-up of engines to the GLA with lower-powered versions of the same 2.0-litre petrol unit, plus a couple of 2.2-litre clean diesel options. A hot Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 will also join the range eventually.

As with the GLA, the GLB is making its debut in Shanghai in concept form with the production model expecting to be unveiled at September’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

Click here for all the latest from the 2019 Shanghai Motor Show…