Mercedes shows off chunky GLB in Shanghai that aims to be a mini G-Wagen

A-Class-based SUV meant to evoke the image of the rugged G-Wagen off-roader

 

Mercedes wants to take on the likes of the Audi Q3 and BMW X1 by harking back to a time when SUVs were not a thing, and off-roaders were square, chunky, and rugged. The new GLB, which is being shown this week in concept form at the Shanghai motor show, is Mercedes’ assault on the compact, premium SUV class, and looks to be a much more sophisticated offering than the old GLK (which was never sold in right-hand drive).

It’s the eighth model to be based on Mercedes’ new front-wheel drive MFB architecture (if you include China-only long-wheelbase models) and shares its basic structure with the A-Class hatch and saloon, the B-Class MPV, and the CLA four-door coupe. It will sit, in the Mercedes range, between the existing (and just-facelifted) GLC SUV and the upcoming new GLA compact crossover. “We asked ourselves whether there is still space between the GLA and GLC in our successful SUV range. The Concept GLB is the answer to this question. With it we are demonstrating the creative ideas we have for this segment, too,” said Britta Seeger, member of the board of management of Daimler, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars sales. “The Concept GLB is a durable and practical SUV with nonetheless compact dimensions. Whether it is a generous, seven-seater family vehicle or a versatile leisure time companion: we are certain that this concept will be of great interest to our customers.”

The GLB gets a very long wheelbase, which means it can squeeze seats for seven into that compact body (which possibly explains why Mercedes isn’t offering a seven-seat version of the B-Class MPV).

Boxy lines

The styling is clearly meant to evoke the upright, boxy lines of the original G-Wagen; Mercedes’ first-ever off-roader, which was effectively a civilian-ised version of German army 4x4. The concept gets 17-inch alloy wheels with extra-chunky off-road tyres, while there’s also an integrated roof box and roof-mounted LED lights for off-roading at night. Or just for scaring the local cat population.

Inside, there’s a taller, more upright version of the A-Class’ cabin, with the cutting-edge MBUX digital dashboard, acres of brown leather, and some orange highlights. There are indeed folding seats in the boot, but they look pretty small – don’t expect to be able to fit anyone but the smallest passengers back there.

Electric version

The concept GLB comes with the 224hp 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, and 4matic four-wheel drive, from the A250 hot hatch, but of course a full range of petrol and diesel models will be available when the GLB goes on sale later this year. There will also be a fully-electric version called the EQB.

“The Concept GLB combines the advantages of multiple worlds: it is a genuine seven-seater, a genuine SUV – and is built on a compact platform. We are convinced that this vehicle format will inspire many customers in China and all over the world,” says Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “ We will therefore present the series version of the GLB this summer.”