Home Reviews 2021 Mercedes GLB 250: Challenging The Value Proposition

2021 Mercedes GLB 250: Challenging The Value Proposition

The European market, especially Germany, features ample offerings from BMW, Mercedes, and the like for every price point. The C-class is even considered the “German Camry” by many. However, the US market sees Mercedes as a premium luxury offering, and there is an expectation to be met. Enter the GLB 250, a relatively affordable Mercedes with an identity crisis that doesn’t actually upset me. So what’s its value proposition?

Out of Spec Score: 72/100

Styling

It’s no G-Class, but the GLB is about as boxy as you can get with a mid-size Mercedes CUV. The front end doesn’t embrace the box quite as much, but the cabin itself extends the roof line nearly all the way to the back bumper. The windows themselves are surrounded with chrome, not my favorite accent, but at least it matches the roof rails and rear bumper. Headlights and taillights are unique yet safe designs that I like, but others disagreed. Beauty must be in the eye of the beholder.

The color is a beautiful galaxy blue metallic with black AMG Line accents that make for a great design as a whole. Complete with the 5-spoke 19” AMG wheels, there are few angles where the GLB doesn’t look good. This specifically has the AMG Line w/Night Package, with the black aggressive exterior body line accents and one of my favorite grills ever, the chrome diamond-block grill. 

The front fascia features bold lines and real air inlets along the lower corners, extending into black cladding along the wheel arches and side skirt areas. The rear diffuser is very well executed, though the exhaust tips are sadly fake. Roof rails accommodate the top, but our example was missing the glass panorama roof. Is the GLB a perfect masterpiece? No, but I appreciate the direction Mercedes is going, aside from the ridiculous size of the front emblem adorning the grill.

Interior

The interior fit and finish and material choice is a very mixed bag. On one hand, the seats and steering wheel are fantastic, with metal accents adorning various parts of the interior. But the plastics used feel substantially subpar and even creak in certain touch-points of the door and dashboard. It looks fantastic in typical Mercedes fashion, but doesn’t entirely feel like the luxurious expectations generated by prior Mercedes models that have come to the US. 

The steering wheel, also part of the AMG Line package, features a flat bottom. I would have preferred a perfect circle, but if you want a flat-bottom sport wheel in your 4-cylinder SUV, the option does exist. The AMG Line also provides aluminum pedals and paddle shifters. Interestingly, the AMG Line also includes AMG-badged floor-mats, which are merely normal floor-mats with an AMG badge. I suppose it completes the diluted AMG Line component, being purely visual rather than functional. 

Seats are comfortable, with these specifically encased in MB-Tex. The back seats are very spacious and capable of some reclining or being folded altogether. With an optional third row, the second row seats can also slide forwards or backwards providing extra leg room. 

Performance

Upon hearing about the use of a 2.0L 4-cylinder in a nearly 4Runner-sized crossover, I was nervous to say the least. But the capability of the addition of the turbo worked wonders to get it going in every scenario. There is a noticeable turbo lag, but once it kicks in you will absolutely feel it. 221 hp and 258 lb-ft torque provide decent numbers, and combined with the 4MATIC AWD system, the GLB can accelerate to 60 mph in an impressive 6.9 seconds. 

Our media vehicle was equipped with the optional adaptive dampers. For $990, I find it highly worth the money considering the comfort of daily cruising. Switching to sport mode tightens it up for an engaging driving experience around corners. Body roll is inevitable, but it felt planted enough for most driving any GLB owner would engage in. Steering feel was well-executed, also adjustable between sport and comfort. 

As a whole, the drivetrain is a mixed bag. The engine does sound excellent, but it is not the smoothest 4-cylinder, eclipsed slightly by the feel of the likes of BMW. The dual-clutch transmission is also two-sided, being excellent in performance-minded driving, but getting in the way somewhat with low-speed traffic. You can at times feel the clutches working, something you wouldn’t necessarily want to think about in normal commutes. 

Driving modes include individual, sport, comfort, and eco. They don’t differ drastically, but offer subtle changes in steering wheel feel, damper stiffness, and accelerator pedal calibration. Most noticeably, switching to sport mode keeps the revs much higher, keeping you within turbo revs and ready to launch at any given moment. Shifting with the aluminum paddles is also fairly responsive, though not lightning quick. As a whole, I found the performance to be impressive, especially in light of what’s on paper. 

Practicality

The GLB is impressively practical for its size, with 27 cubic feet with seats up, and 62 cubic feet with seats folded. Adding the optional third row does reduce these figures a bit. It is impressive nevertheless to have this much capacity and capability in a vehicle this size, something largely due to the boxy nature of the GLB rather than the so-called “Sportback” becoming more relevant in the market today. The irony of crossovers becoming less storage-efficient is an argument for another day, but it’s worth noting that the GLB is smaller than an SQ5 Sportback but can accommodate more overall capacity. 

Fuel economy is also impressive, undoubtedly due to the small engine. EPA ratings have it at 23 city and 30 highway, and we were able to match or exceed that in our testing. Given the 2 or even 3 row capability, it is one of the better options for full combustion engine CUVs.

Technology

Equipped with the premium package, this GLB has the MBUX infotainment experience with larger 10.25” screens in driver view and center. There is no Wireless CarPlay or Android Auto options, however, making for a surprising missed opportunity. The standard sound system is decent, one of the better standard ones in existence. But for $850 you can option Burmester, a significant improvement. There is also the 64 color ambient lighting, a great staple to modern Mercedes vehicles when optioned, and I was lucky enough to experience it on this model.

The interaction with MBUX is easiest via touchscreen, though there is also a touchpad and steering wheel controls as additional input options. I found the touchpad mostly useful, though within CarPlay it rarely cooperated. This helped me realize my preference for a dial rather than a touchpad, but it does work for the most part.

Climate control was easy enough to interact with but I found myself wishing for a dedicated small LCD readout of the temperatures. Mercedes instead shows them on the center screen above but not always easily legible depending on the displayed content surrounding it. 

Interestingly, our model was not equipped with adaptive cruise control or lane assistance, though it teased the capabilities with the “driver assist” screen showing that it can indeed sense the car in front of it. It is an option, however, and I would definitely opt for it when configuring my GLB. That being said, it’s one of the more engaging CUVs to drive, with the engine character and driving dynamics. I never found it too cumbersome to drive myself, but if you value driver assist features, it’s a great option to add. 

Editor’s Assessment

Priced as tested at a hair under $50,000 the GLB is an intriguing value proposition. On one hand, it’s a Mercedes SUV for sub-Mercedes money, at least as viewed in the American market. But you also must dilute your expectations. Despite some shared design attributes, the interior fit and finish and materials are in no way comparable to a G-Class or other more premium Mercedes models. 

As configured, I would expect more for the money, but for just a bit more, you can add the likes of Adaptive Cruise Control, glass roof, and the premium Burmester sound system. With fully loaded coming in at roughly $60,000, I do consider it a good value at that point. Given our reality of there being “too many” CUVs to choose from, I still appreciate these tertiary options and the inevitable buyers with Mercedes loyalties. 


Design 7.5/10

  • Exterior design 7.5/10
  • Interior design 7/10
  • Materials 8/10

Interior 7.5/10

  • Build quality 6/10
  • Comfort 7.5/10
  • Capacity 9/10

Performance 7.3/10

  • Acceleration 7/10
  • Handling 8/10
  • Efficiency 8/10

Technology 6.3/10

  • Connected services 6/10
  • UI/UX 7/10
  • Active Safety 6/10

Editor’s Assessment 7.3/10

  • Value 7/10
  • Market placement 7/10
  • Editors Influence 8/10
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