Mercedes goes boxy with new baby crossover

Urvaksh Karkaria

Automotive News | 2019-4-16

SHANGHAI -- Mercedes-Benz is carving out yet another niche in the burgeoning crossover market with a small people mover -- this one styled like a traditional SUV -- underscoring the rapid fragmentation of the segment and a practice once common in the car market.

The German luxury automaker introduced the concept GLB -- an MFA2 platform companion to the GLA -- on the eve of the Shanghai auto show.

The GLB, referred to as the Baby G-Wagen, has an 111-inch wheelbase and fits up to seven people. 

The concept is powered by a four-cylinder engine that delivers 224 hp. The GLB also features all-wheel drive and an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Pricing and launch dates for the GLB have not been disclosed but dealers expect it to hit U.S. showrooms in the fourth quarter.

In China, the model will go up against BMW X1 and Audi Q3. In the U.S., the GLB will compete with the Lexus NX, Cadillac XT4 and BMW X1.

Meeting a niche
The GLB, which slots between the entry-level GLA and the GLC, adds another crossover in the Mercedes showroom aimed at entry-level luxury customers.

The GLA is compromised on interior space and utility, limiting its appeal, since one of the primary reasons people prefer crossovers is their practicality and functionality, said Ed Kim, analyst with AutoPacific. 

The GLB will offer a slightly larger and more functional package, a function of its boxy dimensions, Kim said. 

Being on the large side for the segment with three-row seating the GLB, however, risks cannibalizing some GLC sales.

Mercedes "will have to carefully position the GLB class to minimize negative impact on GLC class sales," Kim said.

The GLB concept is powered by a M260 four-cylinder gasoline engine. The cylinder bore is widened at the lower end of the cylinder liners to minimize friction and thereby lower fuel consumption. The pistons feature cooling ducts for more efficient combustion. The aluminum four-valve cylinder head features a variable-valve timing system that can increase fuel efficiency or boost the engine's performance.

Utility exterior
The GLB concept has the muscular exterior proportions and luxurious interior similar to the discontinued Mercedes GLK.

For the first time in a compact model by Mercedes-Benz, the GLB's third-row seat is equipped with two additional single seats that can be folded for extra cargo capacity. The third-row seats fit two medium-sized occupants, Mercedes notes.

The GLB is also equipped with Mercedes' new multimedia system Mercedes-Benz User Experience.

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