Mercedes-Benz GLB and EQB review
While the GLB and the EQB are the spiritual successor of the B- Class, there’s not even a hint of MPV in them. The world wants SUVs, and the boxier the better. And that’s why you get for the first time in this segment, two seven seat SUVs that aim to plug the gap left vacant by the sold-out GLC. Until the next generation of the GLC comes to Indian shores, Mercedes aims to test the waters for a more affordable 7-seater and if that extra row in an EV makes it more desirable.
Design of the Mercedes-Benz GLB and EQB
Parked next to each other, while the scale of the two is the same, you will not be able to tell that they have the same platform underneath. The GLB looks very cool with its straight lines, high bonnet and tall shoulders. The rear looks like a shrunken GLS, which will appeal to many. It’s marginally narrower than the GLC but longer and taller so cabin space can be maximised to fit an extra row of seats. Overall, despite the GLB’s compact dimensions, it’s got good space on the inside, which is a packaging win for Mercedes.
The EQB though, is a slightly different story. It doesn’t get its own EV architecture like the EQS so the compromises come in fitting the battery in the floor. It’s higher set, eating on ground clearance and legroom in the cabin. It has exactly the same shut lines as the GLB but the swooping headlights and connected taillamps soften the whole macho stance. You may even think it borders on an estate body style but these are proper 7-seat SUVs. The EQB rides on smaller and more aero-friendly 18-inch wheels compared to the larger 19 AMG five-spoke alloys on the GLB 220d 4Matic, giving the latter a much sportier stance. The grille and a few EQB badges aside, these SUVs are the same, despite looking so different.
Interior of the Mercedes-Benz GLB and EQB
Both sport smart and familiar interior design with the large rectangular screen on the dashboard split into two 10.25-inch screens for the centre console and instrument cluster. You get all the different dials to swap displays the way you like it, with the EV showing EV specific dials and the GLB showing the tachometer. The EQB gets rose gold inserts for the air vents and the seat upholstery gets a similar shade, ‘man-made leather’ and fabric made of sustainable materials, but the steering wheel is wrapped in nappa leather, which is a bit of a mismatch. The GLB gets a lovely micro-fibre black upholstery that feels very premium.
The front seats are electrically adjustable and very comfortable but the real party trick is the flexibility of the cabin. The middle row can slide by up to 140mm which can make plenty of space in the third row on the days you want to stuff your kids in there. When used as a five seater, the seat also reclines by 25 degrees. The floor is a bit high in the EQB due to the battery so you will sit a little knees-up. The third row isn’t for adults. Even Mercedes is being straightforward about that row being suitable only for pre-teens so let’s not fuss about how cramped it is. Fold it flat and you get enough space for your pet. It also gives plenty of luggage space. With the third row up, you get a non-existent boot – 110 litres in the EQB and 130 litres in the GLB. Fold the third row and that frees up 465 litres in the EQB and 500 litres in the GLB. Even the middle row folds flat, giving you over 1000 litres of boot space. You get over 1600 litres if you count to the roof, but then again, this isn’t a Tata Ace, so don’t go register on Porter.
Performance of the Mercedes-Benz GLB and EQB
For the first time on a media drive, we got the opportunity to drive a diesel and electric variant back-to-back. Let’s start with the GLB. You get two engine options, a 1.4-litre turbo petrol in the GLB 200 that makes 161bhp and 250Nm, gets cylinder deactivation and powers the front wheels via a 7-speed DSG. We didn’t get to sample this on the drive. The GLB also gets a 2-litre diesel powering either the front wheels or all four in the top spec version – the GLB 220d and the 220d 4Matic. We drove the latter. It makes 188bhp and 400Nm and can do the 0-100kmph sprint in 7.6 seconds. So it’s no slouch. The engine sounds a bit gruff at low revs but as the engine speed picks up, the car sounds sportier. The diesel get the 8-speed DSG that works so well when you drive in Sport mode, you wouldn’t want to keep it in any other setting. The shifts are always on time, on a winding road, the SUV always feels like it's in the right gear, it just works so well with that 2-litre motor. Since the GLB isn’t a very wide car, you can hustle it in the twisties, but we’ll come to the handling in the next section. Let’s hop into the EQB first.
Because as much fun as the GLB is to drive, the EQB is better. On paper, the sprint times are slower – 0-100kmph comes in 8 seconds for the EQB 300, but you have all the torque all the time in the EQB and that really works in its favour every time you slow down. The 66.5kWh battery isn’t the largest so power delivery is conservative on the 300, ensuring you get the best of the 423km claimed WLTP range. Nevertheless, there’s ample performance to make you want to like this car. There’s a creamy smoothness to the way the EQB goes about its business. You get to the destination fresher than when you started the drive. EVs are very relaxing, and on a winding road, driving downhill, there is no range anxiety as well. You only add range so as long as the battery is big enough to take you to the top of the hill, you theoretically won’t out of charge, because regen adds to the EQB rapidly. The 300 makes 225bhp and 390Nm of torque. Since both are CBUs (the GLB comes from Mexico and the EQB from Hungary), the 350 wasn’t brought to India as it wouldn’t be priced competitively.
Ride and handling of the GLB and EQB
The ride is surprisingly good. You get steel springs, not air suspension, and the SUVs aren’t tuned for Indian roads, but low speed ride is excellent, and even when cornered hard, the SUVs feel surefooted. All-wheel drive helps put all the power down well, and the seat cushioning holds you well to continue with spirited driving down a winding road. The SUVs feel light on their feet, especially the GLB. The EQB carries a 469kg battery which makes it weigh a fair bit more but the centre of gravity is low so that helps in agility. Ground clearance at 155mm in the EQB isn’t what you’d expect in an SUV, but it’s better than the 142mm you get in an EQC. The two ridges on the bonnet give a commanding driving position, so while I like to set the seat low, in the EQB and GLB, to keep the ridge lines in sight, I set the seat a little higher.
Price of the GLB and EQB
Mercedes-Benz India will launch the GLB and EQB on December 2. Since both are CBUs expect to pay a premium on both. The EQC has an ex-showroom price of Rs 99.5 lakh so expect the EQB to undercut it by about 8-10 lakh rupees. The GLB will cost more than the outgoing GLC though. Would you get either one of these due to their seven seats though? And if you, would you pick a petrol or a diesel, sticking to the traditional dinosaur juice or welcome the future with electric motoring?