Mercedes-Benz GLB Driving, Engines & Performance | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Mercedes-Benz GLB

Published: 26 Nov 2019


What is it like to drive?

The GLB Brits will buy is the 220d with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Which is a good thing, because it’s by far the best of the normal GLBs. It’s got a good engine – the 2.0-litre diesel is quiet if you don’t clog it, transmits no nasty vibrations through the bulkhead, pedals or steering wheel, and delivers its 187bhp in smooth, linear fashion. Plenty fast enough – 0-62mph takes 7.6 seconds and the top speed is 135mph.

A good mate for the eight-speed dual-clutch auto, too, which is smoother, quicker-shifting and more cleverly calibrated than the old seven-speed still used by the petrol-engined, front-wheel drive GLB200 and many A-Classes. It’s more than happy to make use of the 295lb ft offered up from just 1,600rpm.

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Driving the GLB smoothly is easy thanks to progressive, consistently weighted steering and pedals, which encourage a relaxed driving style and ought to keep your passengers happy. We’d love to say it rides well too – the one we tried certainly felt pretty supple and had good body control – but it was fitted with adaptive dampers that in the UK will be optional only on the GLB35. So we can’t pass judgement on outright comfort just yet. Tyre-roar is minimal, even with big wheels fitted, but there is a bit of buffeting from around the sizable door mirrors.

The 200d uses the same four-cylinder diesel engine as the 220d, just with 40 fewer horsepower. It can accelerate from 0-62mph in 9 seconds and has a top speed of 127mph (or 9.3 seconds and 125mph if you choose all-wheel drive). We’ve not tried it – but assuming it offers the same level of refinement as the 220d, you could probably save some money and go for the less powerful car. A family bus like the GLB doesn’t need to be quite so fast as the 220d.

And what of the GLB200? It’s worth thinking about if you spend a lot of time driving in town. Performance is acceptable – about the same as the GLB200d (0-62mph in 9 seconds or so) – but load it up with people/things and it may struggle as it only has 184lb ft of torque to the 200d’s 236 and 220d’s 295. The 1.3-litre motor, shared with Renault/Nissan, gives 161bhp. Largely quiet but a bit thrashy at high-revs. The seven-speed auto feels better here than it does in the A- or B-Class, but it remains inferior to the eight. 

The GLB35, meanwhile, is a curious item. It shares an engine with the A35 hot hatch, but added size and therefore weight means it’s a little slower. ‘Only’ 5.2 seconds to 62mph, which, trust us, feels plenty fast enough. It’s an effective engine, this 302bhp 2.0-litre turbo, but not an especially exciting one. The exhaust note is droney, and the power delivery a bit flat.

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Where the GLB35 moves ahead of the A-Class is with the transmission – as it too gets the new eight-speed rather than the old seven. In manual mode it’s great – quick-shifting up and down the ‘box as required – but leave it to its own devices and it does some odd things.

The 35 is obviously firm – the adaptive dampers’ stiffer modes could prove too much for the UK – but controls its heft well, rolls progressively and isn’t all that uncomfortable. This is a safe, secure-feeling car that majors on grip – something it has vast reserves of – but lacks nuance. It’s all a bit one-dimensional, as evidenced by the fact even if you turn the ESP all the way off, the car still cuts power long before you get anywhere near the limit. Not that any owners should or indeed will care. Cross-country it's still rather rapid. 

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