With the GLB range, Mercedes-Benz is offering a unique SUV featuring Petrol, Diesel and Electric options. But, how does the GLB drive? And is the EQB practical enough? We find out.
Way back in September 2019 I was at the Frankfurt Motor Show (back when motor shows were still a thing) I found myself at the Mercedes hall, looking at the newly-launched GLB. And what impressed me was the practicality that it had to offer, and I asked myself, why doesn’t Mercedes launch the GLB in India? Well, it seems the folks at Mercedes India also had similar thoughts, as they have now launched the GLB in India. In fact, they’ve done one better and also brought along its electric cousin – the EQB – to India. Offering seven seats in a pretty compact package, along with a choice of powerplants means the GLB range is a pretty attractive proposition. But, how does it drive? And does the EQB offer a practical option for everyday use? We spent a day driving both from frigid Kodaikanal to steaming Madurai to find exactly that.
This is a term used liberally by Mercedes in their presentation of the GLB, and when you look at the two together, you certainly see how the GLB borrows most of its design cues from the GLS, just like the C-Class draws inspiration from the S-Class. While they share the same basic design and platform, both the front and rear ends of the GLB and EQB are vastly different. On the EQB for instance, you get a large black plastic panel which mimics the design of Mercedes’ other EVs along with blue detailing in its lights. The rear of the EQB features a full-width taillight, which looks very impressive. The GLB on the other hand had a nice shiny grille in the AMG trim model that we were driving, and has a large front bumper. The rear has conventional separate taillights and the tailgate is a direct inspiration from the GLS. Wheels on the EQB are 18-inchers, while the GLB in AMG trim featured 19-inch alloys. Overall, both the GLB and EQB carry over the current Mercedes design language and have a pretty good road presence. If I were to criticise, I would say that they could add some more adventurous touches to the design, as everything looks a bit traditional right now, but there really isn’t much to complain about.
If you’re familiar with the current Mercedes design language, you’ll find yourself right at home in the GLB and EQB. Right in the centre of the dash is the large 10.25-inch multimedia touchscreen, flanked by the digital instrument cluster which is also a 10.25-inch screen. What I really like about the interiors of both the GLB and the EQB is that a lot of the controls are governed by toggle style physical switches – such as the airconditioning – and it is such a relief to use the button rather than fiddling with a screen. The air vents are in the familiar turbine design that looks quite cool and function quite well. And breaking the monotony of the black interior are brushed aluminium inserts that look quite good. While they largely maintain the same interiors, the EQB differs from the GLB with the gold highlights that have been applied to the seats, air vents and in a few other places. Also, a special mention for the seats, they are particularly supportive and comfortable.
Of course, one of the biggest aspects of a seven-seater SUV has to be practicality, and here both the EQB and GLB do a pretty decent job. The second row slides for maximum room when the third row is not in use, and can be pushed forward when there are people in the third row. And while the third row might not be the most spacious, for people under six feet, it is possible to sit comfortably. The floor height is also not too tall, which means there’s a decent amount of comfort and you could certainly sit there for a couple of hours or so. The main issue though is that the second row doesn’t fold – the seatback only tilts forward – and this means getting in and out of the third row can be a bit cumbersome. And oh, given the under 4.7-metre size of the GLB/ EQB, if all three rows of seating are being used, there is nominal boot space available, just enough to fit two small soft bags. With the third row folded though, there’s enough space to take enough luggage for a long road trip.
On the Road
One of the biggest advantages of having an electric powerplant is the instant torque that it offers, and here the EQB doesn’t disappoint. With 225bhp and 390Nm though, the figures don’t seem that impressive (especially when something like the Volvo XC40 Recharge offers 402bhp and 660Nm), but fact of the matter is, even the 390Nm paired with all-wheel drive is more than enough for most drivers. What impressed me more was that the EQB’s mass is quite well-controlled and like many other EVs, it doesn’t feel like something overweight. The steering also offers a decent feel, and despite the large 19-inch wheels, the ride is very good and the suspension has been set up very well. In fact, what really impresses is the refinement, with no engine noise, it does make the cabin a very nice place to be. As far as driving range is concerned, the EQB has a 66.5kWh battery, which provides a real-world range of around 350 – 360kms in our driving conditions, while the claimed range is 423kms in the WLTP cycle. And with the 350kms of range, the EQB is practical enough for most drivers who have access to charging at home or office. If there was one thing that annoyed me about the EQB, it would have to be the default regen mode, which was a bit too aggressive for my liking, taking it down a notch made it much less aggressive and much more pleasant to drive.
Get into the GLB 220d after the EQB and the minute you start it, you wonder why the interior is so noisy. Well, it’s not noisy as such, but that’s just the feeling you get after the quiet interiors of the EQB. The 2.0-litre turbocharged powerplant is a powerful unit with 188bhp and 400Nm. The torque also starts from just 1,600rpm and the engine is ultra-responsive. The most impressive aspect of the GLB, though, is how well the 8-speed gearbox has been tuned with this engine, and throughout our drive, I never needed to manually change the gears and the gearbox kept the car in the right gear in all kinds of traffic conditions. Like the EQB, the GLB also rode very well and was quite good to drive. And with the new diesel engine, the GLB also offers pretty good fuel efficiency – I regularly saw figures of above 12km/l – which makes it quite cheap to run.
Electric or ICE?
Well, that’s a proper conundrum of choice when it comes to the GLB and EQB duo. At 350kms and with an ex-showroom price of `74.5 lakh the EQB makes for a very practical and well-priced package and is very tempting, especially if you have access to charging. But for me personally, the GLB 220d makes a compelling case for itself – priced between `66.8 – 69.8 lakh – providing a pretty fun-to-drive car, with loads of practicality and unlimited driving range.
- Mercedes-Benz EQB 300
- Mercedes-Benz GLB 220d
Motors: Dual; Front – ASM, Rear – PASM
Battery: 78kWh Lithium-ion
Transmission: Single-Speed / All-Wheel Drive
Range: Up to 423kms (WLTP Cycle)
Price: ₹74.5 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-Factor: The GLB/EQB duo offer a genuine seven-seater alternative in a manageable size, and it’s available in electric form too!
Engine: 1,950cc / 4-Cylinder / Turbocharged
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic / All-Wheel-Drive
Power: 188bhp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,600 – 2,600rpm
Price: ₹69.80 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)