Behind the Wheel: 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250

Recently when my car (a 2014 GLK 250) was in the shop having its windshield replaced, I was given a loaner car which happened to be something I’d wanted to get behind the wheel of for a while now: a 2023 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250.

I was interested in the GLB because it was basically the closest thing in Mercedes’ current lineup to my venerable old GLK, and if I ever needed to get a new car I had thought a GLB would be the most likely candidate, so I wanted to try it out.

I only had it for a short time – just one day – and I wasn’t able to drive it very much, but I was able to get a feel for it, and in many ways it exactly met my expectations – and in other ways, it surprised me a bit.

As expected, the upright profile of the GLB is very similar to my GLK, and I quite like that – a lot of newer “crossovers,” including the Mercedes GLC (which would be the 2nd closest to my GLK in the current MB lineup) are very rounded and have you sitting a bit lower and more leaned-back than I would like. So it was nice to see that the seating position and overall cabin layout of the GLB still had that upright feel. The seats were supportive and comfortable and I had no complaints about rear or side visibility.

The upright feel and overall “boxy” cabin had another benefit – lots of interior room. Despite being very similar in size to my GLK (only a little bit longer), the GLB has much more rear leg room and also more cargo room – both horizontally and vertically, thanks to the lack of a strongly sloping rear hatch (again, something that a lot of newer crossovers have – probably for efficiency reasons).

That said, the engine is… good, but not great. Like a lot of small gasoline turbos, it lacks punch down low – when you roll on to the throttle, for the first second or two you really feel that it is a very small engine in a relatively big/heavy vehicle. Once the turbo kicks in it gets much better – though there can be a bit of a surge of power if you’re not careful, and needing to be careful to avoid that surge can get tiring. This is probably something you’d get used to over time, but it was definitely noticeable to me right off the bat.

The tech is all the latest MB stuff – good, but really just hook up your phone via CarPlay or Android Auto and that’s the way to go. Cars distinguishing themselves by infotainment is really kind of a non-starter these days, in my mind. The dash is digital and customizable (as it should be in all cars these days, IMHO) and with a bit of time you could get it all just the way you like, which is exactly what you want.

One thing that really surprised me though was the noise – there was a surprising amount of both wind and engine noise. Given that I noticed this with the little amount of driving time I had, this is quite disturbing – I’m imagining that the noise would get tiring after a while. The wind noise I could partially forgive – being a bit of a boxy, upright vehicle with large-ish side mirrors there’s bound to be some wind noise – but the noise from the engine and wheels was a surprise. Maybe it was just the frequency of the sound more than the volume per se, but it was noticeable to me and I felt like it was louder than in my GLK (which, as a reminder, has a “noisy” diesel engine). So make of that what you will.

Overall, if I had to replace my current GLK, this would probably be what I’d pick… but I’d look long and hard at the electric version, the EQB, before making a decision. I haven’t driven that (yet), but I imagine the electric powertrain (in particular the instant torque from an electric engine) makes for a much smoother experience and eliminates the surge & low-speed throttle issues that the gasoline version has. But we’ll have to wait until I can drive one and see.

By Keith Survell

Geek, professional programmer, amateur photographer, crazy rabbit guy, only slightly obsessed with cute things.

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