Salt Lake City - Mercedes-Benz has whipped the covers off its first ever GLB SUV, which is the latest (and largest) member of the compact car front-wheel-drive platform that also underpins the A-Class and B-Class.

Measuring 4634mm in length and 1834mm in width, the GLB is similar in size to the Nissan X-Trail and Land Rover Discovery Sport, and it also offers the option of a seven-seat interior configuration, although that third row is best left to the kids, or those less than 1.68 metres in height.

The GLB has a more muscular design than the other ‘GL’ badged SUVs - and while it's still relatively sleek and modern, one gets the idea that it wants to be a G-Class when it grows up.

Being car-based, it’s not a hardcore off-roader, but Mercedes has put some effort into making it more rugged than the average crossover, and models fitted with 4Matic all-wheel-drive are available with an Off-Road Engineering Package which includes a special off-road light function that makes it easier to spot obstacles in rough terrain in the dark.

The 4Matic system has fully-variable torque distribution and can be configured through three modes, including an off-road function that locks the distribution at 50:50. Those seeking a more comfortable ride can opt for a comfort suspension with adaptive damping.

The international engine range consists of two new-generation petrol derivatives and two diesels, all turbocharged.

On the petrol front there’s a GLB 200 with a 1.3-litre engine, rated at 120kW and 250Nm, and mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, while the range topper is a GLB 250 featuring Merc’s 2-litre unit with 165kW and 350Nm, and paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch 'box.

Both diesel options are 2-litre units but with different tuning, the GLB 200d offering 110kW and 320Nm and the GLB 220d offering 140kW and 400Nm. Both versions are fitted with the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox and all-wheel-drive is optional on the 200d and standard on the 220d.

Besides a few unique trim elements around the middle of the dashboard, GLB’s cabin will be a familiar sight to those who have sat in the latest-generation A-Class.

There’s a wide free-standing screen that incorporates the MBUX infotainment system with learning-capable software and smart voice control, as well as (optional) navigation featuring augmented reality.

The GLB can also be ordered with a number of smart driving assistance gadgets that allow ‘semi-autonomous’ driving in certain situations. These include Active Distance Assist, which can adapt speed before corners, crossroads and roundabouts, Active Steering Assist with Active Lane Change Assist and Active Parking Assist.

We are currently awaiting feedback on the company’s South African plans for the GLB.

IOL Motoring