When did Mercedes-Benz first enter the compact SUV market? Mercedes-Benz has announced that an all-new compact SUV will begin production at their Rastatt Germany plant. The new compact crossover will be built alongside the B-Class and the new A-Class that rolled the first car off the assembly line yesterday that we reported here yesterday. The new SUV will share the same architecture as the new A-Class and B-Class models that are being first introduced in Europe, and will be launched here in the U.S. as the new CLA four-door coupe sometime next year.
The press release says the new compact SUV will be “sporty and emotive,” which could mean the new crossover will offer new competition for the BMW X1, Audi A3 and the Range Rover Evoque. Although Mercedes has not released specific information, the new compact SUV would likely be called the GLA. If we know how Mercedes thinks, the compact crosser will probably be sportier than the average compact SUV.
When did Mercedes-Benz first enter the compact SUV market?
Mercedes-Benz will give its 2015 GLA 250 compact SUV a North American debut in late November at the Los Angeles Auto Show, according to organizers.
The vehicle will be one of four global or national debuts for Mercedes-Benz at a show featuring 22 global debuts. The show runs from Nov. 19-21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The GLA 250 is the first Mercedes-Benz in the fast-growing compact SUV segment and the first from the automaker with an optional permanent all-wheel drive system known as 4MATIC with fully variable torque distribution. Front-wheel drive will be standard.
It will arrive with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 208 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. The European version of the vehicle has been rated to achieve 33.1 mpg, reports Car and Driver.
The GLA 250 would join the GLK, ML, GL, and G in the Mercedes-Benz SUV portfolio. The vehicle made its global debut at the International Motor Show in Frankfort in September. It will be available in the U.S. in the fall of 2014.
Mercedes-Benz confirms production of compact SUV
Mercedes-Benz has confirmed one of its worst-kept secrets that it will produce a new compact SUV at its Rastatt plant in Germany alongside the new A-Class and B-Class with which it shares its platform.
As previously reported by CarAdvice, the new baby SUV, potentially to be called the BLK or GLC, will join Mercedes’ Australian line-up by 2014 to take on the Audi Q3 and BMW X1.
Mercedes-Benz says the compact SUV will become the third model to roll off the Rastatt production line, and will be one of five small models constructed on the brand’s new ‘MFA’ platform, which include the A-Class hatchback, B-Class MPV, the CLA/CLC ‘four-door coupe’ due early next year, and potentially the SLC sports car further down the track.
Production of the five MFA-based models will be split between Rastatt and Mercedes’ new plant in Kecskemet, Hungary, which opened in March.
The ‘BLK’ will join an expanded SUV line-up from Mercedes-Benz Australia that will also include the next-generation mid-sized GLK, which will be engineered in right-hand drive to compete with the Audi Q5 and BMW X3.
The confirmation of the compact SUV came as the first new A-Class rolled off the Rastatt production line. The new A-Class will land in local showrooms in the first quarter of 2013 with an anticipated sub-$40,000 starting price to match the new Audi A3 and the BMW 1-Series.
Mercedes’s parent company, Daimler, has already invested 600 million euros ($715 million) into Rastatt for the construction of a new bodyshell building and for tools, and will invest another 600 million euros by 2013 to fund modifications to the assembly line and further equipment installations.
An additional 400 million euros ($477 million) will be invested into powertrain plants before the end of next year for production of components used exclusively by the new compact models.
The Rastatt expansion has created 900 new permanent jobs since 2010, including 500 in 2012 alone.
Mass Appeal Meets Compact Dimensions And Luxury
On the press drive in Colorado, I rode shotgun in the only U.S.-spec 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class in the United States. Behind the wheel was Jochen Eck, Mercedes’ senior manager for vehicle testing for compact cars, and he explained the differences between the GLB and its sedan siblings.
A longer wheelbase and extra width mean the GLB rides on the largest iteration Mercedes’ new MFA2 architecture, first used in the 2019 A-Class sedan. Asked if this platform could underpin larger vehicles, Eck immediately said no before adding that the GLB will be the biggest model on it. “You’d end up with compromised vehicles,” he said. “You would need to recalibrate too many things for it to conform to safety regulations and get it driving properly.”
The route followed twisty roads into Colorado’s front range. As a passenger, I noticed the firm suspension; you feel the road, but it’s not harsh. Eck’s team has created a nicely balanced standard setup that’s firm enough but doesn’t don’t toss you around over uneven roads. Learnings from previous models have been applied to the new generation of Mercedes-Benz compact cars.
As a result, the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class’ ride and handling have a level of sophistication absent from its predecessors. The available adaptive dampers were intentionally given only two modes. “There needs to be a clear distinction between them without sacrificing drivability,” Eck said. Compared to the base suspension, putting the adaptive dampers in Comfort mode makes it more compliant, and Sport mode is still stiffer for better handling.
Most of the testing done at altitude involves powertrain evaluations, and it’s clear Mercedes-Benz did its homework for the 2020 GLB-Class. Even at 8,000 feet with four passengers, the new 2.0-liter turbo-four chugs along like it’s at sea level. From the front passenger’s seat, turbo lag seemed minimal, and there was generous low- to midrange torque. The eight-speed transmission only reveals that it’s a dual-clutch unit when you stop on a hill, where it rolls backward slightly as you switch from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
The 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class is similarly sized to the rear-drive-based GLC-Class and Volkswagen Tiguan, the latter of which was used as part of the GLB’s benchmarking and development. Once you sit inside, you clearly see the benefits of its boxy exterior. It has an abundant head- and legroom and offers excellent outward visibility.
As a passenger, I appreciated the GLB’s cushy seats and roomy cabin, but I couldn’t help but think that the seating position is barely higher than your average sedan or hatchback. It seems obvious that Mercedes positioned this closer to a car despite its GLS-esque appearance. Pricing starts from $37,595 for a front-drive GLB 250; adding all-wheel drive bumps the sticker by $2,000.
Although the 2020 GLB-Class was developed with a third row in mind from the start, Eck admitted that packaging the interior was a challenge. “We had to rethink the area behind the second row to accommodate the third row while minimizing the impact on cargo capacity,” Eck said. When folded and out of the way, the third row doesn’t cut into cargo capacity much because the underfloor storage takes most of the hit. A sliding second-row bench adds more versatility to the 2020 GLB-Class’ cabin.
A Compact Luxury SUV With Potential
Mercedes-Benz representatives tell us that the 2020 GLB 250 prototype we rode in was among the first to come out of its plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, which also produces the A-Class. Despite its pre-production status, the interior’s ambience befits a luxury car. Many of the surfaces you touch use high-quality materials, and harder bits have been placed away from areas you interact with. Buttons and knobs have a satisfying tactility and reassuring clicks.
Our first impressions of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class were promising. Its quality and road manners appear to be an improvement over the outgoing CLA-Class and the soon-to-be-replaced GLA-Class. Additionally, the GLB gives buyers a family-friendly option that’s right-sized for life in urban areas. We look forward to getting behind the wheel of the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class and experiencing it and its more potent iterations thoroughly in the very near future.
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