Playing to more empty slots than a retired veteran in Vegas, Mercedes has one of the largest SUV ranges of any luxury brand out there. With the addition of the latest siblings, they have claimed undisputed leadership in the SUV category now and that includes all-electric luxury and AMG versions. The GLB, which has been around in international markets for a couple of years finally comes to India but to keep things as fresh as possible, Mercedes has tagged it with the EQB 300 all-electric version to make it a team of a 7-seaters that provide GLS feels, but on a budget, with emphasis on “budget” being a relative term.
Mercedes-Benz EQB / GLB First Drive review
It’s anyone's guess whether 7-seaters work for their actual seating capacity of 7 pax or if people just like the idea of being prepared for when the time comes. Regardless, Mercedes makes no bones about the third row being suitable for pre-teens or pets only. With that out of the way, we can appreciate the design of the GLB for what it is - an unabashed blend of a boxy shape but with soft edges that are in line with the “sensual purity” design language of the marque. The AMG trim on the GLB220d 4Matic looks especially attractive with 19in wheels and a diamond-studded single-slat front grille.
There are intentional similarities between the flagship GLS, especially in the upright stance, the window line and the split tail lights and that’s a good thing. In addition, the EQB and GLB add their own distinctive kink in the C-pillar that gives the beltline more character and instant recall. In addition, the EQB features the now familiar “EQ face” of electric Mercs, so has a blacked-out grille and a lightbar connecting the headlights. It does make for a unique signature and is tastefully done. The unique rose gold colour only available for the EQB 300 can split opinions but is undoubtedly an eye-catching shade and helps it stand out, even further.
Cabin design has a lot more common elements and it’s a lovely place to be with avant-garde design and superb build quality. Sure, it shares more elements with the smaller GLA rather than the larger GLC, but there are chunky aluminium flourishes to the door panels and centre console to give it the necessary butchness. The turbine-inspired AC vents are just a piece of art in themselves and they click and illuminate, making them even more special. MBUX in its newest generation is intuitive enough and the inclusion of the trackpad on the centre console makes it easier to navigate while driving, instead of prodding the screen. Although, the twin 10.25in screens have the crispest graphics and best resolution in this class, with a ton of EQ-related information presented in a logical and legible way. There are minor differences between the feature sets of the two siblings too such as an upgraded 10-speaker 225W audio system in the EQB that sounds stellar even though it isn’t a Burmester-sourced unit. it also gets Lane Keep Assist and Blind Spot Assist as additional features over the petrol-powered GLB while the 64-colour ambient lighting gets an added artsy pattern on the dashboard trim.
Thankfully, the steering wheel reverts to physical controls from the last generation instead of the all-capacitive controls as seen on newer Mercs. They work like German controls are supposed to…tactile and precise. Between voice, touch, steering and touchpad you have plenty of choices to go through the vast MBUX settings. Car-to-X, MercedesMe app control and intelligent navigation all work in tandem to keep you in control and always on the best route for maximizing the EQB’s range. Goodies like seat kinetics, seat memory, and panoramic sunroof only heighten the feel-good factor but wireless phone mirroring is strangely missing. Plenty of USB-C ports front and back and wireless charging are present though.
Mercedes seems keen on ensuring that there is a GLB for every kind of customer and so it comes with a petrol, diesel, diesel 4Matic (AWD) with AMG trim and an EV! I drove the EQB all the way from Kodaikanal to Madurai, which was mostly downhill, but the EQB, with its 66.5kWh battery, was showing a generous of 465kms, so you can’t blame me for wanting to be just a little bit naughty with the drive modes. With three modes of energy recuperation, it is possible to engage in single-pedal driving, but as I found out, it works brilliantly to modulate speed down the twisties without using the brakes as much and putting energy back into the batteries! This is a fundamental shift in driving style and whether you like it or not, it’s only going to get more prevalent. At the end of a 185km driving stint, the range had dropped by 47%, proving that Mercedes’ range claim is spot on for mixed driving styles and terrain. In the city at normal driving speeds, the EQB functions as an RWD vehicle with a single motor operational and only kicks into AWD mode with dual motors only when the situation (or your heavy right foot) demands it. Do I see the purists sit up and take notice?
The EQB is phenomenally smooth and quiet while gathering speed and the approximately 225bhp it offers via the dual motors is ample to take it to triple-digit speeds in well under 10 seconds. The GLB 220d 4Matic in comparison sounds decidedly gruff, even though there is no shortage of grunt. But the GLB soaks up bumps and broken pieces of tarmac better than the EQB, perhaps due to the added front-end weight giving it better damping characteristics. With no “frunk” in the EQB, I can only speculate.
Front seats with their side bolstering provided superb support while blasting down the hills, taking corners at speed and made for a comfortable front section of the cabin. The same though cannot be said confidently about the middle row where thigh support is in short supply and the cushioning is on the firmer side. They do slide and recline though, so unless you undertake a 500-plus kilometer journey every week, your passengers should find an angle they can live with. Though I would reserve my judgement until I get to spend enough time being driven. The third row, as in most compact seven-seaters is purely functional. But it can be a lot more functional when folded down, opening up a cargo bay of 1620 litres!
As society dynamics oscillate between nuclear and joint, so do the requirements of a modern urban family, making the idea of a 7-seater SUV alluring. Even if for a short distance or on rare occasions, the option to road trip as a family is always a glamorous notion and the EQB and GLB pander to that. Techy enough to be used as a daily office commute, premium enough to take the special someone out for an evening and just large enough to pack in the pets or occasional in-laws. Between the two, the EQB with its practical long-distance range and inherent EV smoothness and low NVH levels is the pick of the lot, but if you still suffer from anxiety and want to spend less, the GLB has you covered.
Versatile, stylish and loaded with tech, the EQB makes a strong case for practical luxury EVs. GLB on the other hand has more competition from cheaper, more practical alternatives.