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Mercedes-Benz GLB Shanghai Concept Not Clownin' Around

Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept; Manufacturer images

Looks like: A welcome departure from Mercedes' SUV "coupes"

Defining characteristics: Third row, Swiss Army knife second row, A-Class dash

Ridiculous features: As much roof paraphernalia as the Ecto-1

Chance of being mass-produced: Highly likely, given production-ready elements 

The latest concept from Mercedes-Benz is something of a clown car — a compact SUV that seats up to seven. But the luxury brand isn't clowning around: The Concept GLB SUV debuting at the 2019 Shanghai auto show appears production-ready, and Mercedes assures it "will be of great interest to our customers," sales chief Britta Seeger said in a statement.

Related: Mercedes-Benz Touts All-New GLS as Its Largest, Most Luxurious SUV

Styling is something of a GLC-Class with a Subaru Forester's worth of tall windows and thin roof pillars, a welcome departure for a brand whose SUV "coupe" derivatives go the opposite direction for visibility. The Concept GLB's interior sports a two-position third row and production-ready dashboard, with many elements borrowed from the new A-Class and redesigned CLA. That means a wide, tabletlike surface with two side-by-side screens in place of the usual gauge hood and separate center display. Climate controls occupy a band of buttons below three circular air vents, with horizontal themes about the dash and doors.

A Real Third Row

With a wheelbase of 111 inches, the Concept GLB is 182 inches long and 74 inches wide — nearly the same footprint as a GLC and considerably bigger than the subcompact GLA. If the concept sees production, it wouldn't be the first time an automaker shoehorned a third row into a compact SUV. Models from the Volkswagen Tiguan to the Land Rover Discovery Sport offer tiny third rows; the Concept GLB's wheelbase exceeds both, which could translate to something bigger than a kids-only third row.

Indeed, Mercedes characterizes the third row as "far more than emergency seats" with "comfortable seating for two medium-sized occupants." The second row, meanwhile, folds in a 40/20/40 split. It also slides 5.5 inches, reclines to eight positions and boasts sliding walk-in access to the way-back chairs.

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The concept has 17-inch wheels with beefy off-road tires; lower-profile rubber is likely for any production version. Other fanciful items include roof-mounted LED spotlights to aid off-road visibility, plus a roof-mounted box over the rear cabin area. Under the hood is the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder from the redesigned CLA250, which here makes 224 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. It pairs with an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and front-biased all-wheel drive that can vary power up to a 50/50 split.

Production-Bound?

Mercedes-Benz will debut the Concept GLB at Auto Shanghai on April 18. In 2013, the brand debuted a concept at the same show that eventually became the GLA-Class. Mercedes stopped short of confirming the same for the GLB, but it seems primed for similar transformation.

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