Interview: Mercedes-Benz’s Robert Lesnik on the New GLB Concept

The brand's Director of Exterior Design explains their most rugged model yet

Unveiled at Auto Shanghai, Mercedes-Benz‘s newest concept (which will look nearly identical when it becomes a production car), the GLB is a seven-seater compact SUV that leans into the all-around demands of SUV drivers with a fresh interior. Families or outdoor enthusiasts alike will find something to appreciate about it. The GLB rounds out the SUV segment of Mercedes-Benz‘s line-up—one that’s appeased a wide swath of consumers and contributed to the brand’s near-million SUVs sold last year.

“[The car] is much more upright. This is much more 3D. It’s much more rugged and off-road-like—a bit more boxy,” Robert Lesnik, Director of Exterior Design, says. It shows this in its performance too, with more than enough torque to get the job done (350 Nm) and engineering accomplishments such as its fuel saving aluminum engine.

by Evan Orensten

“It’s the final member of our compact car family. It doesn’t look that compact,” he emphasizes. “We did not want to be afraid to show the height. Usually, as a designer, you do everything as wide and low as possible, but this car is bigger than the GLA and smaller than the GLC.”

The GLB boasts a shorter wheelbase than the GLC, though it’s slightly taller and stands at an identical width. The GLB outnumbers the GLA in all categories: it’s taller, wider, longer and seats an additional two people. The addition sits between the two models in size, but is divergent from their more familiar silhouettes.

“Usually, you never show the roof-rack. But in this case, when you look at the car from afar you automatically focus on certain elements  and  the height of the car is pronounced. We wanted to put something in this area [the roof] so it looks more upright,” he says.

“There were many tries how to [configure] the seven seats from the inside and make it as sporty as possible outside, though this was not the goal of this car. GLA and GLC are really sporty-looking crossover cars with not much space inside. For this, a little bit of inspiration comes from GLS, which always was quite a big car—very bold and a lot of status—and the G-Wagon. A little bit of that influence is in this car,” Lesnik says.

This isn’t an overgrown GLA or an understated GLC—it’s an entirely new silhouette for Mercedes-Benz. The exterior is unwavering and geometric—with roof-mounted flood-lamps and overhangs above all four tires. The interior diverges from current models with its colorful and slightly more decorative style and boasts a similar dash layout to the GLA. Aside from some minor elements the production model is likely to look nearly identical, all seven seats included.

The Mercedes-Benz GLB is set for production later this year.

Images courtesy of Mercedes-Benz