I was lucky enough to get a back-to-back sampling of the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLB 250, each for a one week test. Both crossovers represent their respective German luxury automakers’ most affordable SUV offering. Both offer admission to the marque, while also delivering the full brand experience.
For the record: Technically Mercedes’ cheapest SUV offering is the GLA, however the GLA is more of a small station wagon on stilts. Akin to the Audi A4 Allroad. So the GLB is what you want if you want an SUV feel.
Luxury & Style
Both of my test vehicles exuded entry-level luxury, with leather seats and real wood or aluminum trim. However, the fit and finish on the Mercedes GLB was better. The design language felt brand new, and resembled styling from a modern S-Class Mercedes. The exterior felt sculpted. Whereas the BMW, while nice, the design language felt typical of a BMW from 10 years ago. It looks and feels very traditional, which isn’t a bad thing. Winner: Mercedes
Technology & Safety
Both the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLB are computers on wheels. They are available with parking cameras all around, radar guided cruise control, lane-keep assist, and advanced crumple zones to protect occupants from head on crashes. Without crashing the two, my guess is that they are equally as safe on the road. So the in-car infotainment technology is where you will begin to see a difference. The Mercedes GLB uses two large digital displays to highlight key driving and entertainment information. Where as the BMW uses a single large screen on the center of the dash and a traditional instrument cluster. Winner: Mercedes
Size & Comfort
The Mercedes GLB is 6 inches longer and 1 inches wider, however the BMW X1 feels bigger inside. That is because the BMW has more headroom and more overall shoulder room, especially in the back. The BMW also has more cargo capacity with the rear seats folded up. All of these seemingly makes the vehicle seem bigger once inside. It also translates into more comfort for the driver and passengers. Winner: BMW
This seemed like a simple test at first. Both have a 2.0L twin-turbo inline 4-cylinder engine. So which one has more horsepower and torque? The BMW has 228 horsepower and 258 pounds of torque, whereas the Mercedes only has 221 horsepower and 258 pounds of torque. Surprisingly, the Mercedes is feels a lot quicker off the line. That is because the BMW uses an 8-speed traditional automatic transmission, where as the Mercedes uses an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox for quicker shifts. One would then venture to say that the Mercedes should be the winner then, because of the better gearbox. However on paper, the BMW is significantly faster off the line: 6.6 seconds 0 to 60mph compared to 6.9 seconds. The BMW X1 also excels outside of straight line. The X1 feels better balanced when cornering than the GLB, with only a slight notice of understeer. But since the BMW is rear-wheel drive, you can easily induce a bit of oversteer by modulating the throttle. The Mercedes GLB comes standard with front-wheel drive, so you get a bit of annoying torque steer when you press the throttle into a turn. Winner: BMW
Price & Value
The Mercedes GLB starts at $36,600, and a fully-loaded model will tap out at around $60,000. The BMW X1 starts at $35,200, and a fully load model taps out at around $50,000. I can’t comment on the value, without knowing your priorities. If you want luxury and technology, I recommend getting the Mercedes GLB. If you want comfort for you and passengers, along with a sporty ride, then get the BMW X1.