While we were in Germany to enjoy a lengthy stint behind the wheel of the 2023 Mercedes-Benz EQE, our handlers shoehorned in a brief drive of the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQB as a first taste of the battery-powered subcompact SUV that goes on sale in the States later this year. Whereas the EQE is highly advanced in every way—leading-edge aerodynamics, intergalactic sensor array, sci-fi Hyperscreen, sepulchral silence—the EQB is brighter, lighter, easier to use, and more fun to drive.
That brightness is literal. The gas-powered GLB’s upright, roller-skate form is unchanged for the electric version, and the tall windows welcome heaps of light into the cabin and offer far better visibility out of it than we experienced through the compressed greenhouse of the EQE.
Exterior changes from GLB to EQB are few. The only way to identify this as the all-electric model is from the front by the black panel grille topped with a full-width LED light bar and at the rear by the full-width LED bar connecting the taillights. The EQB will also offer an exclusive rose-gold exterior hue and wheel choices, plus blue trim highlights, depending on chosen option packages.
There are some hidden aerodynamic tweaks. Air runs past a resculpted front bumper to active lower shutters, the front lower and rear hatch spoilers are reshaped, there’s a fully enclosed and ribbed underfloor, and the wheel designs are altered. These efforts lower the coefficient of drag from the 0.31 clocked by the GLB 250 4Matic to 0.28.
The EQB interior maintains the passenger space of the GLB, and it too offers a pint-sized third row as an option. Cargo room, however, is diminished. The EQB gives up as much as five cubic feet of luggage space depending on how the second and third rows are arranged.
Compared to the EQE, the tech suite is vastly downsized. The 10.3-inch digital cluster and 10.3-inch infotainment touchscreen are the whole show for interactive displays; a head-up display is an option. Once on the road, the EQB is mainly analog and mute. Nothing to do here but drive.
Mercedes lists the curb weight for the EQB 350 4Matic we drove at 4795 pounds, which makes it more than 1000 pounds heavier than its gasoline-powered counterpart. Spreading that weight low in the chassis acts like a mass damper, tamping skittishness over rough roads around town as well as countering roll through twisty bits.
The EQB, though, is a claimed 400 pounds lighter than the EQE 350 4Matic. And the EQB 350 4Matic makes the same 288 horsepower as the EQE 350, and its 384 pound-feet of torque is just fractionally lower, so those missing 400 pounds make their absence felt when accelerating or cornering. (An EQB 300 4Matic with 225 horsepower and 288 pound-feet will also be offered.) The electric motors in the EQB also vanquish the laggy throttle we lamented in the GLB 250 4Matic, with the result being that the crossover dove through serpentine roads outside Stuttgart feeling more like the AMG GLB 35.
With a 66.5-kWh battery, the European WLTP range figure checks in at 260 miles. Our EPA-rated number will be lower, although we don’t expect the EQB to end up far from the Audi Q4 E-tron and the Volkswagen ID.4—the competition Mercedes-Benz is targeting. Hooking up to a DC fast-charger at the pack’s max charge rate of 100 kW takes the battery from 10 percent to 80 percent in 32 minutes, according to Mercedes.
The EQB welcomes drivers to the world of electron-fueled powertrains without risk of digital overload, making it a steppingstone to the EQE in more ways than platform, price, and model designation. Both EVs are dandy for different reasons. The EQE wants to be all you need and all you can imagine needing for the foreseeable electric future, but its learning curve is long. The EQB, by contrast, is a familiar, laid-back, practical city car that also enjoys a little electric boogaloo along fun two-lane back roads. For anyone who finds the GLB appealing, there’s nothing here not to like.