Is The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC Worthy Of The AMG Badge?
The latest edition to the AMG line-up, is it a 'true' AMG?
By Phil Bradley
Performance SUV models are becoming increasingly popular, with most major manufacturers having some form of performance option that not only packs a punch, but is also more family orientated and allows an extra few inches of ground clearance too. In Mercedes' case, they have the G-Class, range, with the G-Wagon, GLS, GLE, GLC and an upcoming GLA in the works. The model range is already a little crowded, but Mercedes-Benz have decided there's room for a new model. Introducing the GLB.
The new, Mercedes-AMG GLB 35!
One in four cars sold by Mercedes is what they call a 'compact' car. It therefore makes sense for the Germans to introduce a small SUV to their model range. The GLB is shorter than it's bigger brothers, at 4.6m long, it's also thinner and lower too, at 1.8m wide and 1.6m tall, making it more suitable for driving in urban areas. Mercedes-AMG have decided to take the GLB one step further though, and have added a GLB 35 4MATIC to the range.
So they've not only decided to introduce a new model into an already, very overcrowded SUV model range, but have gone and added a performance version too? I wasn't sold on this either, but Mercedes were kind enough to invite me to Andalusia in Spain to find out more for myself.
They say first impressions are everything. Greeting me at the airport was a Patagonia Red, GLB 35 and the colour suited the car incredibly well. The new, baby-AMG gets the Panamerica grille similar to other AMG models, and AMG front bumper with the lower skirt that makes the SUV look more aggressive. The bumper is complimented by gloss black facia above the air ducts in the bumper, which seem to add muscle to the front of the car.
The bonnet has two bulge lines in the middle, which give the sense that there's a big, meaty AMG engine under there. Like other 35 AMG models however, under the bonnet is a 2.0L, 4 cylinder engine, which puts out 306BHP and a max 400NM of torque. The GLB AMG will do 60MPH from a standstill in a respectable 5.2 seconds, and is electronically limited to 155MPH.
The headlights not only get eyebrow style LED, but the Germans have also given the GLB a smaller LED opposite to this eyebrow, which really make the car stand out in your mirrors or when passing in the opposite carriageway. The gloss black fascia beneath the headlights continues onto the side of the car, through the wheel arches and creates a lower skirt on the side, before continuing to the rear. The AMG also gets gloss black roof bars, that really compliment the Patagonia Red finish (I liked this colour, can you tell?!). Wheel sizes range from 19 inch on the standard GLB, up to the 21 inch gloss black alloys found on the GLB 35. From a side profile, the GLB looks like a shortened version of the GLS model.
If you're familiar with Mercedes' model designation, you'll understand that the model "GLB" is the SUV form of the B Class, so it comes as no surprise that the rear of the car resembles the B Class and the tail lights are of a similar shape. The baby AMG gets the stylish AMG rear bumper, AMG roof spoiler and two exhaust exits on either side of the car, surrounded by the gloss black fascia that's helped to add aggression to the whole exterior.
Stepping inside the GLB, you are immediately reminded that Mercedes are owning the interior game versus their German rivals. The GLB 35 gets twin 10.25 inch screens, one for your digital dashboard and the other for infotainment. Both of which are controlled by the sports steering wheel, which allows you to choose different views and functions of the car. The steering wheel also has the 12 o'clock marker to give it a sportier feel. The clever system features the MBUX with the 'Hey Mercedes' feature, and cruise control that allows it to be semi autonomous, which will adapt the car's cruise control to match the speed limit, and change lanes automatically when the indicator is switched on.
The gear selector is on a stalk behind the steering wheel, like with the GLC, GLE and GLS models, which leaves the centre console free for a touch pad to also control the infotainment system and the car's cameras, along with a wireless charging pad and USB-C connection. The USB-C connector came with an adaptor for standard USB charging. The lack of adaptor in other Mercedes models was certainly a gripe of mine!
The seats were comfy, although were standard seats, no AMG option, which was a little bit surprising. Nonetheless, travelling long distances in the GLB were comfortable, especially with the seats having both ventilating and heating functions. There is plenty of headroom for the passengers, and leg room in the rear is suitable to carry adults comfortably. Now, onto what is perhaps the most surprising feature in the GLB 35, there is an extra row of seats! Yes, Mercedes-AMG baby SUV can carry 7 people! The optional 3rd row of seats does restrict the amount of luggage space dramatically, but handy when you need those extra 2 seats.
When you get behind the wheel of the GLB 35 and begin driving it, you immediately forget that you're driving Mercedes-AMG's smallest SUV performance model. The Germans are incredibly good at taking the perfect driving experience from one model, and replicating it in their new cars. Behind the wheel of the GLB 35, you forget that you're higher off the ground and weigh considerably more, and instead feel like you could be driving the more nimble A 35. The GLB has very little body roll, which allows you to throw the car into corners when driving at speed.
The steering wheel has a wheel that allows you to switch between driving modes. This is the same as other AMG models, but is a welcome surprise to find in an SUV such as the GLB. The different driving modes alters the suspension stiffness and controls the amount of artificial exhaust noise that is pumped into the cabin. In Sport+, revving the GLB makes it sound like a V8 engine on the inside, but sadly the OPF filter and emissions restrictions in place in Europe restrict the amount of noise the exhaust can actually put out, which creates a need for these sound actuators that so many manufacturers are putting into new cars. Put the GLB 35 into Sport+ and give it some hard acceleration when pulling away however and you still get a faint, throaty noise as it pulls away.
One driving mode that the GLB 35 doesn't have which the other standard models do have is Off Road mode. Mercedes were kind enough to set up a small off-road track for us in the plains of Southern Spain. The GLB really surpassed expectations again, tackling the off-road terrain with ease. The short overhangs and ground clearance made it easy to drive up steep slopes, and over difficult terrain where at points the car had two wheels off the ground. This is where the 4MATIC system came into play, ensuring the wheels in contact with the ground had the correct amount of power. Off-road, the GLB is a seriously capable car, and not to be underestimated, although i'm not sure many GLB owners will be pushing the car to these extremes when going off-road!
The GLB can be seen almost as a successor to the GLK model (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about!). A car that has been incredibly popular in Europe and parts of the US. The GLB replaces the old SUV as Mercedes' small SUV option, and it helps you to understand why Mercedes have introduced it. While the GLB 35 model is clearly not a thoroughbred AMG, you can see the appeal to buyers. Those wanting a performance orientated Mercedes model, that has that extra bit of ground clearance and be able to carry the family too. If the GLB 35 is anywhere near as popular as the old GLK, the baby SUV will be a huge hit for the Germans.
When researching the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC, and travelling out to Andalusia, I wasn't sold on the new, small SUV. In fact, I'd go as far to say that I'd made up my mind that I wasn't going to like it. On the contrary, the more I looked at it and the more miles I drove it for, the more it grew on me and I began to like it. I came away from this press launch thinking what a fantastic new model the GLB 35 would be to the Mercedes range. If you can look past some of the design features, the SUV is fun to drive, which is exactly what an AMG should be. Does it offer AMG performance? Not really, but when compared to any other 35 AMG model in the range, the GLB 35 holds its own. For that alone, the GLB 35 deserves an AMG badge. The model is a true example of how you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover! A job well done, in this reviewer's humble opinion.
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35