So you’ve had to say goodbye to the sports car because a family has arrived. Now you need a luxury crossover SUV with perhaps a 3rd row but you don’t want to let go of that sports car driving dynamic. What do you do? Mercedes-Benz thinks that they have the vehicle for you in the shape of the 2021 GLB 35 AMG 4MATIC.
Engine – Just like many other crossovers, the GLB 35 AMG is powered by a 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It produces 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque (225 kW & 400 Nm) and it can propel the 1,755 kg (3,869 lbs) body to 100 km/h in 5.2 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz. From behind the steering wheel, it feels like the numbers are accurate. The speedometer isn’t a total blur like in the “hotter” GLA 45 AMG but the GLB 35 doesn’t feel like a slouch either. However, the engine’s rpms need to be in the correct rev range because if you put your foot down below 2,000 rpms (without letting the transmission downshift), it’ll be a long while until you get going anywhere. Above 2,000 rpms, the turbocharger spools up quickly and provides a satisfying surge in power & acceleration. There is no GLB 45 AMG – like how there is with the smaller GLA – but for a crossover of this size, the 35 AMG engine is enough and doesn’t feel like it’s too much.
Fuel economy is not too bad either with 8.9 L/100km (26.4 MPG) on a highway and 11.1 L/100km (21.2 MPG) in a city. I averaged around 10.5 L/100km (22.4 MPG) during my time with the Mercedes GLB 35 AMG.
Transmission – Helping the GLB 35 AMG get the good fuel economy numbers is an 8-speed dual clutch transmission. On the move, this transmission is quick and smooth to swap gears when in Comfort mode. The shifts are pretty much imperceivable. In Sport & Sport+ modes, however, the shifts are much more noticeable but still extremely quick. It’s only when setting off from a stop or just coming to a stop and then accelerating again that the transmission seems to hesitate at times. It doesn’t happen often but the clutch engagement can feel a bit rough and not like a smooth torque converter like in a traditional automatic. But again, it doesn’t happen often and for the most part, this 8-speed performs better than the old 7-speed DCT when setting off from a stop.
Braking – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 35 AMG receives bigger brake discs and calipers than its GLB 250 brother. Four-piston front calipers and single piston rear calipers clamp down hard on the larger drilled rotors on all four corners. Best of all, the brake pedal is firm but also easy to modulate for smooth stop during daily commutes.
Handling – This AMG version of the Mercedes GLB has quite a bit more chassis braces to make it stiffer along with different suspension components and adaptive dampers. The result is a crossover SUV that has pretty much the same ride height as the Mercedes A-class hatchback. But the changes to the suspension make a big difference as this GLB 35 AMG is fun to drive around corners. There’s less body roll than the GLB 250 and the steering response is almost telepathic; in other words, very quick. The steering also has a good heft to it and it doesn’t feel overly assisted which makes the GLB more enjoyable to drive on winding roads.
The 4MATIC AWD system is not a 4MATIC+ like in the GLA or CLA 45 AMG so there are no Drift or Race modes. In Sport+ mode and with the stability control in Sport, the GLB 35 feels neutral around corners. You don’t get that feeling that the back end will want to overtake the front.
Ride Comfort – As is to be expected, the ride of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 35 AMG is stiffer than the non-AMG variant of this crossover. Having said that, in Comfort mode, the adaptive dampers do a fabulous job of settling the chassis after a bump in the road. Furthermore, the ride is not that bad so you can still commute with the GLB 35 every day and not feel tired when you get back home.
Interior Space – When you step inside the GLB, the first thing that you may notice is the amount of space that it has for its relatively small exterior dimensions. Front occupants are treated with a lot of headroom and a good amount of legroom. Second row occupants also have a surprising amount of space. Headroom is a bit less because the cushions are higher up than the front seats but still plenty of space for a tall adult like myself at 6’4”. Legroom is also good with the back of the front seats having an indentation to allow for more knee room. As for the 3rd row, this particular demo vehicle did not have the option fitted to it but even if it did, it would not be a place for adults. Mercedes-Benz themselves say that the 3rd row is meant for kids up to 5’6” in height. But without the 3rd row, the trunk offers 623 L (22 cu-ft) of cargo space behind the 2nd row and 1,755 L (61.9 cu-ft) with the 2nd row folded.
Noise, Vibration, & harshness – Unfortunately this being a more “entry level” Mercedes-Benz vehicle, the interior quality suffers a bit. There is a lot of road noise that intrudes into the cabin at highway speeds from the 21-inch wheels & tires that were equipped on this demo vehicle. The GLB 35 comes standard with 19-inch wheels & tires so they may be quieter. There’s also a bit of noise coming from some of the trim pieces when driving over bumps or road undulations that flex the chassis. In particular, it’s the trim pieces around the b-pillar and c-pillar that rattle when driving over bumps. However, it’s not as bad as in the A-class or GLA-class vehicles but it’s not something that you’d expect from a Mercedes-Benz vehicle.
Odds and Ends
Gadgets – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 35 AMG 4MATIC starts at a reasonable $57,500 CAD ($49,500 USD). But this being a Mercedes-Benz, the options list is long and extensive. To start, the metallic paint is $890 apart from the designo red metallic which is $1,400 CAD. Then there’s a bunch of packages that can be added such as the Technology pack for $1,600 CAD, the AMG Night pack for $1,000, the Premium pack for $3,900 CAD, Navigation package for $1,000 CAD, Advanced Driver Assistance pack for $1,700 CAD, and AMG Driver’s pack for $2,000 CAD.
But there’s more. There are also stand-alone options such as the ventilated front seats for $1,200 CAD, the 3rd row seats for $1,300 CAD, leather upholstery for $1,990 CAD, head-up display for $1,500 CAD, integrated garage door opener for $300 CAD, and finally 360 camera for $650 CAD. In all, it can drive up the price to well over $78,000 CAD ($67,580 USD). Some of these packages and stand-alone options differ between the Canadian and US markets but the GLB 35 can be equipped similarly between the two countries.
Realistically though, all you need is the Premium package because it includes a lot of convenience features such as keyless entry, Apple CarPlay & Android Auto, blind spot sensors, parking assist, wireless phone charging, hands free tailgate, Burmester surround sound system, and satellite radio. This package is only $800 in the US but it has less options which you can individually add.
Interior Design – The GLB 35 AMG shares the almost identical interior design as other compact Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Namely the GLA, A-Class, and CLA-Class. It looks functional but also like a nightclub during the … night. Mercedes-Benz has been on point with their ambient lighting system and the GLB 35 is no exception.
Materials use is good throughout the majority of the cabin. This particular demo vehicle had the alcantara & leather wrapped steering wheel which felt really nice in the hands. However, the leather on the seats is not quite as nice to the touch as the leather on the steering wheel.
Exterior Design – From a distance, the GLB looks like a scaled down version of the larger GLS SUV. It has a boxy shape but with smooth corners. The AMG treatment gave it the large Panamericana grille, black alloy wheels, a subtle diffuser in the back, and dual round exhaust tips. The car also sits a bit lower to the ground than the standard GLB 250 for the added sporty look.
Warranty – The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 35 AMG has a basic 4 year / 80,000 km warranty in Canada. It also comes with 4 years / unlimited km roadside assistance, 4 year / 80,000 km surface corrosion, and 8 year / 130,000 km warranty for certain emission parts. Click here for more Canadian warranty information. Click here for USA warranty information.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 35 AMG 4MATIC is a fun-to-drive, spacious and practical 3-row compact crossover. The starting price is actually quite reasonable for the amount of performance and practicality that you’re getting. As I stated earlier, the only package that this car really needs is the Premium package. Add that, and the GLB 35 is all the car that your growing family will need.
Thank you to Mercedes-Benz Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Mercedes-Benz.ca