by Jarryd Neves
Set on filling every possible niche, Mercedes-Benz surprised the motoring industry when it introduced the GLB-Class, yet another compact SUV to fill the minor gap between the GLA and GLC-Class. Even more surprising was the advent of a performance derivative, known as the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic which moves into 2022 with only minor changes. The German SUV provides a rather rapid way of moving the family about and is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. The boxy compact crossover needs just 5.1 seconds to hit 60 mph.
Available as a five or seven-seater, Affalterbach's most sensible offering yet is somewhat of an oddity on the American vehicle market. It doesn't have direct rivals and hopes to encroach on territory dominated by the smaller AMG GLA 35, the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Countryman, and even the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque HST. Perhaps not as athletic as some of the aforementioned options, the GLB strikes back with a plush interior that is blessed with plenty of occupant space - unless you're in the optional third row, that is.
With a base MSRP of $49,950, it is more expensive than most rivals, but this loftier price tag brings with it a larger cabin, the choice of seven seats (unlike similar rivals), and chunkier, Gelandewagen-aping style. Is this symphony of performance and practicality worth the $50,000-plus outlay? Let's find out.
Not many changes have been made to the 2022 AMG GLB 35 SUV, save for a few minor improvements. The automaker has added a standard USB-C cable for device charging and connection. Aside from that, a new AMG Night Package Plus is available, which includes black exterior badging and black AMG grille louvers. The Premium Package also gains SiriusXM and, lastly, Rose Gold paint has been added to the extensive color palette.
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has an MSRP of $49,950. This excludes tax, registration, licensing, and incentives, as well as the $1,050 destination charge. A sub $50,000 price tag isn't too bad but, remember, this is a premium German vehicle - fully loaded, the AMG GLB 35's price can rise to as much as $72,845, including destination. But by practicing some restraint, a modestly specified GLB 35 will come in at around $60k.
See trim levels and configurations:
|AMG GLB 35 4MATIC||
2.0L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
The GLB 35 boasts an independent MacPherson strut suspension setup in the front and a multi-link arrangement keeps everything under control at the rear. While it's more at home charging down a highway, the AMG doesn't cower away from a set of technical S-bends. In fact, it welcomes a dynamic challenge, utilizing its AMG-fettled AWD system to race through corners with surprising enthusiasm.
That being said, it's no match for a well-sorted hot hatch and, we must admit, the GLA 35 is better suited to spirited driving than the GLB. But then again, the GLA can't carry up to seven occupants or match the GLB for interior space. For what it is, the GLB is dynamically impressive. It's certainly helped by the standard AMG Ride Control Sport Suspension with three-stage damping.
In town and on rougher roads, the stiffer suspension setup isn't quite as smooth as we'd like; it can be unsettling and, at times, downright firm. It's not too bad when equipped with the standard 19-inch wheels, though. Stopping power is impressive. You can really push the braking limits of the GLB 35; they're responsive and offer plenty of feedback. Up front, you'll find 13.8-inch brake discs with four-piston fixed calipers while the rear disc utilizes 13-inch items with ventilation.
As with any AMG product, the driver can set the GLB up to their specific requirements. There are as many as four drive modes - Slippery, Comfort, Sport, and Sport+ - to choose from and even the ESP is adjustable: On, Sport, or Off. Still, the only chink in the GLB's armor is the relatively lackluster steering. By no means is it devoid of steering feel, but it can't quite match the crispness of the Mini JCW Countryman ALL4 or, indeed, the X2 M35i.
There's no denying that the GLB 35 is an accomplished SUV. The question to answer is whether it's worth buying. You see, the GLB 35 is a very niche product; there aren't many people looking to spend $50,000 (before options) on a family hauler with hot hatch performance and handling. If you don't need all the space, something like the new Golf R provides better performance and a far smaller MSRP. If you just want a plush family hauler, the regular GLB 250 does an admirable job of carting the kids to and fro, albeit with a performance deficit. But what you lose in horsepower, you gain in value - the base model is far cheaper, at $38,600.
But, within its segment, the GLB 35 is the standout choice. It's far more spacious than the GLA 35 and JCW Countryman ALL4, only sacrificing a little bit of performance in the pursuit of practicality. It's got a punchy engine, a premium interior (not quite as plush as the Evoque HST), and plenty of high-tech features. However, the quality is perhaps not up to Mercedes standards and the number of recalls and the middling J.D. Power scores are concerning.
Still, there's no denying that the GLB 35 offers plenty of SUV for the money. It's quick, family-friendly looks fantastic, and brings driver involvement to an everyday package. We just can't shake the feeling that this performance model is a jack of all trades and a master of none. There are slight compromises (the harsh ride, for example) and it doesn't feel like a true AMG. It's a good car, though, and will appeal to a very specific client. If you're looking for something that can seat up to seven people and still bite chunks out of a Golf GTI's rear, the GLB 35 is the SUV for you.
As mentioned, there's only one model on offer. If it was our money, we'd venture down the sensible route and spec the GLB 35 modestly. The attractive, boxy shape pops in a brighter color, but the $1,750 Patagonia Red Metallic is pricey. Therefore, we'd go with the resale-friendly Cosmos Black Metallic, at $750.
For $850, the 20-inch twin five-spoke wheels strike a fine balance between ride comfort and style. Lastly, we'd select the $1,500 panoramic sunroof as it looks attractive and lets natural light shine into the cabin That pretty much rounds up our style enhancing options; the Night Packages and other options aren't worth the additional outlay.
The $850 third-row seating option and $500 heated front seats are a sensible addition. For some visual flair, we'd add the $400 Nappa leather AMG Performance steering wheel and the classy illuminated AMG door sills, for $350. The $1,450 Black upholstery is an expensive option but heightens the ambiance although it can't be had with third-row seating. There's no need to spring for the option wood inlays; the standard carbon structure suits the sporty attitude of the GLB.
Being a family hauler, it would make sense to load the GLB 35 with all the available safety features. As such, we'd go for the $1,700 Driver Assistance Package, which automatically adds the Premium and Multimedia Packages ($950 and $1,300, respectively) and Keyless-Go for $500, the $1,090 Parking Assistance Package, and the second-row side-impact airbags ($700). Lastly, we'd add the Burmester Surround Sound System at $850.
All in all, our ideal spec GLB 35 would total $62,790 including the destination charge. While pricey, this particular spec lends the perfect balance of style and practicality, with just enough options to keep it appealing when the time comes to sell.
The AMG GLB 35 truly is in a class of its own. Currently, no other automaker produces a high-performance, premium compact SUV with the option of seven seats. As such, the AMG GLB's closest rival comes in the form of the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works Countryman. Like the Mercedes, it has a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with more than 300 hp. The rapid Brit also funnels its power through an eight-speed gearbox, distributing its grunt through all four wheels.
The Mini outclasses the Benz on the blacktop, though. More torque (331 lb-ft) and a lighter body pay dividends when pressing on and the Mini is a joy to blast around in and exhibits superior handling and dynamism when compared to the Mercedes. Despite this sporting prowess, the ride is on par with the Mercedes. The Countryman is a lot cheaper too; the range kicks off at around $41,500.
The Benz manages to claw back some points when you compare their cabins and practicality. The playful interior of the Mini can't match the Merc's premium ambiance or interior space. What's more, the AMG feels more modern and offers better tech. The optional seven seats also lend an air of practicality that the Mini cannot match. Choosing between the two is tough but, if you have kids and need more space, go for the Mercedes - it's a no-brainer. But, if you favor performance and character, the Mini will serve you best.
On paper, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 and the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque HST are closely matched. Both produce 295 lb-ft of torque and are closely matched on horsepower (the Range Rover has six fewer ponies under the hood). Again, the Range Rover has an equally sized 2.0-liter gas engine but, unlike the Mercedes, the Evoque HST boasts clever mild-hybrid trickery.
In reality, the two appeal to very different people. The admittedly better-looking Evoque HST has a more luxurious interior and the price tag reflects that with a base MSRP of $57,000. You certainly get what you pay for; the cabin is beautifully crafted and wouldn't be out of place in a far more expensive car. That being said, it's not quite as spacious as the AMG and there's no option for a third row of seats.
Still, it's quite the performer. Land Rover claims a 60 mph sprint time of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 150 mph. This is no match for the AMG GLB 35 (0-60 time of 5.1 seconds and 155 mph top speed) but the Evoque HST strikes back with better refinement and a vastly superior ride. In terms of image, there's nothing between the two - yes, an AMG will tell the neighbors you're doing well but a Range Rover is the ultimate status symbol in the 'burbs. If you need to take six kids to school in a hurry, go for the Mercedes-AMG. For everything else, the delightful mannerisms of the Evoque will fit the bill nicely.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35: