This baby G-Class has got it all.
Mercedes-Benz has been building the highly successful G-Class SUV since the late 1970s. Originally designed as a military SUV, the G-Class, aka the G Wagen, has earned a legion of followers over the years despite its devotion to off-road rather than outright luxury. The second-generation G-Class, revealed in 2017, successfully fixes those flaws but Mercedes also felt it was necessary to capitalize on this SUV's success by developing a new, car-based crossover with similar styling. The GLB-Class was born and now Mercedes-AMG has unveiled its high-performance version. Meet the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, a 306 horsepower, three-row SUV crossover with sedan underpinnings and its own unique personality.
This miniature G-Wagen is aimed for those who desire power and performance with an SUV-ish attitude. Although it's not anywhere near as capable as its big brother, the GLB 35 seems to be determined to leave its own mark on an emerging segment even Ford will soon enter: off-road crossovers with boxy styling.
Mercedes always planned to use the platform that underpins both the A- Class and CLA-Class sedans to build SUVs. The GLB-Class features the boxy and semi-rugged look that has successfully worked for the G-Wagen for so many years. The GLB 35, officially called the GLB 35 4Matic (we'll explain shortly) can be distinguished from the base GLB with an AMG-specific grille, a front splitter, standard 19-inch five-spoke wheels (21-inchers are optional), and even a rear spoiler. AMG will also offer the optional Night Package which offers those above elements in high-gloss black along with a black chrome-plated exhaust pipe.
Basically, if you already find the GLB's boxy look appealing, chances are you're going to like AMG's approach. It's a somewhat understated look, at first glance, but a closer inspection reveals those AMG-specific exterior enhancements.
The overall interior layout is nearly identical to that of the GLB-Class, but there are some notable upgrades. There's the AMG-specific multifunction steering wheel with a flattened bottom and perforated leather in the grip area. On either side of it are galvanized gearshift paddles. The seats are covered in Artico man-made leather and Dinamica microfiber with red stitching and seatbelts.
There's also the latest version of the automaker's infotainment system. Touch control buttons, located on the steering wheel, can also be activated by voice or gesture control. Another nice AMG-specific feature is the display styles, "Classic," "Sporty," or "Supersport." These vehicle functions are located on the left side of the instrument cluster and in the touchscreen display on the right. Mercedes designed the two displays to be under one shared piece of glass that blends into the widescreen cockpit.
And like the GLB, the GLB 35 has an optional third-row that can fit an extra two passengers. These seats can actually be lowered into the load compartment floor for additional cargo space. The second row has a 40:60 split. Throughout the interior, there are USB charging sockets, storage compartments, and cupholders.
Power comes from one engine option: a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder making 306 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. An eight-speed dual-clutch transmission sends that power to the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, hence the vehicle's full name. Expect a 0-62 mph time of 5.2 seconds and an electronically controlled top speed of 155 mph.
AMG added a multi-disc clutch with electromechanical control that splits the power from the front to the rear wheels. Remember, the GLB rides on a front-wheel-drive platform, but this function allows for 50:50 power distribution. The system is also capable of using braking to keep the wheels from spinning during tight cornering or acceleration. AMG also retuned the suspension and steering for a more thrilling driving experience. Drivers can also tune the suspension's characteristics by way of one of three driving programs, "Comfort," "Sport," and "Sport+."
AMG also added its own high-performance brakes that can be identified with silver calipers and black AMG lettering.
Mercedes-AMG has yet to announce official pricing or a launch date, but given the GLB 35 4Matic is classified as a 2021 model it's fair to assume sales will get underway in the coming months. Pricing? The base GLB-Class is expected to carry a starting price of around $42,000. Option packages will quickly push that price further north. With this in mind, we would not be surprised to see the AMG GLB 35 4Matic starting at around $55,000.
As far as competition goes, the GLB will face off against the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. This more powerful AMG version is aimed at the Audi S Q5 and BMW X3 M40i, not the X3 M. For that, we wouldn't be surprised to see Mercedes-AMG launch an even more powerful GLB, say the GLB 43 or 53.
It's a little had to say whether it'll be a smash hit at this time for one reason: the standard GLB is not even on sale yet. However, Mercedes-Benz would not have proceeded with turning the A- and CLA-Class sedans into an SUV if it didn't have solid market data indicating high demand. A high-performance variant is simply a no-brainer. Despite the expected mid-$50k starting price, the 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic's combination of performance, enhanced styling, and daily usability and functionality will make it an enticing proposition.