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Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 2021 review

The GLB35 is a mid-size SUV that tries to do it all. No, really.
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Mercedes-Benz's GLB was already one of the more compelling new models released this year, but its first and only AMG version, the GLB35, is now here, trying to do all of the same things really well – plus a whole lot more. So, is it another success story? You bet.

So, you want an SUV with seven seats for the family (and maybe friends), but also want it to be premium and have a performance focus. There hasn’t been a model that fits the bill this side of six figures… until now.

Yep, Mercedes-Benz’s mould-breaking GLB mid-sizer has officially been given the AMG treatment. Enter the ‘entry-level’ GLB35, which is out to prove you can have your cake and eat it too, especially if you’re the above buyer.

But is the GLB35 trying to do too many things at once? Is it really a jack of all trades, or a master of none? As always, there’s one way to find out: put it to test. We’ve done exactly that, so please read on.

Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class 2021: GLB35 4Matic
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel TypePremium Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency8.3L/100km
Seating7 seats
Price from$88,535

Is there anything interesting about its design?   9/10

With the boxy and therefore rugged-looking GLB laying some great foundations, it’s no surprise the GLB35 looks pretty damn good – to these eyes, at least.

Being an AMG model, it stands out from the crowd with an aggressive body kit, with the chunky bumpers, aerodynamic roof spoiler and racy rear diffuser all unique alongside the now-signature Panamericana grille insert.

The GLB35 looks pretty damn good. The GLB35 looks pretty damn good.

A set of 20-inch alloy wheels with 255/40 tyres ups the ante at the side, where the carryover black plastic wheel-arch and skirt cladding serves as an obligatory reminder that this is an SUV.

Also of note are the nicely designed LED headlights and tail-lights, which literally light the way, but there’s no getting past the bespoke diffuser element, which integrates the sports exhaust system’s dual 90mm tailpipes.

There are nicely designed LED headlights. There are nicely designed LED headlights.

Inside, the GLB35 is a technological tour de force, with a pair of 10.25-inch high-resolution displays proudly sitting side by side atop the dashboard, with one the central touchscreen and the other the digital instrument cluster.

Both are powered by Mercedes-Benz’s MBUX multimedia system, which arguably remains the best there is today thanks its speed and breadth of functionality and input methods.

The GLB35 is also properly premium. Lugano leather upholstery covers the seats and armrests, while Nappa trims the sports steering wheel. Even the door shoulders and inserts get ‘cow hide’, although theirs is of the artificial variety.

Lugano leather upholstery covers the seats and armrests. Lugano leather upholstery covers the seats and armrests.

Soft-touch materials are used for the upper dashboard, leaving hard plastics to the lower sections, which is what you’d expect for the price.

While the black headliner makes for a dark cabin, brightness comes from the metallic trim used throughout, notably on the steering wheel, dashboard, doors and centre console. And let’s not forget the pop of colour provided by the addictive ambient lighting.

And mercifully, scratch- and fingerprint-hungry gloss-black accents are limited to the surrounds of the turbine-style front air vents, dual-zone climate controls and centre console.

Unique to the GLB35 are Carbon Structure trim and stainless-steel sports pedals, just in case you forgot you weren’t driving a regular GLB.

How practical is the space inside?   9/10

Measuring 4650mm long (with a 2829mm wheelbase), 1845mm wide and 1660mm tall, the GLB35 is more like the GLC43 in size than the GLA35, making it a mid-size SUV despite its small underpinnings. And that is good news for practicality.

The GLB 35 measures 4650mm long, 1845mm wide and 1660mm tall. The GLB 35 measures 4650mm long, 1845mm wide and 1660mm tall.

Cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is more than solid, at 565 litres (VDA), but it can be increased to a cavernous 1800L with the 40/20/40 split-fold middle bench also not in use. If six or seven passengers are onboard, though, there’s very little room to move.

Cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is more than solid, at 565 litres (VDA). Cargo capacity with the 50/50 split-fold third row stowed is more than solid, at 565 litres (VDA).

Nonetheless, the boot is still well packaged, featuring a huge aperture, no load lip, and a flat floor, which make loading and unloading bulkier items a hell of a lot easier. And even the load cover can be stored underfloor when out of action. How good.

The boot is still packaged, featuring a huge aperture. The boot is still packaged, featuring a huge aperture.

There are also four tie-down points, two bag hooks, a side storage net and a 12V power outlet on hand to make matters even easier, while the rear seats can be stowed from the boot.

While we’re on the topic, Mercedes-Benz says the third row can accommodate passengers up to 168cm tall, with the middle bench able to slide fore and aft by up to 140mm.

Mercedes-Benz says the third row can accommodate passengers up to 168cm tall. Mercedes-Benz says the third row can accommodate passengers up to 168cm tall.

Yes, I'm too tall, at 184cm, but I can still sit in the very back, although not in total comfort. All in all, about a centimetre of legroom and negligible headroom and toe-room are on offer there for me.

That said, getting in and out in the first place is the real challenge here, with the middle bench unable to tumble forward for easy ingress and egress. Yep, you’re not going to look smooth either way. Children can deal with it, but adults won’t be thrilled.

The middle bench is the place to be, even when it’s slid all the way forward. The middle bench is the place to be, even when it’s slid all the way forward.

Therefore, the middle bench is the place to be, even when it’s slid all the way forward. Behind my driving position, it offers about a centimetre of legroom, but this can be increased to several inches by sliding it all the way back.

Either way, plenty of toe-room is available alongside more than an inch of headroom. The latter is more impressive when you consider that’s what you get with the standard dual-pane panoramic sunroof fitted.

Even better, the second row can seat three adults at a pinch, partly thanks to the low transmission tunnel, which means there’s the right amount of space for six fully grown feet across the two footwells. It goes without saying children will again be fine.

Speaking of which, four ISOFIX and five top-tether anchorage points are on hand for fitting up to four child seats across the second and third rows, which makes the GLB35 a serious option for families that like to be sporty.

There are plenty of in-cabin storage options, with the large central storage bin featuring a pair of USB-C ports There are plenty of in-cabin storage options, with the large central storage bin featuring a pair of USB-C ports

There are plenty of in-cabin storage options, with the large central storage bin featuring a pair of USB-C ports, while the glovebox is also quite useful, even if it is oddly shaped. And there’s also a sunglasses holder in front of the rearview mirror.

The centre console’s cubby isn’t really designed for storage, with it basically taken up by two cupholders, another USB-C port and a wireless smartphone charger.

The front door bins can accommodate one small and two regular bottles each, which is great, while their rear counterparts can take one small and one regular apiece.

Second-row occupants also have access to a fold-down armrest with another pair of cupholders, but being of the retractable variety, they’re flimsy.

These passengers also have two USB-C ports, with the pair folding out below a small cubby and air vents, which are found at the back of the centre console. Storage nets are also fitted on the front seat backrests.

And don’t worry; the third row gets in on the action, with two cupholders (one regular, the other small) splitting the seats, which have individual USB-C ports and device straps to the sides.
 

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   8/10

Priced from $88,535 plus on-road costs, the GLC35 currently sits atop the GLB range, above both the $59,900 GLB200 and $73,535 GLB250.

Standard equipment not already mentioned in the GLB35 includes dusk-sensing lights, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, black roof rails, rear privacy glass and a power-operated tailgate.

The media system has satellite navigation with live traffic. The media system has satellite navigation with live traffic.

Inside, satellite navigation with live traffic, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, digital radio, a 225W sound system with nine speakers, keyless entry and start, power-adjustable front comfort sports seats with heating and memory functionality, auto-dimming mirrors, illuminated ‘AMG’ scuff plates and ‘AMG’ floor mats feature.

As is commonplace for Mercedes-Benz models, the GLB35 has plenty of options with most expensive, so you could drive away with a vehicle that’s dearer than you originally thought.

There's power-adjustable front comfort sports seats with heating and memory functionality. There's power-adjustable front comfort sports seats with heating and memory functionality.

But aside from a spare wheel and some safety equipment we’ll cover in a moment, the GLB35 doesn’t leave much to be desired, which is always a good thing.

Nonetheless, our test vehicle was finished in $1490 Iridium Silver Metallic paintwork, which is one of eight extra-cost exterior colour options.

As mentioned, the GLB250 is a unique proposition, so it’s only comparable rival, the more affordable but less sporty Land Rover Discovery Sport P250 HSE ($78,432).

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The GLB35 is powered by an uprated version of the GLB250’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder petrol engine, with the AMG-fettled version producing a more substantial 225kW of power from 5800-6100rpm and 400Nm of torque from 3000-4000rpm (up from 165kW/350Nm).

This version is also matched to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission as well as Mercedes-AMG’s front-biased but fully variable 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.

The GLB35 is powered by an uprated version of the GLB250’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder petrol engine. The GLB35 is powered by an uprated version of the GLB250’s 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder petrol engine.

Thanks to this combination, the GLB35 can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 5.2 seconds with launch control enabled, while its electronically limited top speed is 250km/h.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The GLB35’s fuel consumption on the combined-cycle test (ADR 81/02) is 8.3L per 100km, while its carbon dioxide emissions are 186 grams per km. All things considered, both claims are pretty decent.

In our real-world testing, though, we averaged a high 14.1L/100km over 75km of driving split between highways and country roads, so not your typical mix, then. A heavy right foot also played into that result, so expect a better return after a regular run.

For reference, the GLB35’s 60L fuel tank can be filled up with 98RON petrol at minimum.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

ANCAP awarded the GLB range its maximum five-star safety rating in 2019.

Advanced driver-assist systems in the GLB35 extend to autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign recognition, driver attention alert, tyre pressure monitoring, hill-descent control, hill-start assist, park assist, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

ANCAP awarded the GLB range its maximum five-star safety rating in 2019. ANCAP awarded the GLB range its maximum five-star safety rating in 2019.

Is anything missing? Well, steering assist, adaptive cruise control, active blind-spot monitoring and front cross-traffic alert form the optional Driving Assistance Package ($1990), which definitely should be standard at this price point.

And let’s not forget the two other noticeable absentees: surround-view cameras and high-beam assist. They’re annoyingly part of the optional Vision Package ($1190), which was fitted to our test vehicle.

Nonetheless, other standard safety equipment includes nine airbags (dual front, front-side, curtain and rear-side plus driver’s knee), anti-skid brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and the usual electronic stability and traction control systems.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

As with all Mercedes-AMG models, the GLB35 comes with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which currently sets the standard for the premium market. It also comes with five years of roadside assistance.

The GLB35’s service intervals are long, at every 12 months or 25,000km (whichever comes first). Better yet, it’s available with a three-year/75,000km capped-price servicing plan, but it costs $2750, with the third visit alone incurring a $1300 charge.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Don’t let the GLB35’s family friendliness fool you, this is an SUV that can get up and go.

The engine’s extra power and torque over the GLB250 are immediately felt behind the wheel, with the GLB35 accelerating with the vigour of an all-wheel-drive hot hatch, which makes sense given their similar claims.

The GLB35 seems to accelerate with the vigour of an all-wheel-drive hot hatch. The GLB35 seems to accelerate with the vigour of an all-wheel-drive hot hatch.

And if you have one of the sportier drive modes engaged, the booming noise generated is also special – even if a lot of it is of the artificial variety, pumped into the cabin to make occupants feel like things are getting serious.

What is genuine, though, is the well-rounded transmission, which is characteristically quick with its upshifts. At the same time, it’s also relatively smooth, even at low speed, which has proven to be a challenge for dual-clutch units over time, but not here.

To earn the AMG badge, the GLB35 goes even further with other mechanical upgrades, including sports tunes for the suspension and steering.

The GLB35 goes even further with other mechanical upgrades, including sports tunes for the suspension and steering. The GLB35 goes even further with other mechanical upgrades, including sports tunes for the suspension and steering.

Specifically, the GLB35’s independent suspension set-up not only consists of MacPherson-strut front and trailing-link rear axles with adaptive dampers, but also introduces new steering knuckles, transverse control arms on the front axle, and a stiffened subframe.

The resulting ride is actually quite good. Yes, the extra firmness over the GLB250 is noticeable – particularly in the sportier drive modes that stiffen the adaptive dampers all the way – but it’s by no means a deal-breaker.

That said, it’s worth noting our test vehicle was fitted with the optional 21-inch alloy wheels ($1990), so the GLB35’s like to ride even better on its standard package.

The GLB35’s independent suspension set-up  results in a ride, which is actually quite good. The GLB35’s independent suspension set-up results in a ride, which is actually quite good.

This is remarkable considering the handling improvements made, with the GLB35 managing body roll and pitch better than the GLB250 when pushing hard into and around corners, coming out of which grip is plentiful thanks to the all-wheel-drive system.

Thankfully, the standard-fit high-performance braking package consisting of 350mm front and 330mm rear discs with four- and one-piston callipers respectively helped it wash speed away with ease when attacking the twisty stuff with intent, even with 1857kg (kerb) to deal with.

Also on hand is electric power steering, which is speed-sensitive and has a variable ratio in the GLB35. Basically, it’s quicker when you want it to be, remaining on the lighter side in hand until you engage one of the sportier drive modes and weight is increased markedly.

Verdict

It’s easy to say the GLB35 doesn’t deserve to be called an AMG when looking at its credentials on paper, but get behind the wheel and it’s evident Affalterbach played a key role in making it feel as special to drive as it should be.

The GLB35 has all of the great qualities of the GLB250 and other GLB variants, but successfully adds a performance focus to make for an even more compelling package.

Indeed, the GLB35 proves you can pretty much have it all.

Pricing guides

$74,600
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$59,900
Highest Price
$89,300

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GLB 200 1.3L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $59,900 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class 2021 GLB 200 Pricing and Specs
GLB 250 4Matic 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP AUTO $73,535 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class 2021 GLB 250 4Matic Pricing and Specs
GLB 35 4Matic 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP $89,300 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class 2021 GLB 35 4Matic Pricing and Specs
GLB35 4Matic 2.0L, PULP, 8 SP $88,535 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class 2021 GLB35 4Matic Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8.1
Design9
Practicality9
Price and features8
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership9
Driving8
Justin Hilliard
Deputy News Editor

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