2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 review: price, specs and release date
The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 combines rapid acceleration with seven-seat practicality in a relatively compact SUV. Can it impress on the road?...
Priced from £48,065 | On sale Now
It would be easy to question the ‘AMG’ aspect of the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35. After all, this is a seven-seat SUV with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which doesn’t sound exceptionally sporty – certainly not enough to earn the hallowed AMG badge.
Mind you, while that engine has a mere four cylinders, it churns out 302bhp and fires the chunky GLB 35 up to 62mph in 5.3sec. It certainly stands up to the Audi SQ5 and BMW X3 M40i in terms of straight-line performance, and they're both five-seat SUVs.
The Land Rover Discovery Sport is a far closer rival to the regular GLB in terms of practicality, and even the most powerful seven-seat Discovery Sport P290 isn’t really a sports SUV (despite its name). As a fast seven-seat SUV that's not big enough to need its own postcode, the GLB 35 has found a rare pocket of fresh air in the crowded SUV class.
What's it like to drive?
If you’re after a hot hatch-like drive in your seven-seater, the GLB 35 is certainly appealing. The engine responds with verve, proving happy to rev and making the GLB 35 feel very nippy indeed. The eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is very effective, flicking swiftly through the gears when you use the standard steering-wheel paddles. It’s also smooth and unobtrusive if you just leave it to do its own thing.
When you toggle through the drive modes into Sport or Sport+, the exhaust delivers a cheeky pop and crackle, but the engine doesn’t sound particularly fruity. It’s always a bit tinny, and the six-cylinder X3 M40i certainly sounds better.
The GLB 35 is, of course, heavier and taller than ‘proper’ hot hatches including the Toyota GR Yaris, VW Golf R and Mercedes-AMG A35 (which shares its engine with the GLB 35), and you feel that in the way it leans through corners. Compared with similarly priced rivals, it props its body up admirably well.
We’d like more weight to the steering, which is a touch light and disconnected in the default Comfort mode, particularly. The sportier settings add some heft, making it easy to enjoy the way the GLB 35 scythes neatly through corners. An active four-wheel drive system is standard, helping to put all 302bhp to the road cleanly and ensure the GLB 35 corners with a neutral balance like a good hot hatch. An X3 M40i is more entertaining, though.
The trade-off for the enthusiastic handling is a firm ride. Adaptive suspension is standard on the GLB 35, but so are 20-inch alloy wheels, and the result is fairly lumpy progress over patchy town roads. It’s not overly harsh in terms of the initial bump as you hit a pothole, but the vertical bobbing over undulations and heavy thunks over expansion joints can get tiresome. Still, it calms down at higher speeds and makes for a really pleasant motorway cruiser.
What’s it like inside?
The GLB 35 gets the full bells and whistles treatment when it comes to equipment. The electrically adjustable seats are a little narrow, but they’re supportive and have adjustable lumbar support so most people will be able to get comfortable. The standard panoramic glass roof makes it feel bright and airy.
A 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system has all the features you’d expect, including sat-nav, Bluetooth and smart ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control. Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring is included, as is wireless phone-charging and an excellent Burmester sound system.
Two six-footers will be comfortable in the GLB 35’s middle row but – as with the Land Rover Discovery Sport – the two seats that pop up out of the boot floor are best reserved for kids. When they're folded down, the boot offers a useful 500 litres of space, which is more than big enough for a chunky double buggy.
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