AMG’s offerings have evolved significantly since the days of the Red Pig. These days, Mercedes-Benz offers AMG-tuned versions of many of its models. For 2021, this list of cars includes the GLB, in the form of the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35. And while it’s by no means AMG’s most extreme SUV, it’s exactly what it needs to be.
Topping the GLB range, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 offers more power and features
For 2021, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 serves as the highest rung on the GLB-Class lineup ladder. As such, it’s more expensive than the GLB 250 models. With all-wheel drive, the 2021 GLB 250 starts at $40,050. In contrast, the GLB 35 starts at $49,500.
However, the higher price does come with more standard features—and more performance. That’s because the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has the same powertrain as its platform cousin, the GLA 35. Under the hood is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. It’s linked to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic and standard AWD, both tweaked by AMG. That’s good for a claimed 0-60 mph time of 5.2 seconds.
Some of the extra features on the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 have to do with performance. For example, stiffer suspension with AMG-tuned springs and adaptive dampers, larger brakes, performance exhaust, a sport steering wheel, and variable-ratio steering. But the range-topping GLB model also has several features that are optional on ‘lesser’ models. Among them are adjustable ambient interior lighting, carbon-fiber interior trim, and a touchscreen and digital gauge cluster that both measure 10.25”.
If that’s not enough luxury or sportiness, though, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 does have an options list. On the premium side are features like a Burmester audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, navigation with augmented reality, keyless entry, and an expanded driver-assistance suite. Performance options are more limited, but buyers can spec larger wheels, different steering wheel wraps, and the AMG Drive Unit. That last feature puts controls for the driving modes, suspension, transmission, and stability control on the steering wheel.
But as I and Edmunds discovered, options quickly drive up the luxury SUV’s price tag. The GLB 35 I recently drove stickered at $64,110 after destination.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 combines luxury with just the right amount of performance
In 250 trim, the Mercedes GLB is already a solid luxury SUV, if not exactly “particularly rousing…to drive,” Edmunds notes. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, though, fixes that neatly. And the best part is, it does that without going overboard.
Switching to sportier driving modes sharpens the GLB 35’s throttle response and speeds up the steering, Autocar reports. It also makes the DCT shift faster and the steering heavier, the suspension firmer, and changes how the AWD and stability control systems behave.
And there’s a ‘hidden’ launch control, MotorAuthority explains. It’s activated by switching to Sport+ Mode and putting one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator. Just let the boost build, and step off the brake. It’s no GLS 63, but the launch control in the GLB 35 will firmly push you back in your seat.
The result of all of this is a practical luxury SUV that is genuinely fun to drive on a curving road. No, it’s not a ‘bloodthirsty animal’ like the E63 S. But then, as evidenced by the lack of options like carbon-ceramic brakes, it’s not supposed to be. This is M Performance, not full-on M. And for something that can seat up to seven, the GLB 35 “is as lithe and agile as they get,” Top Gear says. That’s a sentiment I wholeheartedly agree with.
Driving and living with the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
Although there’s little-to-no road feel through the wheel, in Sport+ Mode the GLB 35 turns in sharply and accurately with minimal body roll. And the torque-vectoring AWD gives plenty of grip, Autocar adds. It never shrinks around you but hustling it puts a smile on your face. The burbly exhaust no doubt plays a role in that.
It’s very easy to find yourself going faster than you expected in a 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35. Luckily, the brakes are strong and easy to modulate. And while the ride is a bit too firm in Sport+, you can change the driving-related settings individually.
Also, the GLB 35 is still a luxury SUV. The sport seats are comfortable and the interior is quiet, even at highway speeds. And overall visibility is good, with no glaring blind spots. However, the optional 20” wheels introduce more impact vibrations and noise into the cabin.
Speaking of the interior, the material quality is excellent, especially at this price point, Autoblog notes. The one or two hard-plastic pieces are placed where no one really touches, but they still feel solid, not cheap. And there’s plenty of soft-touch plastics and metal trim. Plus, while the MBUX infotainment system requires a bit of set-up time, it’s an excellent system overall.
Is it an SUV worth considering?
To be sure, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 isn’t perfect.
The 2.0-liter engine has a bit of turbo lag, though the transmission mostly mitigates it. Autoblog and Motor Authority also note the optional third-row seats are rather cramped, even for kids. And as previously noted, optioning up a GLB 35 can get expensive rather quickly, especially where aesthetics is involved.
That being said, the 2021 GLB 35 strikes a fine balance as an SUV. It offers luxury and performance without veering too much in either direction. And it does so better than some of its rivals, such as the BMW X1 and Audi Q3, Edmunds muses. It’s not too hot, and not too cold, but just right.
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