2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 review article highlights:
- 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 ($49,500)
- Edmunds’ #1 ‘X-Small luxury SUV’
- Pro: A solid, stylish blend of fun, usable performance, and everyday comfort and practicality
- Con: It gets expensive quick with a few options
AMG can easily turn a mild-mannered Mercedes into a bloodthirsty animal, but not all its creations are crazed beasts. As with hot peppers and BMW’s M products, there’s a spiciness level within the AMG lineup. And much like you wouldn’t want to eat a habanero with every meal, not everyone needs or wants to commute in an AMG One. That’s where something like the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 comes in.
The boxier showroom sibling of the GLA, the Mercedes-Benz GLB is nominally the brand’s entry-level compact luxury crossover. And for 2021, Mercedes gave it the same AMG treatment that the GLA recently received. To some, this might seem like slicing the crossover pie a bit too thin at best, and a ‘false’ AMG at worst. However, after driving the 2021 GLB 35 around Chicago for a week, I found that AMG’s spice game is on point here.
What’s the difference between the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 and the Mercedes-Benz GLB 250?
|2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4Matic||2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250|
|Engine||2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder||2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder|
|Horsepower||302 hp||221 hp|
|Torque||295 lb-ft||258 lb-ft|
|Transmission||AMG Speedshift eight-speed dual-clutch automatic||Eight-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Curb weight||3869 lbs||3638 lbs (base)|
3759 lbs (4Matic)
|0-60 mph time||5.1 seconds||6.9 seconds|
$64,110 (as tested)
Besides being the newest GLB trim, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is also the new range-topping trim. So, although it has the same platform as the GLB 250 and a similar powertrain, it gets quite a few upgrades over the base version. And because it’s an AMG product, many of them revolve around performance.
Besides massaging the 2.0-liter engine for more power and torque, AMG also tunes the GLB’s AWD system and its eight-speed DCT. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 gets numerous beefed-up suspension hardware, too. Also, different springs, modified adaptive suspension, a performance exhaust, bigger brakes, upgraded torque-vectoring, and automatic variable-ratio power steering.
In addition, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 gets more standard tech and luxury features than the base GLB 250. But we’ll get to that shortly.
The subtly-sharp 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 makes it hip to be square, er, boxy
Although the GLA has a sharper coupe-like roof, that also makes the compact crossover less practical and spacious. In contrast, the Mercedes GLB has a boxier, more practical design. But practical isn’t code for boring or ugly.
Critics praise the GLB 250’s style. Edmunds, for example, says that it’s reminiscent of the iconic G-Class. And Car and Driver found its “upright, boxy styling…a refreshing alternative to the coupe wannabes that make up much of the rest of the brand’s SUV family.” Personally, I think comparing it to the G-Class is a bit much. But I do agree with Car and Driver’s assessment.
That’s the base GLB, though. What about the AMG version? Well, Car and Driver points out that because of its lowered sport suspension, the EPA technically classifies the AMG GLB 35 as a station wagon, not an SUV. And looking it over, especially from the side and rear, that classification makes a lot of visual sense. But as a big wagon fan, that’s a good thing in my book.
Furthermore, while the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is a performance car, it’s also meant to be a practical family car. Why try to disguise that fact with a swoopy roof that actively makes it worse at that second job? There’s an honesty in this crossover’s—I mean, station wagon’s design. And, like Car and Driver, I find that refreshing.
Also, because it’s a family vehicle, the GLB 35 keeps its exterior performance clues subtle. Besides the bigger wheels, the only visual cues are a front splitter, rear diffuser, functional rear spoiler lip, new lower bumper with extra air intakes, fender flares, side skirts, and AMG’s ‘Panamericana’ grille. And if you get the AMG Night Package, as my tester had, those elements get blacked out to further enhance the ‘stealth speed’ idea.
What’s the GLB 35 like inside?
The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has the same interior design and layout as the GLB 250, including the optional third-row seating. And as you poke around the cabin, there are a few hints that this near-$50K crossover started out as a $38K one. But they’re mostly limited to one or two hard plastics that still feel substantial. The GLB 250 might be an entry-level Mercedes, but the automaker didn’t cheapen out on the interior.
However, while the AMG GLB 35 is built on the 250’s bones, it gets several interior upgrades that are optional on the base model. For example, it has a bigger center touchscreen and digital driver’s display, aluminum and stainless-steel interior trim, and customizable ambient lighting, Edmunds notes. Also, the GLB 35 gets the sport steering wheel, aluminum shift paddles, stainless-steel pedals, and sport front seats that are normally part of the GLB 250’s AMG Line Package. Plus, AMG sprinkles some carbon-fiber trim throughout the GLB 35. Not so much that it feels tacky, though, just enough to remind you that you’re in a performance model.
The red-and-black leather upholstery seen in my tester is a $1450 optional upgrade. Getting heated and ventilated front seats, meanwhile, costs $950. But even without them, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is a nice place to sit. The seats are comfy and well-bolstered, everything feels solid, and in my two-row tester, more than enough space for five adults and their cargo. And like the GLB 250, the AMG GLB 35’s rear seats have built-in LATCH connectors.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has plenty of tech—but its options list has even more
While it has bigger screens, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 comes standard with the same MBUX infotainment system as the 250. It’s controlled either via the touchscreen, two capacitive-touch pads on the steering wheel, or, if you get the optional Voice Assistance, voice commands.
Because MBUX is so configurable, it takes some time to get everything set up. And at first, navigating through the sub-menus can be a bit daunting. But it only takes about a day of study to get acquainted. Once you do, you’ll find that everything is laid out logically and that the system responds instantly to your touch. Also, the displays are crisp and clear. Plus, you don’t have to go hunting through menus for every little thing: there are supplemental physical controls, including for the dual-zone automatic climate control.
Mercedes didn’t stop at the infotainment when handing out tech, though. The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, WiFi, LED headlights, heated side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a power liftgate, and multiple USB-C ports. Also, standard automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and forward-collision warning.
However, one of the GLB 35’s downsides is how quickly options add up. Want adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, or adaptive headlights? They cost extra. So does a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, GPS navigation with or without augmented reality, keyless entry, and AMG’s steering-wheel-mounted transmission, suspension, driving mode, and stability-control switches. Add in the leather upholstery, mirror logo projector, SiriusXM, panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, and Burmester audio system, and you’re left with my $64,110 tester.
But while these GLB 35 features get pricey, I found most of them worth the upcharge. As someone with astigmatism, the AR navigation’s big arrow projections with street names were a godsend. The AMG steering wheel switches also made swapping settings easier at speed while the Burmester audio sounded fantastic. And I missed the ventilated seats the second I gave the tester back.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 balances speed and luxury well
One option I would skip, though, is the optional 20” wheels. My 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 tester had them instead of the standard 19” ones. But while they looked cool, they came with the typical big wheel downsides: namely, more noise and in-cabin sensations from road impacts. They tarnish the GLB 35’s luxury image, so save the $1050 for something else.
Note, I said ‘luxury image,’ because that’s what the GLB is. It’s what the GLB 35 is, too, at least partially. Because while the crossover is a solid entry-level luxury commuter, it’s not afraid of a twisting road. And it’s better at hustling down that road than you might expect.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 comes with five driving modes: Slippery, Comfort, Sport, Sport +, and Individual. These modes change the throttle, suspension, steering stability control, and transmission settings, though you can freely adjust them individually. Going from Comfort to the Sport modes sharpens the throttle, speeds up shifts and lets the transmission hold gears longer, and makes the steering heavier and quicker. It also opens the exhaust, letting it burble and bellow more freely. And if you’re in Sport +, holding back the paddles activates launch control.
It’s not furious, but it’s fast and certainly fun
In Comfort, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 comfortable cruises, with light steering and its DCT doing a smooth impression of a torque-converter automatic. There’s a bit of turbo lag here, but the transmission does a good job of covering it up. Going into Sport, though, lets the GLB 35 come alive. Shifts are crisper and faster, and while there’s no road sensation through the steering wheel, it builds weight accurately and nicely as you turn into corners.
And despite its size and weight, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 can hustle around bends. While Sport + makes the suspension almost too firm, in Sport the crossover keeps its compliance without its handling prowess. It corners with minimal body roll, the AWD system gripping well. And even if you come in a bit too hot, the brakes are reassuringly strong and easy to modulate. The GLB 35 never truly shrinks around you, but it won’t embarrass itself either.
But even if you don’t have curvy roads, there’s always the launch control. Foot on the brake, build boost, then foot off the brake. The GLB 35 digs in and goes, genuinely pressing you against the seat. At which point you stop at the next set of lights, giggle, and want to do it again.
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, then, is the best of both worlds. And while AMG made the compact crossover spicier, it didn’t go overboard with the heat. If AMG had tried to make it sharper, more hardcore, it wouldn’t be as good of a family car. Instead, it knew its audience and kept it balanced.
How safe is the AMG GLB?
As noted earlier, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has some standard advanced driver-assistance systems. They include
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rearview camera
- Automatic emergency braking
- Forward collision warning
If you want more ADAS features, though, you’ll have to peruse the options list. Luckily, Mercedes-Benz bundles many of these optional safety features into one $1700 Driver Assistance Package. The package adds
- Cross-traffic alerts
- Active lane-keeping and lane-changing assist
- Adaptive cruise control
- Active and evasive steering assist
- Active blind-spot monitoring
In addition, adaptive headlights come as part of the $900 Exterior Lighting Package. And the parking assist with surround-view cameras form the $1090 Parking Assist Package. I’d recommend getting both packages. The latter is particularly helpful at blind intersections, as it projects the front side cameras’ feed to the digital displays. However, while the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has a five-star NHTSA rating, it’s not an IIHS award winner.
Will it be a reliable performance luxury crossover?
Because it’s a new model, it’s too early to tell how reliable or unreliable the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is. It does have a 4-year/50,000-mile limited and powertrain warranty, though. However, Mercedes-Benz doesn’t offer any complimentary scheduled maintenance.
You’ll also have to factor in the cost of premium fuel. The EPA estimates the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 gets 21 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Mostly driving around the city—and with a few launches—I got just under 20.6 mpg over 142 miles. But if I’d been a little less exuberant with my right foot, I likely could’ve gotten the EPA estimate.
MotorBiscuit gives the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 an expert rating of 8.5 out of 10
Apart from those 20” wheels, the biggest downside for the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is the as-tested price. With luxury crossovers like the Genesis GV70 now available, the GLB 35 is a bit overpriced for what it is. However, the ‘what’ is a solid all-around compact luxury crossover that won’t balk at a twisty road. Also, Car and Driver notes that the GLB 35 is the cheapest seven-seat AMG product; the next-cheapest one is the $73,000 GLE 53.
In the end, I came away from my week with the GLB 35 wanting more time behind the wheel. Whether you call it a station wagon, crossover, or SUV, know that it’s a stylish, practical, and genuinely fun vehicle. So, don’t be surprised if you drive it and come away asking for another slice of the pie.
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