For those who prefer sportiness with more than a side of utility, the 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 could be the answer.
It doesn’t have a fire-breathing, single-builder engine like the AMG performance division’s fiercest entries, but it’s fun to drive nevertheless. It starts at $59,300 before freight and taxes, but there’s a lot that can be added to it. My tester was beefed up to $71,500 with options that included a package of blacked-out accents, navigation, 21-inch wheels, and $1,400 worth of Patagonia Red Metallic paint.
The GLB-Class’s boxy shape maximizes its headroom and cargo space. Think of it more as a “sleeper” than a slippery, wind-cheating sports machine. The toothy grille with oversized Mercedes-Benz star sets it off nicely, and I like that the optional $1,000 Night package darkens the exterior accents but not so much that this crossover looks dull, as these popular add-ons do on many models.
The cabin is the real styling star here, with its horizontally focused dash accented with tubular metal strips, turbine-style air vents, top-notch materials, and gorgeous LED ambient lighting that includes illumination in those vents. The infotainment system and instrument cluster are each 10.25-inch screens set into a single tablet-style panel that’s well-integrated into the dash.
The GLB receives the highest five-star crash-test rating from the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), but hasn’t been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Still, I’m cutting back on my rating, because while a number of driver-assist technologies are available, they’re all extra-charge options. Standard equipment includes seven airbags, driver alertness monitor, and the back-up camera that’s mandatory on all new vehicles, but other items such as emergency front braking, blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping assist are bundled into pricey option packages.
Apart from the driver-assist technologies, the GLB 35 comes with a fairly long list of standard features, including a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, heated sport seats with driver’s-side memory, auto-dimming mirrors, the twin-10.25-inch-screen infotainment system, and stainless-steel pedals.
My tester’s Premium package, at $3,100, added such items as a power passenger seat, self-parking system, blind-spot collision assist, safe exit warning, proximity key, satellite radio, and – oddly as an option instead of standard – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
User Friendliness: 8/10
The seats are bolstered, but not so much that it’s awkward to get in and out, making the GLB 35 user-friendly when running errands that require numerous stops. Visibility is good all around, and that standard power driver’s seat makes it easy to find the right position.
The infotainment system provides multiple methods for operation, including touching the screen, using the console-mounted touchpad, little touchpads on the steering wheel (which work very well), or voice control that you activate by saying, “Hey, Mercedes.” The climate system uses a row of buttons on the dash, but they’re identical and you need to take your eyes off the road and look over to be sure you’re tapping the right one.
The GLB-Class’s cargo volume is an impressive 700 L, and the rear seats fold flat in 40/20/40 configuration for carrying longer items. Despite the small footprint, it’s possible to option a third row of chairs in the GLB-Class for seven-passenger seating for an extra $1,300. That would definitely be a squeeze, and if you’re thinking of it for smaller children, remember that you’ll have to somehow wedge yourself back there to put them into their seats and buckle their belts.
The seats are typical of most German vehicles: almost too firm when you first sit down, but that’s because they’re all about support, and they do a great job of keeping your spine aligned long after cushy car seats have left you cramped and sore. The seats include lumbar support and a pull-out thigh cushion extender.
The ride is very firm and you feel the bumps even in the comfort drive setting, especially with my tester’s low-profile 21-inch tires, but I’m not going to fault it. That’s the price you pay for AMG sportiness. If you want smoother performance on the pavement, opt for the non-AMG version – the GLB 250.
Both the GLB 250 and this AMG version use a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, but while it makes 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque in the non-AMG, it’s tuned to 302 hp and 295 lb-ft here. It’s mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, an automatic unit that shifts faster and smoother than a conventional transmission. All-wheel drive is standard.
This thing scoots. It’s deliciously strong, pulling hard whether it’s from a stop or at highway speeds, and with no lag. The transmission does a superb job of keeping the engine right in the sweet spot, but if you prefer, you can shift using the paddles on the steering wheel.
Driving Feel: 9/10
Yes, it’s a tall crossover, but the engineers have designed some soul into this GLB-Class. The steering is firm and responsive, and body roll has been so well-contained that you forget its height; it corners like the suspension is much closer to the pavement. The drive modes control engine and transmission response, and can be switched between comfort, sport, sport-plus, and slippery for poor road conditions, or a customizable individual setting. My tester’s $2,000 AMG Driving pack option included selector buttons on the steering wheel to quickly switch between them rather than reach for the console-mounted toggle.
It’s great fun to rip around with this vehicle, but I also like that it isn’t always on the muscle. Driven moderately, it accelerates smoothly but retains its crisp handling for everyday family outings. The all-wheel drive system runs primarily in front-wheel – an 80/20 split in comfort mode, and 70/30 in sport – but can transfer up to 50 per cent of power to the rear as needed.
Fuel Economy: 7.5/10
There’s no way around it: fun costs money. The GLB 35 is rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) at 12.7 L/100 km in the city, 9.4 on the highway, and 11.2 in combined driving, and it requires premium-grade fuel. In my week with it, much of it spent on the highway, I registered 11.0 L/100 km.
It doesn’t have a lot of head-to-head competitors, but among smaller vehicles around the 300-hp mark, the BMW X2 M35i is rated at 8.9 L/100 km; the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works at 9.2; and the Range Rover Evoque at 10.3 L/100 km.
This go-quicker premium segment isn’t an inexpensive one, and at $59,300, the GLB 35 costs considerably more than its 221-hp GLB 250 sibling at $47,000. By comparison, the X2 M35i makes 302 hp and starts at $43,275; the Mini Countryman John Cooper Works at 301 hp is $51,190; and the Range Rover Evoque HST, at 300 hp begins at $63,000.
Buyers will also note that all of these give you a lot of room for adding options, and very few will drive out at those prices, especially since you’ll have to load up the GLB 35 if you want items such as blind-spot monitoring or smartphone connectivity that’s included in a number of mainstream models.
There was some controversy when Mercedes-Benz first introduced its front-drive models such as the B-Class, which was originally intended to attract younger buyers who couldn’t afford a rear-drive C-Class. While the days of the bubbly B-Class are done, the 2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is practical, fun, and a very good all-around vehicle for those who like sporty performance in a small sport-ute package.
|Peak Horsepower||302 hp @ 5,800 rpm|
|Peak Torque||295 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|Fuel Economy||12.7 / 11.2 / 9.4 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||700 / 1,680 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2022 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35|
|Price as Tested||$71,600|
$12,200 – 360-degree camera, $650; Advanced sound system, $400; 21-inch AMG matte-black multi-spoke wheels, $1,250; Patagonia Red paint, $1,400; Navigation package, $800; Technology package, $1,600; Premium package, $3,100; Night package, $1,000; AMG Driver’s package, $2,000