Review: 2020 Mercedes GLB 250 & 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35



Words: Calvin Chan

Photography: Calvin Chan

Published: November 26, 2019

 



ANDALUSIA, Spain - Sandwiched between the GLA and GLC is the first-ever Mercedes GLB, a three-row, seven-seater, family-sized companion that blends the best of a compact car and an SUV together. Combined with a boxy figure and body cladding that alludes to its go-anywhere attitude, the rugged GLB sits on the same platform as the A-Class and looks like a shrunken-down GLS mixed with the boxiness of a G-Wagon. With the SUV market at the boiling point, the GLB shouldn’t have a hard time finding a new home. Mercedes has sold more than 800,000 SUVs in 2018 alone, and this ‘Good Looking Box’ will only cement their unprecedented success. Competition is few and far in between as well, with only the seven-seater Land Rover Discovery Sport and Volkswagen Tiguan challenging this new silver star entrant.

 

 

The GLB will come in two trims for the Canadian market: GLB 250 4MATIC and GLB 35 AMG 4MATIC. The GLB 250 uses a transversely-mounted 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine routing 221 hp and 258 lb-ft through an 8-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four-wheels. That’s enough for the GLB 250 to sprint from 0-100 km/h in 6.9 seconds.

 

 

The GLB 35 4MATIC uses an upgraded four-cylinder unit that delivers 302 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque, enough for it to hit 0-100 km/h in a speedier 5.2 seconds. Add to that a specially tuned dual-clutch gearbox and suspension, adjustable dampers, launch control, and a variable all-wheel drive system that can send up to 50% of power to the rear axle if required, and this spicy GLB appears to have massive potential. AMG engineers were keen to increase front-end structural rigidity as well with bolted aluminum plates, underbody bracing, and a strut tower brace that lies under the engine hood. And boy does the GLB 35 wear that vertical-slat Panamericana grill so well, and compliments the sportier front and rear bumpers, roof spoiler lip, larger brakes, and wheel sizes ranging from 19- to 21-inches. The lack of AMG’s signature quad exhaust tips is disappointing, but perhaps they are saving those for -45 and -63 models instead.

 

 

The interior noticeably takes inspiration from the entire Mercedes portfolio, with an expansive dashboard design, piranha-like fan vents, and two large widescreen displays (7-inch standard and 10.25-inch optional) housing the MBUX infotainment system with the clever ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant feature and Augmented Reality navigation system. G-Wagon influences come in the form of the large door grab handles, and exceptionally wide and flat window sills that act as throne-like armrests, something the full-size Range Rover features as well. Sadly there are no handle bars on the passenger-side dashboard - a missed opportunity to build on an icon if you ask me. On a positive note, the GLB 35 steering wheel has been ripped straight out of the AMG GT 4-Door, with metal paddle shifters and dual toggles budding outwards. While the small plasticky digital screens on the left toggle appear low-rent and look out of place in the $190,000 GT 63 S, here they elevate the GLB’s upscale vibe.

 

 

The first row of seats is excellent: spacious, roomy, and offers the best in-class headroom in its segment. The second row is equally cavernous, even more so than a GLC from what I can recall. My six-foot figure fits perfectly with ample legroom and headroom thanks to its boxy roofline that doesn’t taper back. However, the big question on everyone’s minds is the viability and functionality of the third-row seats. Mercedes says anyone under 1.68-metres will fit comfortably in the third row and despite my 1.80-metre height, I was able to ingress easily into the back after manually pushing the second row seat forward. My legs were cramped, and I had to hunch my head to fit under the headliner, but it’s somewhat acceptable for short drives, and I’d leave it at that. It’s a nice option to have for babies, dogs, and cargo alike. Customers love having the extra seats as a contingency plan despite not needing it 90% of the time. The second row seats are able to slide fore and aft, and both rows are able to fold fully flat to the floor as well, allowing for a decent amount of cargo space: 1,805 litres maximum in the five-seater, and 1,680 litres in the seven-seater.

 

 

With beautiful backdrops of whitewashed buildings and foggy Andalusian mountains on the horizon, we took the opportunity to test drive both GLB variants. First up was the GLB 250 4MATIC, and its honest four-cylinder engine responded to throttle inputs with quick responses and healthy output. Smooth, comfortable, and under-stressed would be a good description, and it never broke a sweat at wide open throttle or on steep inclined hills at high altitudes. The 8-speed dual-clutch is a sore spot. Rather than picking gears assertively, it is indecisive and can never seem to make up its mind when left to its own devices. Taking the helm via the paddle shifters is an effective remedy, and opens the curtain to a responsive and lightning-quick gearbox - just what the doctor ordered for tackling the Spanish countryside. 

 

 

The GLB 250 demonstrates gentle yet polished road manners, with a bias towards comfort rather than minimizing body roll. It doesn’t crash into potholes as much as the A 250 Hatchback, but it’s not as soft or as refined on the road as a GLC either. Still, excellent outward visibility and unhindered sightlines add to the heightened confidence behind the wheel. With decent approach angles and 200 mm of ground clearance, Mercedes was keen for us to put its off-road credentials to the test. They even had a challenging course set up for us at Enduro Park to make use of the GLB’s Off-Road package and variable AWD system, but the atypical Spanish weather wasn’t cooperating, with pouring rain and soaked up trenches forcing them to cancel what could have otherwise been an intriguing exercise. 

 

 

While the GLB 250 drove as expected - confident, comfortable, and capable - hopping into the GLB 35 felt like taming an entirely different animal. The extra bracing, retuned dampers, and one hell of an engine made it perform more like a CLA 45 than a box on wheels. Despite its top-heavy stature, the way the GLB leans into corners and reacts to quick steering inputs is impressive. Remarkably poised, stable, and grounded, the GLB 35 demonstrates handling as neutral as Switzerland at lower pedestrian speeds. Hit unholy numbers and understeer will creep into play, but it’s easily managed by the firm and measured steering. The same complaints of a hesitant gearbox remain here. But that exhaust note is the cherry on top of the sundae. What AMG have done to make such a raucous and authoritative soundtrack from a petit four-cylinder engine is nothing short of titillating. The GLB 35 snorts on upshifts, roars on wide-open-throttle, and sings at the redline with the charisma of a Fiat 500 Abarth and the refinement of a V6 AMG.

 

 

The GLB is a family-sized box that masterfully combines seven-passenger capability and off-road aesthetics into a premium package, acting as a compelling alternative for those who don’t require the commitment of a large SUV or minivan. The third row isn’t ideal for average-sized adults, but is viable for the occasional ferrying of smaller human McNuggets. Carving a new and rather empty niche with a feature-rich cabin and oodles of nail-biting performance in AMG guise, the GLB is an appealing entry point into the brand and based on our initial driving impressions, is poised to become one of the silver star’s main attractions.

 

The new Mercedes GLB will be manufactured in Mexico, and in Beijing for the Chinese market. No word on official Canadian pricing just yet, but expect the GLB 250 4MATIC to be launched in the first quarter of 2020, with the GLB 35 following in the third quarter of the same year.

 


Photo Gallery:

 

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC rear lights 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC taillights

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC andalusia spain 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC digital white 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC digital white rear

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC without sport package 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC wheels tires

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC spain whitewashed buildings 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC front grill view 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC designo patagonia red

 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC canada 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC canada 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC red paint spain

 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC panamericana front grill 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC rear tail lights 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC downhill

 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC in the city 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC interior 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC 10.25-inch displays

 

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC navigation gps 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC rear seats 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC black interior

 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC steering wheel 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC steering wheel control dials 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC instrument display

 

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC display 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC center console trackpad 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC key fob

 



Specifications:

Model: 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250 4MATIC

Paint Type: Digital White
Base Price: TBA
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,634 / 1,829 / 1,658
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 221 hp
Torque: 258 lb-ft
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD

 


 

Specifications:

Model: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC

Paint Type: designo Patagonia Red
Base Price: TBA
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,634 / 1,829 / 1,658
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower: 302 hp @ 5,800 - 1,600 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3,000 - 4,000 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed dual-clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD

 




 

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