Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC review

Get £20 off your MOT

RAC Breakdown Cover comes with home rescue as standard. Plus, get £20 off your MOT with Advanced and Ultimate.*

WS Test 01

Only pay for the cover you need - from 2 hours to 5 months.^

The GLB 35 4MATIC re-imagines exactly what a fast seven-seat family SUV can be. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.

Ten Second Review

On the face of it, the GLB 35 is just another hot Mercedes SUV. Until you begin to delve a little deeper. Where else on the market can you get a crossover like this with as much as 300hp and 7 seats? It's a rare combination.

Background

You don't tend to find the letter 'B' often associated with Mercedes-AMG engineering. The Stuttgart brand's B-Class MPV is just about the only model in the range that doesn't get it. And it doesn't need to now given that a growing family wanting a versatile cabin and performance fireworks can instead choose this car, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC.

As you might guess from the name, this car shares virtually all its basic engineering with the company's core hot hatch model, the A 35. A car already reinvented as a compact SUV in the form of the storming GLA 35 model. Unlike that crossover though, the GLB 35 is properly family -sized inside and, crucially, has the advantage of being able to offer seven seats.

Driving Experience

All the stats here look promising. Thanks to use of the same 306hp turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine found in the A 35 hot hatch, performance is way above what you'd otherwise expect in this family class of car, 62mph dispatched in just 5.2 seconds, only half a second slower than the A 35. The engine is mated to an 8 speed dual clutch automatic gearbox and the brand's 4MATIC four-wheel-drive system, which can vary its torque split from 100% front wheel drive to a 50-50 power split front-to-rear. Quite a lot of work's gone in to change the suspension, which has been stiffened and standard adaptive damping added. The speed sensitive steering is also bespoke and there are larger AMG brakes.

Obviously, this top GLB isn't as fun to throw about as an A 35 but there's plenty of traction and body roll is well controlled, making possible ridiculously quick point-to-point journey times on twisting country roads. As we've noticed in other models, this engine has a lovely muted growl, with an emotive burble from the exhausts on the over-run, plus the dual clutch gearbox clicks from ratio to ratio with enthusiasm. Buyers get much the same 'DYNAMIC SELECT' driving modes system as you'd find in the AMG-GT sportscar, with "Slippery", "Comfort", "Sport", "Sport +" and "Individual" settings. Further driving modes are linked to the AMG DYNAMICS agility control, which means that the handling characteristics can be even more closely matched with different requirements and driving conditions.

Design and Build

You won't make quite the same pavement statement here that you would with a well specified A 35 or GLA 35 model, but this GLB 35 is nonetheless a car with its own potent blend of serious visual intent. You get bespoke 20-inch AMG alloy wheels and a body kit including a deep front splitter, a prominent tailgate spoiler and twin-exit exhausts set into a bespoke bumper. This GLB was also the first '35'-series model to get the distinctive Panamericana AMG grille that references the brand's 1950s racing cars.

Inside, there's a bespoke AMG cabin with a grippy 3-spoke multifunction wheel and metal finished pedals. The sports seats are upholstered in black ARTICO man-made leather with DINAMICA microfibre trimming and red-double topstitching - and there are red seat belts too. As usual with a GLB, there's a 10.25-inch MBUX centre stack touchscreen media screen. For this top variant, the 10.25-inch digital instrument display gets an extra particularly striking 'Supersport' mode with a central, round rev counter and bargraph-style driver information readouts. It's one of three AMG-specific display styles - the other two are 'Classic' and 'Sporty'. The middle row has reasonable room for a couple of adults and moving further back, this is the first compact Mercedes AMG model to be available with a third seating row, accessed via an EASY ENTRY feature. As for luggage space, most the time you will be driving with the 3rd row seats folded into the floor, at which point there's a 565-litre boot.

Market and Model

The GLB 35 4MATIC prices at just under £50,000; it would have been a bit cheaper than that, but it can't be for our market because Mercedes has chosen to offer this car here only in top 'Premium Plus' trim. Still, at least you get a lot of kit in with that. There's 20-inch AMG five-twin spoke wheels finished in matt black, Multibeam LED headlights with Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus, plus a panoramic sunroof. Inside, there's heated front electrically adjustable memory seats, a Burmester surround sound system, a 10.25-inch digital cockpit display and ambient lighting with 64 colours.

Media connectivity is taken care of by an MBUX multimedia system with 'Hey Mercedes' voice activation, the MBUX set-up working via a 10.25-inch touchscreen media display and featuring hard-disk navigation with 'Augmented Reality navigation', plus smartphone integration with wireless charging (for compatible smartphones) and Mercedes-Me connectivity. Safety's taken care of by a 'Driving Assistance package', which includes Evasive Steering Assist, Active Steer Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist, along with Active Brake Assist which features turning manoeuvre and cross-traffic functions. There's also PRE-SAFE PLUS, which braces the cabin to withstand an impact. Standard semi-autonomous driving features include Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC cruise control, plus you get route-based speed adjustment when approaching bends, roundabouts, and toll stations. There's also Active Speed Limit Assist.

Cost of Ownership

Let's get to the WLTP figures. Mercedes claims a combined fuel economy figure of 32.5mpg for the GLB 35, which is about 5mpg less than you'd get in an A 35. Clearly this figure will head south if you use the throttle pedal as intended, but it's hard to argue with the 197g/km emissions figure. Insurance cover may well be a different matter. It's rated at group 41E. You might need to keep some self-control when faced with the options list if you're not to put the kibosh on residual values.

What else? Well, we'll tell you that the comprehensive three year warranty is built upon by Mercedes' Mobilo scheme which delivers breakdown cover for up to thirty years, as long as you continue to have your car serviced at a Mercedes main dealer. And it's worth knowing that your maintenance outlay can be kept a little in check by going for the optional Service Care package that takes care of routine maintenance, spreading the cost of regular servicing, guaranteeing the price of parts and labour for up to four services and covering the cost of all recommended service items such as brake fluid, spark plugs, air filters, fuel filters and screen wash.

Summary

You'd choose the GLB 35 because you needed seven seats in an uber-fast family SUV. And if you did, you'd probably feel pretty smug because there's nothing else quite like it on the market. Of course, if you don't need three seating rows, there are lots of other options. But there's a lot to be said for cabin flexibility.

So the GLB 35 has a unique selling point over its A 35 hot hatch donor car. Which is more than can be said for the Stuttgart brand's other relatively compact fast SUV at this price point, the GLA 35. This GLB is of course heavier, higher and longer than both an A 35 and a GLA 35 - but you get a lot in return for those downsides. As a second performance-driven conveyance for an exceptionally well heeled family, this top GLB is very desirable indeed.

RAC Breakdown Cover

Join the RAC and get breakdown cover, we fix 4 out of 5 vehicles at the roadside!

WS Test 01

Only pay for the cover you need - from 2 hours to 5 months.^