In its base GLB250 form, the Mercedes GLB-class is a standard-issue small luxury crossover: boxy on the outside, spacious on the inside, with nice interior finishes but not much personality. AMG’s take on the GLB is called the GLB35 and is an entirely different animal. Its high-strung turbo four-cylinder engine, lowered suspension, and cheeky appearance inject a healthy dose of character, transforming this crossover into something far more enjoyable and distinctive.
The GLB35 is also more perplexing, at least on paper. Technically, it’s not even classified as an SUV at all. Due to its lower ground clearance, the EPA categorizes it as a mid-size station wagon, which means it can’t have tinted rear windows, according to Mercedes, and gives it a Euro-spec look. The GLB is also unusual in this size class for offering a small third row of seats, an option that is also available on this AMG performance version, which is an $850 option.
So, what we have here is a rather diminutive crossover that offers a modicum of family-hauling capability along with a raucous turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four with 302 horsepower, 295 pound-feet of torque, and a snorty exhaust note. It sprints to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds, with the eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission ripping snappy upshifts along the way. While the BMW X2 M35i is several ticks quicker, the GLB35 is usefully swifter than the 221-hp GLB250, which is more than a second slower to 60 mph.
Grip the thick leather-wrapped steering wheel and you’ll be satisfied by the weighty steering feel. The GLB35 changes direction eagerly for something so tall and narrow, with little body roll and impressive composure on rough roads. Our test car’s 19-inch wheels and Continental ProContact GX SSR all-season tires limited performance on the skidpad and in our braking test, where the GLB35 achieved 0.87 g and stopped from 70 mph in 173 feet. Grippier summer tires are available if you opt for the larger 20- or 21-inch wheels.
With more than $10,000 in options, including a panoramic sunroof, an upgraded infotainment system, and a Burmester audio system, our GLB35’s as-tested price crested $60,000. That’s a lot to pay for one of the smallest models in the Benz lineup, even if it does offer a unique combination of practicality and performance. Viewed another way, however, one could note that the only other seven-seaters with AMG badges are found in even higher price echelons—for instance, the $73,400 GLE53 or the $133,150 GLS63.
We’re still not quite sure who the GLB35 is for, but we understand the idea behind Mercedes’s goal to insert the esteemed AMG badge into every corner of the marketplace it can possibly carve out. And honestly, we don’t really care what form these various AMG models take as long as the end product is fun to drive and singularly appealing—just like the strange creation that is the AMG GLB35.
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