In the luxury automotive space there seems to be an arms race for which manufacturer can offer the highest number of performance SUVs in their lineup, and Mercedes-AMG is certainly a contender following the latest release of the GLB 35. The quirky looking crossover packs a punch for its compact size and also offers an unexpected level of premium comfort and versatility given the entry-level positioning.
Out of the automaker’s crossover lineup, this offering has arguably the most unique appearance boasting a boxy, upright design and large rectangular LED headlamps. For the first time on the platform, the signature AMG polished vertical-slat grille makes an appearance, complementing the metallic front splitter and rear diffusers, the latter wrapping around dual round tailpipes.
Other exterior standouts include the body colour roof spoiler, exclusive 19 to 21-inch Tantalum Grey aluminum wheels and big silver brake calipers, contrasting AMG logos emblazoned on the front pair of four-piston units. For even more visual pop, buyers bundle a Night package coating the body aero in a high gloss black finish, as well as adding black chrome-plated exhaust outlet trim.
It’s nice to see nothing is skimped on in the interior: my loaner had the gorgeous multifunction sports steering wheel covered in leather and Alcantara equipped, complete with touch-sensitive thumb control pads and dynamic buttons to change dynamic vehicle settings like damper stiffness.
One feature not often seen in small crossovers is the presence of a third row. Buyers can opt for an extra couple of seats at the back, perfect for those impromptu family road trips. When not in use they may be lowered and folded to lie flat to extend the load compartment floor, opening up 680 litres of cargo space.
The GLB 35 is powered by a torque-y 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, good for 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Once it gets going there’s a nice little growl from the exhaust, but the turbo lag is real — the car struggled to move for a second or two when I jabbed the accelerator to make a quick merge in traffic.
Handling is tight thanks to 4MATIC variable all-wheel drive and the optional AMG RIDE CONTROL, utilizing electronic dampening that is capable of instantly adjusting to different driving scenarios. Even in Comfort mode, however, the ride tends to be on the stiff side due to the oversized alloys wearing low-profile tires. For the North American market, the 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC is built at the company’s Aguascalientes plant in Mexico, replacing production of the A-Class Sedan.