HOT HATCH IN DRAG: 2021 MERCEDES-AMG GLB 35
As we discovered last year, in 2020, the GLB starts to fill a gap we didn’t know was missing from Mercedes-Benz. By offering a third-row option, it would be the only compact crossover in the Mercedes lineup to have seating available for 7-passangers before getting up in size to the GLE or beefy GLS models. That’s neither here nor there as the sampled GLB 250 we had back then and the GLB 35 we have now, both arrived short of its $850 third-row seat option; therefore, our second-row passengers sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the stretch out space of the back seat.
As crazy as it may seem for Mercedes to put their sub-compact GLB crossover in the hands of their drunk-on-power AMG division, there is something oh-so-special about this spruced up GLB 35.
After handing the GLB over to the AMG frat house, styling has been restructured to give it a more aggressive stance, naturally. The GLB 35 has a more athletic flair as if traded its mini-skirt for track pants. It rides lower than the standard GLB 250 and with its extra girth of AMG 20-inch wheels; it looks wider, even though it’s not.
In the natural course of performance, AMG didn’t waste any time fiddling with the 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that comes standard in the GLB 250. Re-tuned, AMG style, this engine churns out over 300-horsepower and nearly 300lbs-ft of torque through its 4Matic All-Wheel Drive system. Keeping to its spunk value, this re-tuned engine is jolly good fun through its swift shifting 8-speed AMG transmission – dialed the drive mode into its sportiest of sport modes and were rocketing towards 60-mph in just under 5.0-seconds.
Unlike a traditional AMG, the GLB 35 doesn’t flaunt its extra performance formula with exotic exhaust notes one would find from an excited pig – the GLB 35 is a bit more dignified with subtle burst of quiet puffs as we snap through each gear – like a hamster passing gas after a big snack. And because the GLB now proudly wears the AMG badge, its drives like… well not like an AMG, but it is one happy scamp. The steering is nicely weighted with road feel and steering feedback – the transmission is quick to the inputs like a homosexual spilling tea over brunch. The chassis has been re-tuned as well to handle the AMG driving style providing a stiff uncomfortable ride that becomes easily forgivable as it wooshes through the bends with ease. Even the braking is stiffer than my grandparent’s checkbook, stopping faster than their cancelled checks.
Inside, much of the GLB stays the same with most of the trimmings having been swapped out for carbon fiber from its usual wood or metal. The large, dual digital infotainment and instrument screen comes standard that provides crisp, premium essences to the interior surrounds. The design is simplistic and minimal that develops an open-air cabin and makes for a comfortable setting.
Rumor has it that a more powerful AMG GLB 43 could make it across the pond with almost 400-horsepower, oh my. But even with pricing starting just over $50,000, the GLB 35 can be a tough trigger to pull – especially seeing that our sampler came in right at $64,000. And since there are other alternatives from Mercedes such as the AMG GLC 43 that starts at $60,950 or even the entry-level GLE starting at $55,800, the GLB 35 is calling out to a unique consumer.
There is a harder reality here that lies deeper than the skin of the AMG sportified GLB – are hot crossovers like this starting to replace the hot hatches we love so dear to our hearts? While the GLB 35 may be a crossover, it looks like a hot hatch, it drives like a hot hatch and acts like a hot hatch. Does that mean it’s a hot hatch in crossover drag, or maybe the other way around? Either way, there is something sassy and entertaining about this new lifestyle of AMG crossovers. And if it says anything at all, it’s that we are entering a new generation of hot crossovers that we’re totally on board for.
Vehicle: 2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
Base Price: $49,500
As-Tested Price: $64,000
Engine: 2.0-liter Turbocharged Four-Cylinder
HP | Torque: 302-HP |295 lb-ft of Torque
Transmission: 8-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic
Drivetrain: 4Matic All-Wheel Drive
MPG: 21 | 26| 26 (City | Highway | Combined)
As-Tested MPG: 23.5-MPG City (Highway MPG testing is currently suspended due to high fuel prices)
Fuel Range: 320 miles
0-60 MPH: ±5.0 seconds