Review: 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 – Worthy of the AMG badge?

Shaun · Mar 20, 2021 10:00 AM

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Well-renowned motoring journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, once said in an interview that God is normally fair with His dishing out of talents. He went on to give an example with David Beckham – an immensely talented footballer, blessed with good looks but to balance it out, a squeaky voice was given.

It appears the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 faces a similar conundrum. It takes off like a scalded cat and it’s able to keep up with sports cars in the twisties. And to balance it out, it looks a like a bread loaf on wheels. Oh dear, did I just compare David Beckham to the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35?

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Anyway, we’ll talk about its quirks and qualities more later. Let’s have a quick refresher on the Mercedes-Benz GLB range. There are 3 variants of the GLB (all fully-imported from Mexico) – GLB 200, GLB 250, and this – the GLB 35, sitting at the top of the GLB range. Lower rung variants feature 7 seats while the GLB 35 omits the third-row seats.

Exterior – Odd yet endearing

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Back to the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35’s bread loaf exterior. On one hand, it does have a proper SUV shape with its relatively tall body and squarish looks. On the other, some may find the proportions a bit odd-looking, especially the almost-vertical rear windscreen. 

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Personally though, I find the bread loaf shape to be quite endearing. AMG bits aside, it’s a just an unassuming SUV. No one would expect 306 PS lurking underneath the bonnet.

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Only eagled-eyed Mercedes connoisseurs would take notice of the aforementioned AMG bits; the Panamericana front grille with its vertical slats, the 20-inch AMG 5-twin spoke light-alloy wheels finished in tantalite grey, the Turbo 4Matic badge on the front fender, and of course, the AMG badge at the rear.

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The circular exhaust tips on each side signifies a 35 series AMG, like the A35. Thankfully, there are actual exhaust exits within so they are not completely fake.

Interior – Mercedes at its best

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The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35’s interior design resembles closely to the A-Class, which is a positive in my book. It has the wow factor the moment you step inside, especially at night.

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The turbine looking air vents, the dual widescreen displays merging the instrument cluster and infotainment screen, and the ambient lighting contribute to the wow factor. Plenty of carmakers now incorporate ambient lighting in their cars, but none with Mercedes-Benz's flair. It just lights up the interior like a disco ball or a spa depending on your mood.

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I’ve always been indifferent to the interior presentation of Mercedes-Benzes, even once described it as style over substance. But this time I have to concede to the effort they’ve put into the interior. It does leave an impression.

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In typical Mercedes fashion, you’d have to adjust to the ergonomics rather than relying on intuition; the gear lever and parking brake placement, the stalk that controls the wipers and indicator, the seat adjustment on the door panel, etc.

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The displays are crisp with decent refresh rate and response time. In terms of the user interface, I quite like the graphics and found it easy to comprehend. Although some may understandably disagree. I did find the touchpad, both on the centre console and steering wheel, to be fiddly at times and would resort to touching the screen.

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The Burmester surround sound system should satisfy most; it’s airy and has decent level of detail. I did find it to be a little bass heavy at default settings, but a quick tweak on the equalizer will neutralise it.

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Space wise, it’s relatively spacious at the rear, with slightly more than 2 tennis balls of kneeroom for yours truly who is of 177-cm height. And 2 tennis balls of headroom from the tall body.

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Build quality wise, there were creaking noises around the door grab handles, a common trait in newer Mercedes interior. The tonneau cover does rattle when it’s retracted, so you’d have to extend it to avoid any unwanted noise. These noises may be an isolated case and in a more affordable car, I would’ve looked past it. But given its price point, I expected a sturdier interior.

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Driving Experience – Drives nothing like how it looks

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Part of the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35’s charm is the combination of how it looks and how it drives. From the outside, it’s a tall-looking bread loaf (I think bread loaf may been overused here) that looks perfectly at home for school runs.

And if you drive it sensibly, it will do the school runs in stealth mode. It picks up speed with relative ease, the exhaust isn’t shouty, the controls are moderately weighted, brakes aren’t too grabby, and the suspension can be slackened enough for a good nap.

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However, if you were to be running late, the GLB 35 will happily make up for lost time. Give it the beans and it’ll leave hot hatches in its wake. 0-100 km/h is completed in 5.5 seconds as tested, not quite the 5.2 seconds as claimed but the test was done on a blazing afternoon. In comparison, the Renault Megane RS does it in 6.5 seconds.

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The M260 2.0-litre turbocharged engine has a relatively boosty nature in which you’ll feel the surge building up, but isn’t particularly characterful otherwise by AMG standards. It doesn’t pop or crackle on overruns and instead of snapping your neck on full chat, it’s a smooth rush of acceleration. 

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More impressively, the GLB 35 holds its line in corners quite remarkably for what it is. It has plenty of traction in its reserves, no doubt aided by the excellent Michelin PS4S tyres, but also the torque vectoring from the 4Matic as well. Firm up the damping and it keeps body movements controlled.

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As a result, it’s able to keep up with lower slung sport cars in the bends. Of course, it doesn’t feel at home doing that - it’s still a relatively heavy, large and tall car. But that in itself can be an amusing activity, depending on your sense of humour.

Given its weight, the GLB 35 stops remarkably well. The brakes feel beefy when you put the anchors on, giving plenty of confidence in its stopping power. It takes 36.5m from 100 km/h to come to a standstill.

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If there's an aspect of the driving experience I'm not too fond of, it's town driving. The dual-clutch transmission works great when you're on it, but not so much at low speeds as it judders at downshifts.

This condition can be exacerbated under indecisive throttle application, meaning if you treat the throttle pedal like an on/off switch. So it's best to modulate and be consistent with inputs. 

Ride Comfort – Slightly busy but still acceptable

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The AMG Ride Control suspension does provide the GLB 35 with sufficient flexibility to cover school runs and touge runs (if you're into those). In its most comfortable setting, the larger undulations are taken in stride but still feels slightly busy over pockmarked surfaces. This can be attributed to the larger, 20-inch wheels.

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Interestingly, I prefer the firmer suspension setting in Sport mode (the middle setting, there’s Sport+). It’s feels tauter with minimal loss of pliancy, and I find that it matches the spring rates better.

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In terms of seat comfort, the lumbar support is rather aggressive as you can feel the protrusion on the seat back. But with the right adjustment, it feels properly supportive.

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At the rear however, the seat base angle is rather flat and as a result, it lacks thigh support. The rear seats itself doesn’t feel particularly well-sculptured and the cushion is on the firmer side.

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As for the cabin noise, it does suffer from tyre noise, amplified by the 255 section tyres on 20-inch wheels. At triple-digit speeds, wind noise starts to intrude the cabin, but that’s a given considering its shape. Mechanical noises however, are well-suppressed. The sound level meter recorded an average of 61 dB at 60 km/h, 66 dB at 90 km/h, and 70 dB at 110 km/h.

Fuel consumption – Decent figure for its size and weight

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After a journey of 99.4 km broken down to about 60% highway and 40% city driving, it required 9.34 litres of fuel to brim the tank. This translates to a calculated fuel consumption of 9.4-litre/100 km.

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The onboard computer reading displayed an average fuel consumption of 9.7-litre/100 km, which is fairly accurate. Considering its size and weight, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 has a decent fuel consumption, when you’re not gunning it, of course.

Conclusion

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On its own, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is quite the charmer. It drives nothing like how it looks (tall and clumsy) and sports a duality in its character; it does the mature stuff without a fuss and when you’re feeling a little cheeky, it plays along.

And here comes the big but – at RM 363,136, choices are aplenty including its own A35 siblings. Personally, I’d pick the GLB 35 over its stablemates for the comical mix of size and pace. Plus, it's the range-topping GLB whereas the A35 isn't quite the full-fat A45 S.

So if you ask me whether the GLB 35 is worthy of the AMG moniker, I'd say it's more of an AMG Performance model, akin to BMW's M Performance or Audi S models.

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But I if were to look elsewhere, the Volvo XC60 would be mighty tempting; it’s just as quick to accelerate and feels plusher overall. Also hypothetically, if I were in the market for a performance family car, the BMW M340i would also be mighty tempting.

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The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is a middle-ground car that tries to accomplish everything without mastering anything. A jack of all trades, master of none, if you will.

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Would I buy one if I had the means? As much as I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had with the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, I wouldn’t plonk my own money on one, just like how I wouldn’t marry David Beckham despite a great admiration. It’s one of those guilty-pleasure cars, and best left as a fleeting affair.

Shaun

Writer

The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.

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