Mercedes-Benz doesn’t make it easy for luxury crossover or sport utility vehicle buyers. It’s not that the German automaker doesn’t offer quality vehicles; it does. But where does a shopper start?
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB, a small, entry-level luxury sport utility vehicle, is available in three trims: GLB 250, GLB 250 4Matic and AMG GLB 35. Seating for five is standard in two rows. An optional third row isn’t much more than an afterthought; the rear seats are only appropriate for tiny people.
For drivers with a penchant for sportiness in their SUVs, the AMG GLB 35 is optimal. It expands on its GLB 250 siblings’ 2-liter, 221-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine. It’s matched with an eight-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive or the all-wheel-drive 4Matic option. Technology is state-of-the-art, although the varied front, side and rear traffic and obstacle sensors are too sensitive.
Numerous option packages and single-time extras—such as a panoramic sunroof, multi-contour front seats, adaptive suspension, heated steering wheel, head-up display, satellite radio and a Burmester sur- round-sound system— all sharply boost the price.
The GLB is an impressive compact SUV, a competitor for the Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lincoln Corsair, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Volkswagen Tiguan. But Mercedes-AMG may find there’s another competitor: the company’s own GLC-Class, which is only slightly larger.
Equipped with many of the other trims’ features, the GLB 35’s sporty look is accentuated in several areas. The rear bumper has dual exhaust tips. A roof spoiler and front splitter are also included. The interior is appointed well with microfiber and leather. A few futuristic upgrades are added, such as a non-intuitive touchscreen and digital gauge system. Shifting is accomplished by the small arm behind the steering wheel. It can be confused with the windshield wiper indicator, but works well after a learning adjustment.
Three rows of seating seem odd. The back seats are easy to access and configure, but seven-passenger seating stretches the capacity unless the five occupants in the second and third rows are jockey-sized or smaller.
The GLB 35’s boxy exterior is also odd, but in a good way. While it looks suited for off-road treks, its astute maneuvering and acceleration are signature qualities and best for traditional driving. The flat-bottom steering wheel further adds to the fun.
As the newbie to the expansive Mercedes SUV lineup, the GLB 35 is positioned, as its lettering designates, between the small GLA and the larger GLC. Why a third option is necessary is difficult to understand. How many more SUVs could the industry possibly need?
Still, the AMG GLB 35 is an aggreate of many things in one vehicle, sporty, refined and family-oriented all worked into a so-defined entry-level luxury vehicle. It’s a difficult formula to master, but the upscale SUV does it well. On the open road, it defines Mercedes-AMG. The ride is quiet, the car is in command.