Mercedes-AMG GLB review: enough spice?
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Mercedes-AMG GLB 45
Practical for its size
Expensive compared to the entry-level GLB
Back in 2006, Mercedes introduced one of its most ambitious AMG models. It featured a hand-built 6.2-litre V8 engine that made over 370kW, and a 4MATIC all-wheel drive system sent it to 100km/h in less than five seconds. While this all sounds very impressive, we haven’t even reached the best part yet; all this was packaged into an MPV chassis to make the legendary R63.
Just 200 units of the R63 AMG were built, which not only made it one of the rarest AMG models to date, but it also made Mercedes take an introspective look at its performance brand. This evaluation reportedly made AMG realize that it was turning too many Mercedes-Benz models into incredibly fast road rockets, and thus, the R63 was only offered for one year, meaning that the world’s only V8-powered MPV was gone just as fast as it appeared.
These days, AMG is an integral part of the Mercedes brand, and while there are a number of performance models across the range, they play an important part – some more than others that is. One of the models that falls into the latter, and somewhat feels like it’s stepping into R63 territory is the GLB 35, so let’s take a look as to why that is.
On its own, the Mercedes-Benz GLB is a fantastic little SUV. Sitting on an extended version of the A-Class’ platform, the GLB is position between the GLA and the GLC in the Mercedes family tree, but thanks to better space management it is able to impressively squeeze seven seats in.
On the outside, it’s clear from the square aesthetic that the GLB was inspired by the much larger GLS SUV, but the similarities largely stop there.
In terms of performance specs, you get a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine that pumps out 225kW and 400Nm. This is sent to all four wheels through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and it will hit 100km/h in 5.2-seconds according to Mercedes-AMG.
As an AMG model, there’s an expectation that you’ll be blown away by the performance of the GLB 35, but the modest 2.0-litre turbo leaves you wanting more. An example of this is the AMG GLS 63 (that admittedly costs more than double the GLB) but it’s the only other AMG model that can cram seven occupants inside. Even with all the seats loaded up, the GLS will pin every occupant to their seat on launch, and leave a Golf GTI for dead off the lights. The GLB on the other hand feels like a lukewarm hatch to drive, with a turbocharged engine that sounds good, but overly inspiring.
On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that this isn’t a “real” AMG model as it doesn’t feature a hand-built engine. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t feel like it’s worthy of the AMG badge that it wears, but that’s an argument for another day.
Auckland | Auckland City
$238.70 p/w $954.79 p/m
Performance aside, the GLB is a lovely place to be. The cabin is finished extremely well with soft-touch materials, leather, and carbon fibre inserts. The seats aren’t overly sporty, work nicely with the rest of the cabin, and I can’t imagine you want carbon-clad buckets in a seven-seat SUV anyway.
Thanks to the spatial awareness of the design team, and that extra 10cm in the wheelbase, the GLB is surprisingly roomy inside. The first two seating rows get a generous helping of leg and head room, but the third row should be reserved for the little ones.
In terms of cross shopping, the GLB was already a sole contender for the small seven-seat SUV segment, and the AMG version seems to fill an even tighter niche by bringing performance into the equation.
As a whole, I struggle to see the logic behind the AMG GLB 35. Starting at $82,100, the entry-level GLB 200 looks like a fantastic proposition for those looking for a luxury seven-seater that can still fit into most car parks. The AMG on the other hand, feels like too much of a compromise between performance and practicality, leaving neither to really shine at its price point of $114,200.