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The Mercedes AMG GLB35 leads two lives

The Mercedes AMG GLB35 is a pumped up version of Mercedes smallest SUV, with 302 horsepower and a fun sport suspension. But is it cool enough to fool everyone?


Being 40 in 2024 is an odd sensation. We’ve been conditioned to feel young for all eternity, applying skin creams, working out, and resisting the urge to yell at people lighting July Fourth fireworks past 7:30 PM. Thing is, I’m not young. Not 22-young, anyway. My hips are tight. My hair is going grey. I have no interest in squishing myself into a low-slung sports car everyday. So it feels like the Mercedes AMG GLB35 was made just for me.

But is it really?

Mercedes AMG GLB35

2024 Mercedes AMG GLB35 Quick Take

Get one:

Go-kart handling. Superb steering and brakes. Functional fun.

Don’t get one:

Four-cylinder sadness. Not sexy. A lot of money for a cheap Mercedes.

Soul Score: 7

A fun family wagon disguised as an SUV.

The 2024 Mercedes AMG GLB35 Overview

Mercedes AMG GLB35

It’s easy to go to the gym and be discouraged. It’s filled with young, good-looking people. But then I go to a kids birthday party and discover just how out of shape I’d look if I didn’t continue to sweat and grunt.

If you believe I’m describing a lifestyle choice, you’d be correct, and that’s exactly what a car like the Mercedes GLB is. You can have a normal GLB250, with its 220-horsepower engine. Paint it silver, put black leather inside, and you can slip through life unnoticed. That is a car for those parents at the birthday party. Inoffensiveness at its best.

Mercedes AMG GLB35

Then there’s this. Pushed through the AMG factory doors, the GLB35 is what pops out the other side, with a 302-horsepower engine, stiffened suspension, and carbon fiber trim. All dolled up, it costs nearly $70,000. Getting old is expensive.

It’s easy to see it at a badge job, but there’s a lot of substance here too.

Performance Score: 7. Make me sweat

Mercedes AMG GLB35

Fun fact: this is not an SUV. Not according to the EPA anyway – they call it a mid-size station wagon.

For once, I agree with them. The GLB35 is low to the ground, and it’s all the better for it. This thing can dance.


Mercedes AMG GLB35
Little farts come out of here.

The biggest issue I have with this Merc is under the hood, which embraces a 2-liter turbocharged inline-four with 302 horsepower and 295-lb-ft of torque.

There’s a nice push off the line, but though the specs suggest the car must be revved to access that 302 horsepower up at 6,000 RPM, not much happens after 4,500. Despite AMG’s tinkering, it still feels like a slightly more powerful German turbo four. Big meh. Know what’s available at the BMW store across the street for this price? A B58.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Revving the engine out doesn’t gain you much speed.

There’s some overrun womps and cackles from the dual pipe exhaust, but if you’ve been in any AMG product with a larger motor, it’s easy to feel like you just should have saved for something more. Thank the price for my opinion – this is a $55k motor, not a $70k one. Skip some options, and you’ll get closer to that number.


Mercedes AMG GLB35
Don’t let the column shifter fool you, this is a DCT.

Things get better once we leave the hood. AMG has attached an eight-speed Dual-Clutch transmission here, and it accommodates the GLB’s tossable nature perfectly.

In comfort mode you’d be none-the-wiser that it’s no ZF, never drawing attention to itself with neck-snapping shifts that some DCTs exhibit. But in Sport, it responds like greased lightning. Pull those paddles for satisfying clicks and feel good knowing you’re working the drive train for all it’s worth. I actually found myself leaving it in Sport mode – you’re paying for athleticism, let’s use it. Anything else makes it feel like a regular GLB.

Steering and Chassis

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Buy this car for the chassis, it’s terrific.

Shocked. Shocked, I tell you! The GLB is really good.

First, the steering. Why is this better than even the SL 63’s system? It’s direct, nicely weighted, and helps the G respond like it has the scent of blood on its nose.

You can also thank the chassis for that. There is almost no body roll, with absolutely flat cornering through twisties. It’s deceptive because, let’s face it, the GLB looks like a tall clown car from the outside. Nope – way better than any other small SUV thing I can remember.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
The GLB remains flat through turns, and feels lighter than it is.

Though the GLB is built on a front-wheel drive chassis, AMG did an excellent job hiding it. There’s 4MATIC to distribute power and the front wheels are never overwhelmed. Again, leave the car in Sport mode. The ride might not be typical Mercedes smooth, but it’s worth it on all but the straightest of roads.


Mercedes AMG GLB35
Silver brake calipers poke though 20-inch matte black wheels.

They inspire confidence, with a firm pedal that matches the rest of this Mercedes. More than up to the task of stopping this 4,000-pound wagon repeatedly, the brakes round out the Mercedes AMG GLB35’s performance portfolio nicely.

I brought this car to Monticello Motor Club, and I thought I’d feel like I do when I walk into the gym; I could lift that weight, I just don’t want to right now, okay?

Well, the GLB could do a lap at Monticello if it wanted to, and it wouldn’t embarrass itself. It’s a motor away from being great.

Lifestyle Score: 9. Send in the clowns

Mercedes AMG GLB35
There’s a lot of room in this car.

I like that the GLB is different. A BMW X1 is what it is, a tall, mid-size SUV. An X2 is the same thing, just less practical. But the GLB never hides the fact that hey, you’re going to Costco damn it.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
A little tight back there.

Open the rear hatch to find a nice, square trunk that can accommodate bar bells and juice boxes. Lots of juice boxes. There’s an optional third row on the spec sheet, but the GLB is too short for it to be useful for anyone with legs.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Fits dumb bells and diapers.

In the middle there’s enough room for kids, but with my daughter being nearly five feet tall by now, consider moving up a class if you have teenagers. Or unusually tall second graders. I thought the bottom cushions were also on the shorter side.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
The chairs are supportive, but firm.

You sit lower than you might expect – there’s not even a hint of SUV in the seating position. The front seats themselves were a bit of a disappointment. They are supportive and hold you in place, but wow are they firmer than your gym crushes’ butt. I couldn’t get comfortable on the two-hour drive to Monticello, and they are covered in some sort of leather made from alien moo cows. No ventilation option either, though they leave a blank button to remind you to work harder. Come on, this is still a Mercedes.

Fuel Economy Score: 4. All pain, no gain

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Not good enough.

To put it simply: the GLB’s powertrain doesn’t make much sense when it comes to economy.

The EPA says 23 combined, but 20 MPG is what I averaged. That’s two MPG worse than I get in an X3 M40i, a car with far more power. So it’s not a fun engine, and it’s not thrifty…why put a four-banger in this at all?

Making it electric doesn’t work either. Mercedes has the EQB, which is a GLB with a battery. That car weighs 400 pounds more and makes just 185 horsepower. To produce the GLB’s power, you’d need a bigger battery and more weight, which would hurt the car’s stellar handling.

To top it off the AMG GLC, which is Mercedes’ answer to the X3, also comes with the same engine (slightly more power, one MPG less). Mercedes, give these cars the engines they deserve.

Features and Comfort: 6. Optional options

Mercedes AMG GLB35

If you like the GLB, the good news is you don’t need all the options included on this example. The good bits that make it sporty, like the DCT and electronic suspension, are standard.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for that typical luxurious Mercedes experience, it’ll be apparent that this is based on their cheapest model.

Big and Tall

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Looks like a Mercedes alright.

It’s easy to believe this is more wagon and less SUV as you slide inside of it – parallel. No climbing up into the cockpit.

Once inside, you’ll feel like you’re on display because of the tall windows and double sunroof glass, but it feels very open and airy. I quite like it. Shame about the rear windows though – no tint.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Red seat belts! Red stitching! Alcantara!

The seats themselves feature a mix of MB-Tex, which is faux leather, and microfiber with red stitching. It’s hot and doesn’t help those stiff seats feel softer.

There’s also red seat belts, a flat-bottom Nappa leather steering wheel and carbon fiber trim to complete the racy look. It’s nice and all, but I get a wiff of cost-cutting, with the trinkets designed to hide the fact. It’s as if the Germans are telling you to have fun.

“This is fun now, ja? You are having speed and thrills with red seat belts, yes.”

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Love this dash.
Mercedes AMG GLB35
A 10.25-inch touchscreen is standard.

Good things include really nice ambient lighting, typical Mercedes looks with those turbine HVAC vents, and wireless Apple CarPlay. It’s more than the G Wagon gets. Also good is a smaller version of the digital dash from the SL. The options are fun and beautiful, and the sci-fi one I always choose is the only attempt from any carmaker to break away from traditional dials.

Tall and Big

Mercedes AMG GLB35
The night Package adds blacked out details.

The GLB35 sort of reminds me of the R63. Remember that car? It was AMG’s attempt to disguise the fact that the regular R Class was simply a minivan and not an SUV, because minivans are uncool. The GLB isn’t a minivan, but those awkward proportions give the illusion of a work van. It’s actually shorter than the Elantra.

Mercedes AMG GLB35
Matte wheels up the visual muscle.

Black plastic cladding on the bottom here again, a point I bring up ad nauseam. Unpainted rocker panels are for protecting the paint on real trucks when they go off-road – so there isn’t any to scratch. We’re not going off-road though, so the GLB would look much better with fully painted sides.

The AMG Night Package blacks out some of the trim in gloss to aid the look, and 20-inch matte black wheels gives a muscle mommy vibe. Painted one of my favorite Merc shades of Starling Blue Metallic, the overall affect will at least help you stand out from the crowd of Nissan Altimas and Sentra at the school pickup line.

The 2024 Mercedes AMG GLB35 is capable but confusing

Mercedes AMG GLB35

So after all this, what does the GLB say? I’m cool, but reasonable. No more six-pack, but not yet developed a full-on dad bod. Is that enough?

No way the school moms and dads will look at this parked next to a regular GLB in the showroom and get giddy, with its nearly $30k price difference from a base model G. You could option that car with an AMG appearance package and walk out the door having spent just $50k, and everyone will think the same of you since it looks like this AMG.

Mercedes AMG GLB35

Is it hardcore enough for me? Not really. It’s too slow, too boxy, and ultimately doesn’t provide the sort of immersive performance experience other AMG products do.

But that doesn’t mean AMG did a bad job – it’s actually a fun car. Handles better than anything else this useful, and will whisper (not yell) to you and invite you to take the long way home.

Cars that don’t make sense but work anyway are some of my favorites, and the Mercedes AMG GLB35 is among them. Drive it with confidence, knowing you haven’t given into your age yet.

Mercedes AMG GLB35

2024 Mercedes AMG GLB35 Specifications


front-engine, four-wheel-drive, five-passenger, five-door wagon


Base: $59,050
As tested: $68,900


2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder
302 horsepower @ 6,100 RPM
295 lb-ft @3,000 RPM
Eight-speed Dual-Clutch Automatic transmission


Wheelbase: 111.4 in
Length: 183.1 in
Width: 72.2 in
Height: 65.4 in
Curb Weight: 4,023 lbs


23 combined /21 city /26 highway

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