2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 review: When seven fit into 35

The versatile seven-seater Mercedes-Benz GLB gets a wild AMG engine and tune up for fast family motoring

SINGAPORE – The seven-seat, slightly bonkers crossover Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 arrives in Singapore more than a year after it was first unveiled. The Covid-19 pandemic is continuing to make life unpredictable in plenty of areas including automotive supply chains, and from the time the new GLB was officially launched to now, the world has become a very different place.

The GLB has proven to be a reasonably successful design for Mercedes-Benz, with the GLB 200 costing less than S$200k, a decently powerful 1.4-litre turbo engine and a cool seven seats in the house.

If you really want a car that has more than five-seats, a luxury brand badge on the nose and a not-too-exorbitant price tag then it’s possibly the best choice available right now. But what if you have a hankering for more power and the need to not leave your sporty driver’s persona behind even as you turn in to a family man?

For $246,888 with COE, you get the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 with four-wheel drive and 306 horsepower. That’s the equivalent of almost four Mitsubishi Attrage engines put together into one car.

Once again boys and girls, this is an actual Mercedes-AMG car, and not just a Mercedes-Benz with an AMG Line bodykit bolted onto it. The difference is kind of like the real Usain Bolt versus Homer Simpson wearing Usain Bolt’s racing kit. In other words, its a completely different beast mechanically.

In the usual AMG tradition, the car isn’t visually extravagant but packs a punch where it counts. Regular Joes will have trouble picking this out as the high-performance  variant of the GLB. Short of a bunch of subtle AMG logos that could easily be passed off as cosmetic additions and the GLB 35 badge on the rump, there’s little else to highlight the car, though the chunky brake calipers visible through the wheel spokes hint at the power beneath the bonnet. 

It’s a properly quick car when you really lean on the accelerator, and the multiple selectable drive modes also make this more than a one-trick pony. When it’s just the driver onboard, the car feels almost like a jacked-up hot hatchback with plenty of grip through the corners and an engine that seems to never fall into a flat spot.

It’s got an official 0 to 100km/h dash time of just 5.2 seconds, which is quicker than a BMW 430i coupe’s rated sprint time of 5.8 seconds. Plus, the GLB 35 is around S$30k cheaper and seats five more passengers than the BMW 4 Series coupe. How’s that for being able to have your cake and eat it too?

It’s not just about outright power though, as the chassis of the GLB 35 has been strengthened, suspension settings revised for sportier handling, and stronger brakes fitted to haul the car down from the crazy speeds that it can effortlessly reach. 

The four-wheel drive system also means that it really grips through corners and feels very confident on its feet in slippery conditions.

The current-gen Mercedes-Benz user interface means you get voice controlled functions and a snazzy digital dashboard that is full of razzle-dazzle options and themes but can sometimes border on confusing, plus a bunch of AMG-specific sport display instruments as well. 

It’s an oxymoronic combination of family-friendly practicality on top of rocket-like engine and a chassis that is as taut as any sports car’s, though it’s also pretty civil to drive around town at low speeds too when the car is not in Sport mode.  

The interior architecture is identical to the other non-AMG GLB variants, which means that the third row’s two seats is kind of small and not ideal for adult passengers on longer trips. The lack of air-conditioning vents in the back can also create a scenario where you either get freezing cold in front and comfortable in the back, or comfortable in front and warm in the third row. It’s not a deal breaker though if you’re using the car primarily as a five-seater with the occasional sixth or seventh passenger. 

The second row is adjustable for legroom and actually very roomy for a car of this size, and thanks to the engine’s prodigious power output it never feels bogged down even when fully loaded to capacity.

WATCH: The GLB 35 is just like the GLB 200 when it comes to space – we walk you through all there is to know about the regular GLB!

Crossover SUVs are all the rage now, and more so those with an additional row of seats stashed in the boot. The GLB 180 and GLB 200 will do well enough for buyers that want a big brand name logo and seven seats in a reasonably compact car, but this is the racy, big horsepower version for drivers that haven’t left their boy racer souls behind when they move into becoming family men. 

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4matic 

Engine1991cc, inline 4, turbocharged
Power306hp at 5800-6100rpm
Torque400Nm at 3000-4000rpm
Gearbox8-speed twin-clutch
0-100km/h5.2 seconds
Top Speed250km/h
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
VES Band / CO2C1  / 163g/km
AgentCycle & Carriage
Price$246,888 with COE
Verdict:Not as manic as you might expect, but the extra power and agility makes it a far more fun car to drive than the base model 

about the author

Lionel Kong
An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.