Photos: Mercedes-Benz, Derryn Wong
The Mercedes-Benz GLB 200 model coming to Singapore will be the big seller, no doubt, since there’s no GLB 180 yet, and the 2.0-litre powered GLB 250 won’t be sold locally.
Read our full rundown of the launch info for the new GLB in Singapore, then our review of the regular GLB 200 first to understand that it’s turned out to be a surprisingly good choice if you simply can’t live with the looks of a dowdy multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) and prefer a boxy-cool crossover, the only majorly boring thing is that the 1.33-litre inline four sounds like a hair dryer.
If you can’t live with that either, here’s the only alternative: the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35.
For the compact/small Mercedes models, the ’35’ series have the same concept as the 43s, ie more performance but not full-on AMG monstrosity.
But does that treatment make the GLB into a riotous, instant giggle-machine? Almost, but not quite.
To date, we’ve only tested the Mercedes-AMG A 35 and found it a little less sizzling than its power figures imply – it does have more than 300hp, which is always an eye-opener, but the drive experience is more of a slow, controlled burn than the tasty sizzle of the 43 cars.
Apply the 35 treatment to the chunky, boxy, and tall GLB and you get something with a little more fire to feed the desires of drivers who crave a little more, as well as all-round pace and touring ability.
Visually the 35 looks very similar to the regular GLB AMG Line model (the car below in blue) – as far as we can tell the aerodynamic body kits are the same: Jutting front spoiler, sharper creases, a rear diffuser with dual tailpipes – though the 35 has black gloss round pipes rather than squarish, flat ones, and on the front the 35 has the ‘true’ AMG grille which is A-shaped and has toothy vertical chrome slats.
Spot the difference: Here’s the regular GLB with the AMG Line body kit
It does lend more menace to the GLB’s already prominent appearance, especially the signature AMG grimace a result of wider air intakes. Our test car laid it on thick, with optional 21-inch (the largest the GLB can take) dark alloy wheels.
WATCH MORE: Want to know how the GLB 35 sounds and handles? Skip to the 8:00 mark in our video review here – then watch the rest of it to see a real-live demo of how the GLB can actually fit seven adults.
Under the skin there are bigger differences, all AMG tuned: sportier suspension, larger brakes, unique chassis reinforcement, an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, all-wheel drive, and a variable-speed/ratio steering rack.
Inside the biggest difference is the AMG steering wheel, which has a flat bottom, perforated leather and the new control ‘pods’ that have their own integrated display – you can fiddle with settings for the drive modes, suspension, and AMG Dynamics performance-enhancing system directly.
The same mode selectors are present on the A 35 AMG as well – seen here with a Alcantara-style fabric steering wheel
The drive modes include Slippery, Individual, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and there are two settings for AMG Dynamics (Basic, Advanced), our car also came with the AMG Ride Control, which is optional overseas but likely to be standard for Singapore.
On the move, the increased feel and precision of the 35 is immediately obvious. Compared to the GLB 200, it’s a big step up, this is something that’s much more willing and able to tackle the challenge of mountain roads head-on.
The 306hp engine has plenty of gusto, and channeled through the all-wheel drive, delivers plenty of enjoyable traction, underscored by an enjoyable throaty soundtrack that isn’t all flubby-boyracer basso.
However it’s not like the GLB has magically-morphed into a wild canyon carver.You’ll still feel some body roll, the 400Nm ramps the car out of corners rather than rocketing it, and while there’s increased precision of the steering and handling, it doesn’t make the car ‘shrink’ behind the wheel.
In line with our impressions of the A 35, it’s almost as if AMG is dialling back its magic dust a little, in comparison to the 43 models. The telling fact being that the 2.0-litre is a little muted in comparison to the roaring, cracking V6, not to mention the ‘full-AMG’ 2.0-litre of the previous-gen 45 models.
Still, we can see how the GLB 35 will appeal to some drivers in Singapore, besides the fact that it’s the default choice for a potential GLB owner who simply wants more grunt.
In any case, the AMG 35 model is just as practical, since the seven-seats, generous interior room and flexibility isn’t impacted in the AMG-ifying of the car.
We think it’s unlikely a GLB 45 will ever appear, while the 224hp GLB 250 4Matic won’t be landing on our shores. Plumping for the GLB 35 makes sense if you simply can’t stand pulling soccer-parent duty with a boring engine and need a little emotional rescue.
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC
|Engine||1,991cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||306hp at 5800-6100rpm|
|Torque||400Nm at 3000-4000rpm|
|Top Speed||5.2 seconds|
|VES Band / CO2||TBA / 172g/km|
|Agent||Cycle & Carriage|
|Availability||First half 2020|