This is a great place to start your AMG journey.
Back in the day, Mercedes-Benz went out on a huge, risky limb with what many advised was a bad move: they built a luxury, sports-focused SUV called the M Class. Critics said no one who bought an SUV for its truck-like capability and seating for families and dogs would dare invest in leather, technology, or a sporty, responsive drive experience, which Mercedes-Benz was known for.
The critics were quite wrong.
Fast forward to 2021 and Mercedes-Benz can’t build enough SUVs and can’t build them fast enough. In the days since, they have introduced all sorts of iterations of luxury SUVs: The diminutive GLA, the fun to drive GLC, the accommodating GLE, the super luxe GLS and the crown jewel of them all, the G Wagen.
And in 2020 we met the Mercedes-Benz GLB, a heritage inspired SUV with capability at its core but modern details that eliminate most compromises. It has a starting price of about $49K and can be had fully loaded for just under $60K. It’s not an overly huge SUV but is still roomy and can accommodate a third row if that’s what you need. It’s easy to drive and park, and easy to get in and out of when you have lots of errands to do. It is easy to move around in, has second row seats that slide—a huge yay for families with kids, both those in car seats and those who need more leg room—and plenty of head and leg room. And, in the AMG edition, there are lots of sporty luxuries.
When Performance is a Luxury
The Mercedes-Benz AMG GLB 35 is an AMG-ified version of the GLB 250: Buyers will be indoctrinated into the AMG life of drive modes, suede seating, carbon fiber trim, chrome pedals and red seatbelts. Oh, and a satisfyingly throaty engine sound. However, while the AMG GLB 35 does not sport a hand-built AMG engine, as many AMG models do, it does have a 4 cylinder turbo engine that produces 302 horsepower, 81 more horsepower than it’s non AMG counterpart. This puts it squarely in the luxury category with similarly powered SUVs from BMW, Infiniti, Lexus and others.
But the engine is just the start of the AMG experience. In addition to the design details, our test model came with a few items that put you squarely in the AMG headspace: the AMG performance steering wheel, a $400 upgrade (get it in suede for $600, which I highly recommend) and AMG steering wheel-mounted drive mode selectors ($400). With a customized steering wheel, the power of the AMG experience is truly in your hands.
Even if you don’t go for the AMG steering wheel-mounted drive mode selectors, you can use the center console selector to put the car into sport mode and really feel the pull and power of the engine.
Related: How Does the Mercedes Benz GLC to the Mercedes-Benz GLB? This is What We Learned About the GLC
And of Course, The Luxuries
It used to be that “luxury car” meant a quiet ride and cushy seats—which is not exactly the point for AMG. Now, luxury is much more complex and nuanced. Yes, leather (or leatherette) seats are a must and the AMG GLB doesn’t disappoint. The seats in our test model were leatherette and microsuede, synthetic materials that feel and perform like leather.
Here are some other details that added to the pampering nature of this edition of the GLB:
- Heated and vented front seats; I really appreciated the vented seats during my summer test drive in Texas where it was close to 100 degrees every day (black upholstery is hot in the summer)
- Ambient lighting that allows you to set the tone of the cabin; lights are recessed under the dash, door panels, ceiling headliner, cupholders and more; ambient light choices also color the multimedia system and the driver feedback screen
- MBUX multimedia system with a single panel media screen that spans most of the dashboard; driver information displays are behind the steering wheel and the multimedia system is centered on the dash. The look is modern and the system is easy to see and use
- The MBUX voice assistant (just say “Hey, Mercedes” to get her attention); the assistant is both cloud-based and built into the car; some functions won’t work without a cloud connection (such as “hey Mercedes, tell me a joke) while others are always available (hey Mercedes, set the cabin temperature to 68 degrees)
- Augmented reality navigation, one of the coolest navigation systems on the market; this feature combines graphics and video to illustrate illustrate turns, directions and more. It’s brilliant
- Hands free motion activated lift gate, because we all need this, especially if we have kids, groceries, dogs and more; it just makes getting things in and out of the car a cinch
- Smart key which opens or locks the car when your key is in your pocket or purse
- Burmester sound system—because playlists matter
- Wireless phone charger inductive charging pad
The one system that I feel buyers should demand, even it it’s not offered standard (and it’s a $1,700 upgrade in the GLB), is the driver assist and safety system. This includes adaptive cruise control, steering assist, lane keep assist, blind spot assist, lane change assist and route-based speed adaptation. These systems, once you get used to using them, allow the car to work more in tandem with you; you get used to having the car do some of the work, particularly in heavy traffic.
Related: How does the Mercedes-Benz GLB compare to the Mercedes Benz GLE? Here’s What We Discovered About the GLE
The Beauty of Mercedes-Benz: Dress Up the GLB How You Like
Some auto critics ding Mercedes-Benz for being the king of add-ons. But honestly, why pay for something you don’t want? And why not get the features you do want? After all, you’ll be the one driving it for many years and many miles. Personally, I like that Mercedes-Benz offers so many options to let you truly customize a car to be what you want and need.
This is especially true with the GLB. With the AMG engine and packaging, which has a starting price of $49,500, about $11,350 more than the starting price of the GLB at $38,600.
I have driven two versions, the GLB 250 and the AMG GLB; they both carried about the same price, just shy of $60,000. Both featured the MBUX multimedia system, leather or leatherette seats and plenty of space. Both cater to a very specific set of tastes. The GLB was plush with features like a panoramic sun roof and Burmester sound. The AMG GLB focused more on the drive experience. Buyers can also amp up the AMG edition by replacing the standard black leatherette and suede seats with something more premium (even though these seats are premium in their own right), a panoramic sun roof, 3rd row seats and upgraded wheels and paint while keeping the cost under $60,000 by subtracting some of the features our test model carried. And that’s the point: you can practically personalize the GLB and still have the Mercedes-Benz and the AMG experience.
What this Car Costs
- Base price 4 cylinder turbo engine with 302 horsepower and 295 torque, includes MB Tex leatherette with Dynamica suede, red stitching, carbon fiber trim and red seatbelts, $49,500
- Cosmos Black Metallic paint, $720
- Active LED headlights and adaptive high beam assist, $900
- Panoramic sunroof, $1500
- Heated and vented front seats, $950
- 3rd row seat, $850
- AMG performance steering wheel, $400; Suede steering wheel, $600
- Multimedia package with augmented reality navigation, $1,200
- Premium package with folding auto dimming side mirrors, hands free motion activated lift gate and smart key keyless entry, $800
- Burmester sound system, $800
- Wireless phone charger, $200
- Driver assistance package with adaptive cruise control, steering assist, lane keep assist, blind spot assist, lane change assist and route-based speed adaptation, $1,700
- Built in dash cam, $200
- AMG steering wheel drive mode selectors, $400
- Price of our test model, about $55,000; with delivery, about $57,715
The heritage look and feel of the GLB may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but those who really like classic old-school lines and shape will find it appealing. Those (ahem 🙋♀️) of us who stack our luggage to the roof and want a good view of the road from the back seat will appreciate the interior. And those who want a sporty introduction to the AMG life without spending your kids college fund? Well, this is that too. Let the journey begin.
Disclosure: Mercedes Benz provided the AMG GLB 35 for this review; all opinions are my own.