Merc’s new performance crossover is primed and ready for its turn in the spotlight

The Mercedes GLB-Class is a poster child for the segment’s booming popularity. It probably didn’t need to exist, and yet, we’re a few months away from its arrival. The market’s growing popularity is also the reason the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is going to hit the market soon. It’s arriving a bit later than the standard GLB-Class, but the development of the high-performance model has advanced to the point where test mules of the model have been spotted on numerous occasions. The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 isn’t just a more performance-oriented version of the GLB-Class. It’s also Merc’s latest attempt in creating a new market born out of performance versions of its existing compact vehicle lineup. The AMG A 35 and the AMG GLA 45 have already arrived. Now it’s the AMG GLB 35’s turn, and if not later this year, expect the performance-spec crossover to hit the market sometime in 2020. It is coming, and it’s coming to take all of our hard-earned money.

Exterior

The 2019 Mercedes GLB Concept a New Boxy, Compact SUV
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We’ve seen the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 test mule numerous times already, so it’s becoming increasingly clear that the model hiding behind all of that swirly camouflage is as close to the production version as we’re going to get before the performance crossover’s big reveal later this year.

The more upright profile fits into the profile showcased by Mercedes in the Concept GLB.

At this point, the GLB looks like the GLK crossover that never materialized. If this is the body that we can expect, it would be a solid complement to the coupe-crossover styling of the GLA.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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The front section of the AMG GLB 35 is telling in a number of ways. There are a number of design cues that you can identify by looking at the AMG GLA 45.

The holes on the camouflage, for example, suggest that the AMG GLB 35 will feature prominent air intakes on opposite ends of the bumper, flanking the lower section of the radiator grille.

Speaking of the grille, the front grille is the only missing item on the test prototype. Unless Mercedes throws us for a loop, expect to see the same grille design on the AMG GLB 35 as the ones found on the AMG A 35 and the AMG GLA 45. You know the design by now: a large Mercedes logo in the middle connected to two chrome strips stretching on opposite ends. Behind this distinctive look is a blacked-out mesh grille that Merc concealed to make the aforementioned logo stand out. It worked visually on the AMG A 35 and the AMG GLA 45. It should do the same trick on the AMG GLB 35 unless Mercedes-AMG decides to get a little too cute with it.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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We don’t get a good handle on the side section of the crossover other than the obvious boxy profile. The AMG GLB 35’s shape is telling, in part because of the concept — the Concept GLB — from which it’s based on and because the AMG GLA 35 already occupies the coupe-crossover slot in Merc’s new lineup of compact, high-performance models. Doesn’t seem like a smart move for Mercedes to turn the AMG GLB 35 into a competitor to the AMG GLA 35.

The rear section doesn’t reveal much, as well, but the dual exhaust setup on the test mule is a clear indication that we’re dealing with a high-performance AMG model.

The roof-mounted spoiler is another hint of an AMG model. The taillights look different, too, though we can assume that not all of it is visible. The part that we do see is unlike the ones on the AMG GLA 45. That could be a sign that the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 will feature its own design cues. We’re not totally opposed to that.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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All will be revealed in due time, though. The Mercedes GLB is scheduled to debut sometime this summer with the AMG GLB 35 following soon afterward. The early returns on the crossover’s exterior look promising. Let’s see if there’s more to the model than meets the eye.

Interior

2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan
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The spy shots don’t reveal a lot about the crossover’s interior. Fortunately, we already have a pretty good idea on what to expect, particularly from Mercedes’ new-generation of compact cars that have exploded in popularity in recent years. Judging by the similar interior layout of these models, we can expect the AMG GLB 35 to carry the same design language in its cabin. That includes the flat-bottom sports steering wheel, the turbine-style A/C vents, the clean center console with the thin control cluster, and Merc’s new swanky dual digital screen setup that includes the new MBUX infotainment system. These are just the things you’ll see in the crossover’s dashboard.

The 2019 Mercedes GLB Concept a New Boxy, Compact SUV
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The boxy look of the AMG GLB 35 means that its interior will measure differently from that of the AMG GLA 45, but the similarities are also there, including the five-seat layout.

We saw from the Concept GLB a three-row interior layout. Look out for that in the production model.

If the GLB Class ends up with that layout, it would become the first SUV in this class to boast a three-row configuration. Legroom and cargo space would probably suffer in that regard, but we’ll hold off on the proclamations until we see the actual cabin. Speaking of cargo space, we can at least surmise that the AMG GLB 35 could benefit from a larger cargo storage area, at least compared to the AMG GLA 45. The AMG GLB 35’s more upright look will play a role in that, at least compared to the rather cramped coupe-crossover styling of the AMG GLA 45. The latter already offers at least 17.2 cubic feet of storage area. Seems likely that the AMG GLB will have more space at its disposal, perhaps around 18.5 cubic feet?

The 2019 Mercedes GLB Concept a New Boxy, Compact SUV
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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the premium potential of the AMG GLB 35’s interior. Fancy leather is a given, either as standard or as options. Mercedes-AMG’s MB-Tex and DINAMICA upholstery should also play prominent roles in dressing up the AMG GLB 35’s cabin to give it that quintessential premium Mercedes vibe. Ambient lighting is also included with as many as 64 different colors to choose from.

The AMG GLB 35 should also benefit from a smattering of interior-facing packages that are available on other AMG performance models.

The likely package candidates that will be available in the interior include the AMG DINAMICA Interior Package, which adds a performance steering wheel into the mix. The Multimedia Package should also be available. The same goes for the Driver Assistance Package and the Smartphone Integration Package, which unlocks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto on the AMG GLB 35.

2020 Mercedes-AMG A35 Sedan
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Don’t expect a lot of surprises when it comes to the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35’s interior.

Recent trends have shown that Mercedes isn’t afraid of using a one-size-fits-all design aesthetic across its lineup of new-generation compact vehicles.

Drivetrain

2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Unveiled with 300 HP and Four-Door Coupe Luxury Drivetrain
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At this point, the Mercedes blueprint is pretty clear when it comes to its compact lineup. Shared engines are the norm, and that’s what we’re getting with the AMG GLB 35.

The performance-leaning compact crossover will feature a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 302 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque.

It’s the same engine that powers the AMG A 35 and the AMG CLA 35. Power output is also identical, as is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that will send all that power to all four wheels, courtesy of Mercedes-AMG’s all-wheel-drive system. About the only difference will come in performance times; that’s due mainly to the physical makeup of these AMG models. The AMG A 35, for example, needs 4.7 seconds to sprint from 0 to 60 mph. The AMG GLB 35, on the other hand, probably needs around five seconds to do it, owing to its bigger frame and, consequently, heavier weight.

2020 Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 drivetrain specifications
Engine 2.0L Inline-4 turbo
Displacement 1991 cc
Max. output 302 hp at 5800 rpm
Peak torque 295 lb-ft at 3000-4000 rpm
Drive system AMG Performance 4MATIC all-wheel drive
Transmission AMG SPEEDSHIFT DCT 7-Speed Transmission
Acceleration 0-60 mph 4.6 s (est)
Top speed TBA*

We know that the AMG GLB 35 is coming. The more pertinent question is whether Mercedes-AMG plans to offer something more potent, or at least along the lines of a full-bore AMG GLB 45. The Mercedes-AMG A 45 is already here, so it’s not impossible for Mercedes to populate the AMG GLB family with a meaner and more performance-oriented version of the AMG GLB 35.

If Mercedes ventures down this path, we can expect the GLB 45 to use the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as the AMG A 45.

That would equate to an output of 383 horsepower in the base trim or — if we’re lucky — 416 horsepower in the more aggressive AMG GLB 45 S trim. The “45” variants could also use a different gearbox — an eight-speed dual-clutch — to go with all-wheel-drive capability.

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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The crossover should also benefit from a stiffer suspension system, owing largely to its size and performance abilities. Spy shots of the test mule also reveal chunkier tires and when chunky tires are in the mix, expect bigger brakes to be part of the equation, too.

Maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself predicting an AMG GLB 45 version. We still have to see the AMG GLB 35 so assuming a higher-spec version could come back and bite me in the butt. Then again, Mercedes has shown little hesitancy in populating its compact vehicle lineups, especially when there’s potential for money to be made in taking those steps.

Prices

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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Since Mercedes has yet to unveil the GLB-Class, pricing for that model and the AMG GLB 35 won’t be revealed until later this year. We do know that GLB will have a price point that’s near to the GLA SUV. On that end, the base GLA 250 starts at $33,950 while the higher spec GLA 250 4MATIC starts at $35,950. The performance-spec Mercedes-AMG GLA 45, on the other hand, is priced from $53,350. That’s a big jump in prices, though that’s a product of AMG’s involvement in the GLA 35.

On that note, the GLB-Class should be priced near those figures. The GLB 250, for example, could start at around $38,000 to $40,000 while the performance-oriented AMG GLB 35 could be priced at around $50,000 to $55,000. Some of you might think that’s an expensive price point for what amounts to a compact model. But remember, the AMG GLC 43 — that’s the base performance version of the more expensive GLC SUV lineup — carries a price tag exceeding $60,000. Maybe your hard-earned money is better served on a more affordable model that’s infused with its own performance capabilities.

Competition

BMW X2 M35i

2019 BMW X2 M35i Exterior
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The BMW X2 M35i is in a bit of a tricky position. On the surface, it’s the perfect foil for the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45. Both models rock the coupe-crossover look, and both are high-performance models of Bimmer and Merc’s respective entry-level crossovers. But the AMG GLA 45 has a more powerful four-cylinder engine, one that produces 375 horsepower and 350 pound-feet of torque more than the 302-horsepower and 332-pound-feet-of-torque figures of the X2 M35i. Looks aside, it’s not a fair fight. That’s why the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is more suited as a rival to the X2 M35i, in large part because both crossovers use similar engines that produce roughly the same output. It’s still tricky to make a full comparison between these two rivals because we know very little about the AMG GLB 35, but profile aside, both models are equipped to go toe-to-toe in this newly minted segment for years to come.

Read our full review on the 2019 BMW X2 M35i

Audi SQ2

2019 Audi SQ2
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To be clear, the micro-segment BMW created with the arrival of the X2 a few years ago has yet to yield meaningful competition from other automakers. The Audi Q2 stood as the X2’s only legitimate rival, at least until the Mercedes GLB arrives, adding one more model to that list. it is a bit surprising, though, that for as long as the Q2 has been around — it arrived in 2017 — the high-performance SQ2 variant has yet to make an appearance. Thankfully, that’s about to change because the SQ2 is coming. Audi made sure of that after it unveiled the model at the 2018 Paris Motor Show. Aesthetic comparisons are almost impossible these days because of buyer preference. You see what you like, and you stick to it. But as far as the rest goes, the SQ2 is just as capable as the AMG GLB 35 and the X2 M35i. It draws its power from Audi’s own 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine, and that engine produces 300 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. The SQ2 is also equipped with an assortment of Audi tech, including the automaker’s famed quattro all-wheel-drive system. The real key here is how Mercedes plans to package the GLB-Class and, subsequently, the AMG GLB 35. If it continues to go down that path of turning the GLB into a full-fledged three-row, seven-seater crossover, that’s where future customers will more than likely draw the line.

Read our full review on the 2019 Audi SQ2

Conclusion

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
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The Mercedes GLB-Class and the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 are exciting case studies on an automaker’s decision to populate the crossover and SUV segments with as many models as it can. Technically speaking, Mercedes probably doesn’t need a GLB-Class because it already has the GLA-Class. But you have to give credit to Merc, too, for taking advantage of the situation. In differentiating the GLA with the GLB, the automaker is effectively offering two different versions of the same model to the public. It’s the classic “down them with choices” mentality that has served automakers well in the past. Now, I’m not going to assume that GLB will be a hit for Mercedes or if it will end up competing against the GLA, but I do know that customers prefer having more options on the table as opposed to having to settle for just one. And if the GLB — and the AMG GLB 35 — ends up becoming a three-row, seven-seater compact crossover, that’s a niche corner in this segment that Mercedes will have all to its own, at least until BMW, Audi, or whoever else decides to join Merc there.

  • Leave it
    • I personally like the GLA better
    • A three-row, seven-seater compact crossover could create problems of its own
    • Might be more expensive than expected

Further reading

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
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Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB.

The 2019 Mercedes GLB Concept a New Boxy, Compact SUV
- image 835190

Read our full review on the 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLB Concept.

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