2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven

The Mercedes-AMG GLB35 is fun to drive, but for the price, there might be other alternatives

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The Mercedes-Benz GLB, in general, is a weirdly positioned vehicle that seems derived from nothing more than Mercedes’ desire to populate every single corner of a segment possible. It sits between the GLA and GLC, which makes it not quite small enough to be declared a subcompact, but not exactly large enough to sit in the compact segment, either. It is a comfortable vehicle, has a rugged look and feel to it, and it can even be had with a third-row seat – something essentially unheard of in this segment (and largely unusable). We’re comparing it to the BMW X3 and Audi SQ5, which might seem a little silly at first, but you’ll understand as we dig deeper into it. This is what it’s like to live the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, and why it may or may not be for you.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 – Powertrain and Performance

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven Drivetrain
- image 1032771

In its most basic form, the Mercedes GLB isn’t all that exciting to drive. It’s a comfortable daily driver, sure, but performance, in general, is a little underwhelming. Move up to the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, though, and now you’re talking about some decent performance too. It still features a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine, but it delivers a fair amount of horsepower – well over that of the BMW X3 30i and a bit under that of the Audi SQ5. This model, however, doesn’t disappoint with snappy throttle response, brisk acceleration, and confidence-inducing thrust that isn’t difficult to control.

What Engine Does the AMG GLB 35 Have?

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven Drivetrain
- image 1032770

The Mercedes AMG GLB 35 features a 2.0-liter inline-four engine that delivers 302 horsepower and 5,800 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. For the sake of pricing, size, and other factors, we’ve chosen to compare it to the X3 xDrive 30i and the Audi SQ5. The former features a similar 2.0-liter inline-four, but it’s rated at 248 ponies at 5,200 rpm and 258 pound-feet at 1,450 rpm. The SQ5, on the other hand, has a big-for-its-size 3.0-liter V-6 that puts out 349 horsepower and 5,400 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque at 1,370 rpm. Believe it or not, all three of these models, despite their powertrain differences, are priced very competitively, but we’ll talk more about that later.

How Fast is the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35?

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven
- image 1032763

According to Mercedes, the AMG GLB 35 will hit 60 mph in 5.3 seconds, making It 0.7-seconds faster than the BMW xDrive 30i but 0.6 seconds slower than the Audi SQ5. However, in independent testing, the GLB 35 has proven itself to be much faster than Mercedes has promised. In testing by Car & Driver, for example, the GLB 35 managed to break the 60-mph barrier in just 4.9 seconds. Needless to say, the AMG GLB 35 is more than a confused grocery getter. In terms of top speed, it’ll max out at 155 mph, which is identical to what you’ll get in the Audi SQ5, but a bit faster than the xDrive 30i at 143 mph.

What Transmission Does the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Have?

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven Interior
- image 1032765

The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 is available exclusively with an 8-speed automatic transmission, with no option for a manual. It’s pretty common in this segment, as it’s the same story for the BMW xDrive 30i and the Audi SQ5. All three models do, however, have AWD. The GLB 35 and SQ5 come with AWD as standard equipment while the X3 have be had in RWD or AWD form, but we’d recommend AWD. As far as shifting duties go, we have to admit that while a lot of automatic transmissions are boring, the GLB35 is still fun to drive. The shifts are smooth, you can rev the engine out a bit without having to force it too hard, and downshifts are beyond predictable and exactly when you’d expect them to be. The GLB 35, in my opinion, has one of the best conventional automatic transmissions on the market today.

Is the Mercedes-AMG GLB35 Efficient?

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35
- image 858418

The GLB 35’s 2.0-liter engine is small, but it’s force fed to dish out just a hair over 300 horsepower, so it shouldn’t surprise you that it’s only good for 21 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. However, these figures aren’t all that bad as the BMW X3 xDrive 30i gets you 23 mpg, 29 mpg, and 25 mpg, respectively. Meanwhile the Audi SQ5 is the worst of the bunch, coming in at just 18 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined.

City  Highway Combined
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 21 26 23
BMW X3 xDrive 30i 23 29 25
Audi SQ5 18 24 20

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Interior Design

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Interior
- image 858376

Make no mistake – the AMG GLB 35 is a small vehicle, even if it doesn’t really fit into the subcompact or compact segments perfectly. As such, there’s not a ton of space inside, but what you do get is a very premium cabin that feels comfortable as long as you’re not too big. Mercedes’ MBUX and digital instrument cluster combo make their way into the cabin, which does help the GLB feel a bit bigger than it really is. Since this is an AMG body, you get the obligatory flat-bottom steering wheel, AMG-specific pages on your digital displays, and the finest materials AMG can afford to cram into a tiny SUV. What really makes the GLB stand out, though, is the option to add a third row of seats, which isn’t exactly common for vehicles this size. Now, I must point out, that you wouldn’t want to out a good friend back there, and maybe not even an enemy, but it’s cool the option is there. In short, that third row is pretty much only useable for small children or pets.

How Spacious is the AMG GLB 35?

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Interior
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The AMG GLB 35 offers 40.7 inches of headroom, 55.9-inchs of shoulder room, and 41.1 inches of leg room up front. That makes it smaller than the X3, with exception of legroom, where it reigns supreme. The only front dimensions where the Audi SQ3 come out on top is shoulder room, but that’s because Audi is notoriously good at making small spaces a little bit bigger. In the rear, the GLB wins in terms of headroom and leg room but falls short in the shoulder room department again. It should be noted, that the GLB is shy by nearly five inches in terms of width, so this is where most of that shoulder room deficit comes from – it’s just not that wide of a vehicle.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 vs competition - interior room
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 BMW X3 xDrive 30i Audi SQ5
Front Headroom 40,7 41,1 39,6
Front Shoulder Room 55,9 57,6 57,7
Front Hip Room TBA TBA TBA
Front Leg Room 41,1 40,3 40,9
Rear Headroom 39,3 38,5 39,3
Rear Shoulder Room 54,9 56 56,5
Rear Hip Room TBA TBA TBA
Rear Leg Room 38,1 36,4 38

How Much Cargo Room Does the AMG GLB 35 Have

2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB
- image 844329

As a small vehicle, the GLB 35 doesn’t wow in the cargo room department, but in a way it kind of does. In basic configuration, you’ll be able to carry 22 cubic-feet of cargo but lay down the rear seats and you’ll get to carry 62 cubic-feet of cargo. For the sake of comparison, the BMW x3 does offer a little more room with 28.7-62.7 cubic-feet of cargo room while the Audi SQ3 comes in at 25.8-54.0 cubic-feet.

How Comfortable is the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35?

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Interior
- image 858375

For a small vehicle, the GLB is very comfortable as long as you’re in the front row. The front seats feel contoured just right and offer ample support in all the right places. I did find the overhang of the seat cushion to be a bit annoying on longer drives but you do get used to it after a few trips. The infotainment system is just as easy to use as it is in any other Mercedes, but if you’re taller the driver information display ahead of the wheel can be difficult to read at times. Rear passengers don’t have it too bad, but you can definitely feel the difference in legroom between the front and rear – especially if someone in the front likes to keep their seat further back. The rear seats also don’t offer the same support; however, they are pretty comfortable for what they are and the size. As for that optional third row, don’t even think about climbing back there. You might be able to put small children or pets in there, and it’s a cool option, but they are hardly usable.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Exterior Design

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Exterior
- image 858372

The Mercedes GLB 35 is literally one of the most attractive small SUVs on the market today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its flaws. As a package, it looks amazing, and it actually has a slightly rugged appearance to it – especially thanks to the plastic cladding all around. The smaller headlights – required thanks to the extra wide grille and the not so wide body. The biggest thing that’s hard to get over are the face vents in the corner of the front fascia. They are necessary to preserve the current AMG look, and kudos to Mercedes for not trying to make them look real when they aren’t, but it’s hard not to believe there was a better way to go here. The side profile is largely boring with no aggressive design styling. While the side profile is all grown up and mature, the rear end is like a weird blend of classy AMG styling and a bit of extra yet unnecessary aggression. The rear diffuser-like element is a nice touch, but kind of out of place on a car that isn’t exactly that sporty.

How big is the AMG GLB 35

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven
- image 1032762

The GLB 35 kind of sits in a segment all its own, as it’s a bit bigger than the subcompact GLA but smaller than the compact GLC. It measures 183.1 inches long, 79.5 inches wide, and 64.5 inches taller. This actually makes it smaller than both the BMW X3 and Audi SQ5 as well. The good side to this is that it’s actually a bit lighter at 3,869 pounds vs. the X3 at 4,079 pounds and the SQ3 at 4,288 pounds. You can’t sling it around corners like a sports car, but it is pretty nimble for what it is. In terms of garaging, you can fit the GLB35 into a large single car garage, but it’s not recommended. We recommend at minimum a 1.5-car garage or a 2-car garage.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 vs competition - exterior dimensions
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 BMW X3 xDrive 30i Audi SQ5
Length 183,1 185,9 184,3
Width 79,5 84,2 84,2
Height 65,4 66 65,5
Wheelbase 111,4 112,8 111
Front Track 63,7 63,8 63,6
Rear Track 62,8 64,4 63,3

Mercedes-AMG GLB Pricing

2020 Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Exterior
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The Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 isn’t exactly the cheapest model on the market, but it starts out at $59,675. In comparison the slower X3 xDrive 30i commands just $46,695 while the faster and more powerful Audi SQ3 will set you back anywhere between $52,900 and $62,500.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Competition

2021 Mercedes-AMG GLB35 - Driven
- image 1032763

There are a number of small SUVs we could compare the GLB to, namely models like the BMW X2, the Volvo XC40, and even the Mini Cooper Countryman or the Range Rover Evoque, but we’ve decided to go a little out of the box due to the GLB’s strange size, as such, we’ve looked to the BMW X3 xDrive 30i and the Audi SQ5.

BMW X3 vs. Mercedes GLB

2022 BMW X3 Exterior
- image 993784
New exterior colors are also available
There are 11 colors from the stanard set alone and the M and Individual lines will add even more

The BMW X3’s real claim to fame is its peppy four-cylinder engine, impressive interior comfort, and ability to carry a great amount of cargo for its size. In comparison to the GLB 35, though, it’s not as powerful and not as fast, as the four-cylinder engine delivers just 248 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque – enough for a six-second sprint to 60 mph and a top speed of 143 mph. All of these figures place it below the GLB35; however, this isn’t a slam dunk for the Mercedes.

2022 BMW X3 Exterior
- image 1031854

The X3 is just a little bit larger in length, width, and height. This translates to more passenger room in almost every category with the exception of rear headroom and rear legroom, in which case it’s really not lacking that much. The X3 also isn’t available with the unusable third row of seats, but it does take the win in terms of cargo capacity with 28.7-62.7 cubic-feet. It’s also the more fuel-efficient option with an EPA rating of 23 mpg in the city, 29 mpg on the highway, and 25 mpg combined. Really setting things off are the price, which comes in at just $46,695 – some $13,000 cheaper than the AMG GLB 35, and unless you feel the need for more power, you’ll be just as happy with the X3.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 vs BMW X3 xDrive 30i
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 BMW X3 xDrive 30i
Engine 2.0-Liter Inline-Four 2.0-liter Inline-Four
Horsepower 302 @ 5,800 RPM 248 @ 5,200 RPM
Torque 295 LB-FT @ 3,000 RPM 258 LB-FT @ 1,450 RPM
Transmission 8AT 8AT
Driveline AWD AWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Steering Electric electric
Suspension Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires P235-50R19 P245-50R19
Curb Weight 3,869 LBS 4,079 LBS
Towing Capacity 3,968 LBS 4,400 LBS
0-60 mph 5,3 6.0 Seconds
Top Speed 155 MPH 143 MPH

Read our full review on the BMW X3

Audi SQ5 vs. Mercedes GLB

2021 Audi SQ5 TDI Exterior
- image 948030

The SQ5 is, believe it or not, about the same size as the Mercedes GLB, with the only major different being width, in which case it’s exactly on par with the BMW X3. This generally translates to more interior cabin space, so the SQ5 does have the going for it, and the interior is both comfortable and packed full of high-quality materials. The SQ5 does have one other advantage too, and that’s the starting price of just $52,900, but that does climb to be more expensive that its peers with a max MSRP of $62,500.

2021 Audi SQ5 TDI Exterior
- image 948031

Under the hood sits a 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine that delivers 349 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque, making it the most powerful of the bunch, and the fastest with a sprint to 60 mph in just 4.7 seconds. Top speed, just like the GLB 35 is limited to 155 mph. Other highlights include four-wheel independent suspension and AWD, but if economy is important to you, you may want to avoid the SQ5 as it nets you just 18 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on the highway, and 20 mpg combined – a far cry from what the BMW X3 or GLB 35 offers.

Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 vs Audi SQ5
Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 Audi SQ5
Engine 2.0-Liter Inline-Four 3.0-liter V-6
Horsepower 302 @ 5,800 RPM 349 @ 5,400 RPM
Torque 295 LB-FT @ 3,000 RPM 369 Lb-FT @ 1,370 RPM
Transmission 8AT 8AT
Driveline AWD AWD
Fuel Premium Premium
Steering Electric Electric
Suspension Four-Wheel Independent Four-Wheel Independent
Tires P235-50R19 P255-45R20
Curb Weight 3,869 LBS 4,288 LBS
Towing Capacity 3,968 LBS 4,400 LBS
0-60 mph 5,3 4.7 Seconds
Top Speed 155 MPH 155 MPH

Read our full review on the Audi SQ5

Philippe Daix
Philippe Daix
Obsessive and Compulsive Automotive Expert - phil@topspeed.com
Always on the lookout for the latest automotive news, Philippe Daix is our most senior editor and founder of TopSpeed.com. He likes to see himself as a consumer advocate with a mission to educate motorheads of all ages.  Read full bio
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