Malaga, Spain - In Singapore, the only thing more inevitable than marriage, family, death and taxes (in that chronological order, preferably) is putting multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) somewhere after marriage and before death.
To a number of poor, silent family-men (or women) out there who love driving, we’re sure they would have preferred ‘death’ first, but their significant others stopped them.
We wouldn’t be having this conversation if you say, already have an AMG GT in the garage and an Audi Q7 or Mercedes-Benz GLE sitting next to it. But in Singapore, where single cars have to serve every need of the family at a sensible price, that’s not always possible for everyone.
We reckon that this car, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35, is the one that comes closest to pleasing a driver while also being a practical, presentable, seven-seater that doesn’t break the bank entirely.
You’re probably wondering what the heck a GLB is. It’s the latest of the small Mercedes-Benz lineup, so yes, you guessed it, an MFA platform based sport utility vehicle (G) that’s bigger than the GLA (B).
It isn’t just the latest, but it’s also the largest of the compact Mercs; with a 2829mm wheelbase and 4235mm length, it’s just a few cm short of the dimensions of the GLC. The key difference of course, besides the GLC being posher (based on the longitudinal engine MRA platform, like everything C-Class and above) is that the GLB has room for seven.
That’s proper room for seven by the way, if you adjust the mobile second row accordingly, you can fit regular adults below 1.8-metres in the rear seats with a little squeezing. Sinister leprechauns like the TG editor are a sure fit in the third row too (Ed note: Well, if I can fit into the back-seat of the Ferrari Roma, I can squeeze anywhere!).
(Click HERE to read about the Ferrari Roma)
It’s not just a function of the stretched wheelbase either, because the tall boxy shape helps considerably, and you can see the family resemblance to the GLS and GLE – the design team says they crossed the elegance of the latter with the boxiness of the G-Wagen.
A good move, since we think if you’re gonna go boxy, do it loud and proud, and it’s not like Mercedes doesn’t have the requisite design/product DNA to back it up.
By now you’re thinking, my God, a small Mercedes with room for seven-seats that has passably cool styling and isn’t an MPV - take my money already!
Mainstream buyers will plump for the GLB 200, which is front-wheel drive only and has the droning 1.33-litre turbo engine with 163hp. It’s a decent drive, and notably comfortable and lacking the crash and thump some of the small Mercs have, but it’s not particularly stirring.
For that, you have to go for the most powerful version that will be available to Singapore, and the only one with all-wheel drive, the AMG 35 model.
The setup should be familiar to TG readers by now - a 2.0-litre twin-scroll turbo engine with 306hp and 400Nm of torque, an 8spd dual-clutch gearbox and 4MATIC all-wheel drive, louder sport exhaust, AMG adaptive suspension, and the usual aggro-fairy dust applied to the exterior (toothy grille, bigger wheels, dark tailpipes).
This doesn’t transform the GLB into some sort of snarling, raging beast - in contrast to the rather gila GLA 45 AMG for example - but there’s a certain warmth to the whole thing that warms a driver’s cockles.
It’s hard not to enjoy the pure forward thrust of the 306hp engine, for instance, paired with all-wheel drive it punches the GLB out of bends with smile-worthy haste. The car’s still tall and boxy, and the roll is still noticeable, but it’s much better controlled than the GLB 200, not to mention the soundtrack blasts it out of the water. You can even hold onto a gear and rip it all the way to the limiter, in ‘real’ AMG style.
It’s not too much and focuses very much on warm/hot-hatch-type pace, and we’re convinced AMG made sure of this on purpose, as no SO in their right mind would approve a buy like this if the kids were screaming their heads off in the back-rows (whether in joy or terror is irrelevant).
The GLB 35 won’t set a driver’s world on fire with desire, but it will surely have its fans. Think about it - what other seven-seat vehicle has German performance, and the badge, and (likely) doesn’t cost more than S$300k with COE?
MERCEDES-AMG GLB 35 4MATIC
Engine 1991cc, inline4, turbo
Transmission 8spd dual-clutch
Top Speed 250km/h
Fuel Consumption 7.6l/100km