These days, no self-respecting SUV line-up is complete without a high-performance halo model - and the Mercedes GLB is no exception. While the diesels and small petrols will be the big sellers, the Mercedes-AMG GLB 35 joins the growing ranks of go-faster off-roaders, from the VW T-Roc R right through to the upcoming Audi RS Q8.
Thanks to its Mercedes A-Class underpinnings, adding some spice to the GLB was a fairly straightforward process. For starters, the engine is the same 302bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit that’s found in the A35 hatchback, while it’s mated to the same eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and a derivation of the familiar 4Matic four-wheel drive system, which in this instance can run a torque split from 100% front-wheel drive to 50/50.
Compared with the standard GLB, the suspension changes are fairly significant. At the front are bespoke steering knuckles and control arms, plus a different, stiffer subframe assembly. The multi-link rear axle is largely unchanged apart from tougher hubs that are designed to take higher cornering loads. The springs and dampers are stiffer, while adaptive dampers are an option (fitted to our test car). There’s also new speed-sensitive, electrically assisted steering and larger AMG brakes (350mm discs at the front and 330mm at the rear).
Externally there are the usual AMG calling cards, including multi-spoke 19in alloy wheels (20 and 21in options are available) and a bodykit that runs to a deeper front splitter, twin-exit exhausts set into a new rear bumper and a prominent tailgate spoiler. The GLB is also the first 35-series model to get the toothsome-looking ‘Panamericana’ AMG grille influenced by the firm’s 1950s racers.
There’s been a similar AMG makeover inside, where you get the latest three-spoke multi-function wheel, more supportive front seats and metal-finished pedals. Also included are the frankly bewildering AMG Dynamic Select driver modes, which deliver numerous combinations of separate throttle, gearbox, driveline, steering and stability control settings. It’s all too easy to disappear down the rabbit hole as you delve deeper and deeper into various sub-menus.
Elsewhere, the cabin is pretty much standard GLB, which means the same versatile, if a little cramped, seven-seat layout. Also familiar is the high standard of fit and finish, with only the scratchy plastics used lower down distracting from the car’s premium appeal.