It’s been a hot minute since we’ve been behind the wheel of a luxury car or seen the sun shine for longer than an hour at a time in Toronto, so when Mercedes-Benz invited us to join them in Spain’s sun coast to test drive the new GLB and AMG GLB 35 4Matic SUV, we jumped at the chance.
Somehow managing to bring along our inclement Canadian weather, we started our journey in Málaga, the picturesque birthplace of Pablo Picasso, where it’s apparently sunny 320 days of the year, and while it rained, rather aggressively for much of our trip, the conditions allowed us to really put the car through the rigors.
Who doesn’t love a good blend of extreme weather when you’re headed out on a high powered test drive in a foreign city amiright?!
Our drive took us from Málaga, supposedly deemed the Florida of Spain, onwards into the Andalusian mountains to Enduro Park to showcase the vehicles off-road capabilities, and finally to spectacular Marbella on the Costa del Sol.
Not even a little bit discouraged by the rain, we jumped behind the wheel of the AMG GLB 35 4Matic and headed out on our first drive route towards Enduro Park in Casarabonela. The jazzy ‘designo patagonia red metallic’ colour of the car and some good tunes made for the perfect contrast to the grey skies above us.
Marketed for its off-road capabilities and its spaciousness, the GLB ticks all the boxes of the current compact-class generation of vehicles from the brand, bridging the gap between the GLA and GLC. Good news for you family folks out there, it’s the first Mercedes-Benz that can be equipped with a third row of seats to house up to seven seats.
A highly versatile option for young couples with families who don’t want to be seen driving a minivan, the GLB measures 2,289 millimetres (the longest wheelbase of its current compact generation). There’s plenty of head and leg room in the front and rear seats which can be folded down to increase the cargo capacity by 190 liters to 1,805 litres in the five-seater, (and 1,690 in the seven-seater). A generous amount of space ideal for road trips, a snowy drive up to the cottage or even a quick trip to Ikea.
The GLB comes loaded with the current four-cylinder engine with improved output, efficiency and reduced emissions. All the GLB models are also set to include all-wheel drive, large media displays, the highly intuitive MBUX and an off-road engineering package. That includes Downhill Speed Regulation for steep inclines, a special lighting system for improved visibility on uneven terrain in the dark, and an off road driving program that manages the power delivery of the engine.
We had a chance to see some of the off road capabilities in action when we arrived at Enduro Park, though much of the demo stations were closed due to unsafe conditions from the unusually heavy rain.
After a bite of Spanish tapas and a selfie atop Casarabonela, we headed out again for the winding roads towards Marbella stopping at all the vistas as the rain held off just long enough for a quick photo opp.
As we began winding down the mountainous landscape, we were impressed by the GLB’s ability to handle tight curves with great ease. We felt totally in control thanks to the GLB’s responsive performance brake system, fast gearshifts, tight speed-sensitive power steering, and the speedshift DCT 8G dual-clutch transmission. The kind of sporty feel that makes you want to play Daft Punk at full blast like you’re the only car on the road and there’s no speed limit.
In terms of design the GLB is loaded with luxurious accents inside including rough grain leather and wood interiors, sporty turbine air vents, heated seats, unique styling on the dash, and of course the MBUX infotainment system. The exterior of the car is distinctly sporty with strong lines, a prominent rear apron, edgy head lights, glossy chrome accents, and a distinct radiator grill.
The GLB 35 4MATIC comes with five dynamic driving programs to match whatever mood you’re vibing with whether it sporty or smooth and comfy. The GLB allows you to take tight curves with boss level precision thanks to the AMG suspension, torsional rigidity, and its low tendency to roll.
While we’re on the topic of safety, we should mention the GLB comes packed with a ton of safety features including driver assistance, active brake and distance assist, route-based speed adjustment, active steering assist with SOS function, and active speed limit assist which detects speed limits when they may not be posted. As always Mercedes continues to blaze the trail towards autonomous driving.
We were admittedly a little bummed the drive was over as we pulled up to Nobu Marbella, even with Drake & Future’s “Jumpman” blaring. Needless to say we can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of the GLB when it launches next year.
While the pricing has yet to be announced, you can expect to see the GLB 250 in early 2020, with the GLB 35 launching later in July or August, plus an electric model sometime soon.