PROS Car-like Ride, Strong acceleration, Highly maneuverable
CONS Overly complex controls for audio and navigation system, Snall outside mirrors, Cramped rear seat
In an effort to remain viable in the hotly contested luxury segment, Mercedes-Benz has been growing its brand at both the top and bottom of the market. The latest offering from the German automaker is the GLK. It's a five-passenger compact SUV that competes with vehicles like the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Infiniti EX, Land Rover LR2, and soon-to-arrive Cadillac SRX for entry-level luxury buyers.
GLK comes only as a four-door wagon with a single-piece tailgate. Like most competitors, the GLK shares chassis and engines with another vehicle in the corporate lineup. In this case, the GLK rides a C-Class chassis and utilizes the same 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission.
A single GLK350 trim level is offered. The rear-drive model lists for $33,900 and the all-wheel drive model starts at 35,900. The all-wheel-drive system does not include a low range and is not intended for severe off-road use.
Standard safety equipment includes antilock four-wheel disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, hill-ascent control, tire-pressure monitor, and dual-front, front-side, and curtain-side airbags. Rear-view camera, rear park assist, and Tele Aid assistance system are optional.
Other standard equipment includes air conditioning with dual-zone automatic climate controls, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls, cruise control, eight-way power driver seat, center console, split-folding rear seat, aluminum interior trim, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, keyless entry, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player with digital-media player connection, Bluetooth cell-phone link, rear defogger, automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, front and rear fog lights, rear privacy glass, roof rails, 235/50R19 tires, and alloy wheels.
2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK AWD
Base Price: $35,900
As-Tested Price: $46,295
Built in Germany.
Premium Package 1
Full Leather Seating
Engine: DOHC 3.5-liter V6
Transmission: 7-speed automatic
Drive Wheels: all-wheel drive
Options include navigation system with voice recognition, power tilt-telescope steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, six-disc CD changer, HID headlamps, leather upholstery, iPod adapter, and rear-seat entertainment system with dual headrest-mounted LCD screens.
GLK is assembled in Germany and has a destination charge of $875.
Get Up and Go The GLK has surprisingly strong acceleration from a standstill and robust passing power. Mercedes-Benz estimates the GLK can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds. That's class competitive and then some.
The seven-speed automatic upshifts with buttery smoothness and downshifts quickly without complaint. There's also a separate shift gate that allows drivers to shift through the gears manually.
Traction control is standard on all models and all-wheel drive models come standard with hill-ascent control. However, the transmission does not have a low range and extended off-road use is not recommended.
EPA ratings for the all-wheel-drive model are 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. Those numbers are slightly lower than competitor ratings, but only by a mile per gallon or so. Routine city driving will likely average 18 mpg. If your commute includes lots of highway driving, you might be able to average as high as 20 mpg. Mercedes-Benz says that the 3.5-liter V6 requires premium-grade gasoline.
On the Road GLK strikes a great balance between sports-car firm and luxury-car soft. If you didn't know it was an SUV, you would never guess from the way the suspension absorbs bumps with out permitting additional oscillations. The RDX, X3, and EX all ride with more firmness and the LR3 is just a little more softly sprung.
Mercedes also got the handling equation right. The GLK corners with the confidence of a luxury sedan without any of the tipsiness of a typical SUV. Body lean is modest and the steering is accurate, if a trifle slow. The GLK tracks straight and true on expressways and is easy to maneuver around town. The brakes are strong without being grabby, and the pedal is easy to modulate.
The GLK's upright any boxy shape creates a fair amount of wind noise at highway speeds. This factor alone keeps the M-B SUV from being considered quiet. Still the engine is subdued in all but hard acceleration and the tire noise is nicely quelled.
Behind the Wheel GLK's interior is stark and business like. Materials are appropriate for the price and assembly quality is good. Paying extra for leather upholstery at this price seems a bit greedy, though.
The gauge cluster is typical Mercedes-Benz. That means a very large speedometer and smaller tachometer, fuel, and temperature gauges. The center stack features a large display screen, a jumble of audio controls, and very low-set climate controls. Topping it off is a jog dial for the COMMAND control system. It comes across as both confusing and frustrating. Window and mirror switches are conveniently placed on the front of the door armrest.
Front seats are both comfortable and supportive. Head and leg room are quite good, ample in fact. The tilt-telescope steering wheel makes it easy for drivers to get comfortable. Outward visibility is aided by the tall greenhouse and thin roof pillars, though the side-view mirrors are ridiculously small.
The rear seat is somewhat flat, but adult-sized and comfortable enough. Head room is good--even under the optional panoramic sunroof. Leg room can be a problem, even if you move the front seats forward. That's typical of compact SUVs and not a real problem unless you constantly have adults in the rear seats.
NHTSA Crash-Test Results, 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK
|Front Impact, Driver ||NA|
|Front Impact, Passenger ||NA|
|Side Impact, Driver ||NA|
|Side Impact, Rear Passenger ||NA|
|Rollover Resistance ||NA|
Cargo space is good and the tailgate opens wide, making it easy to load large items. The back seats fold flat in a snap to increase cargo area. The interior could use a more open and covered storage bins for holding cell phones and other small items.
Bottom Line The GLK is a comfortable and capable compact SUV. It's not as sporty as the Acura RDX, BMW X3, or Infiniti EX nor is it as off-road capable as the Land Rover LR2. It does find a nice middle ground between competitors, offering a car-like driving experience, extremely comfortable ride, powerful engine, and strong complement of safety features.
Starting prices are very respectable, but adding just a few options can quickly nudge the bottom line toward $40,000. Mercedes needs to clean up the control interface for the radio and climate systems and perhaps add a couple inches of rear-seat leg room. Otherwise there's a lot to like in the GLK.