GLK350 Review: In case you haven’t been paying attention,
Mercedes-Benz offers a remarkable range of vehicles these days. There’s
the relatively modest C Class sedan all the way up to the stately, yet
invigorating, S Class sedan.
And how about that R
Class, um, multi-person transportation module (minivan?). Bordering the
brand are the Smart microcar and the Maybach super luxury cruiser.
Then there are the
SUVs. The GLK is the latest weapon in Mercedes’ multi prong attack on
the segment. This new car enters below the American-built, midsize M
Class, full size GL Class and paramilitary G Class. It gives Mercedes a
weapon against BMW’s X3, Audi Q5, and various Japanese luxury brand
You can detect
inspiration from the GL in its general shape, with a touch of ancestral
boxiness from the G Class. There’s also a little Jeep in there, perhaps
from the brand’s years of association with now divorced Chrysler.
Although the GLK is
meant for on-road use by regular folks in civilized places, it attended
the corporate equivalent of automotive boot camp. Fire and ice testing
takes sample units to the heat of the Namibian desert and the frigid
Arctic Circle to see if the company can break the car before you ever
see it. As a program graduate, the GLK is the Navy Seal of compact SUVs.
But it’s a luxury
vehicle too. Inside, the seats are firm and supportive, putting you in
an alert, upright position. The interior, while as angular as the body,
still features burl walnut trim, wade swaths of brushed metallic trim
garnished with a chrome strip, and the usual range of comfort and
convenience features you’d expect.
automatic climate controls, a trip computer, and power windows, locks
and mirrors. You get cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel
with audio controls, and a Bluetooth interface for your phone.
The goal is to offer
“Mercedesness” at a reasonable price point and responsible size. As part
of that mission, the GLK uses a 3.5-liter V6 that gets 16 mpg City, 21
mpg Highway. My Steel Gray test car averaged, over a multi-journalist
logged 3,313 miles, 19.1 mpg, better than many other all-wheel-drive
The 268-horsepower V6,
which runs through a seven-speed automatic, can pull the car from zero
to 60 in about 6.5 seconds and tops out at 143 mph (I didn’t test this
latter figure myself).
You can push a button
to change the automatic’s shift patterns. Selecting S (sport) sensitizes
accelerator pedal response and moves the shift points for more exciting
driving. The C (comfort) setting yields better fuel economy. The
automatic has a San Francisco-friendly hill-holder setting.
There are lots of high
tech features that distinguish the GLK from ordinary compact SUVs. The
Agility Control suspension provides “amplitude-responsive damping” that
changes depending on driving conditions. It keeps the suspension nice
and comfortable under normal driving, but tightens it up for brisker
driving or under evasive maneuvering, for example when you discover a
tree in the road as you round the bend.
Adaptive braking varies
stopping response depending on circumstances, and initiates faster than
an unassisted drive could. Antilock braking works with Acceleration Skid
Control to help you avoid trouble.
Based on Mercedes’ more
than 60 years of research, testing and simulations, the ARAMIS system
customizes the car’s crash response depending on severity. Front and
rear crush zones absorb impact while a strong passenger cell prevents
intrusion. A careful collection of airbags steps in to cushion the blow.
And I thought Aramis was a cologne.
Despite being well
equipped out the gate, you can add a lot more to a GLK, and my tester
flaunted nearly $10,000 worth. These included everything from the Tele
Aid emergency system, heated front seats (why is this $740 extra?), and
the Premium and Multimedia Packages.
The Premium Package
adds things like memory for multiple drivers’ seat, mirror and steering
column settings, autodimming exterior mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, and
Sirius satellite radio. The Multimedia package brings in a superb
Harman/Kardon audio system, rearview camera, and voice control for the
telephone, radio and navigation applications, among other things.
All of this bonus
equipment drove the car’s $35,900 base price to an as-tested total of
$46,345, including destination charges. Despite its compact dimensions,
the GLK felt like it was worth the price.
I wasn’t keen on
climbing over the optional brushed aluminum running boards and the
navigation system was a little annoying to use with the COMAND system
dial (should have worked on those voice commands), but the GLK is a true
Mercedes-Benz, German-built, and ready to take you and your small family
wherever you need to go in comfort and style, and with a dash of
By Steve Schaefer
© AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Mercedes Review provided by Tony
Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
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Column Name: The goal
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