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Compact SUV Seats Five, Drives Like a Car

The Mercedes-Benz GLK is a compact crossover SUV, with looks reminiscent of the larger Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. The GLK was launched as a 2010 model, so the 2011 GLK carries over largely unchanged, though several important features are newly available.


The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK comes with new driver/passenger
pelvic air bags and a driver’s knee air bag. The steering wheel is
covered in premium leather on the 2011 GLK-Class. A new rearview camera
reduces fisheye distortion and there’s a new headlight control switch. A
new AMG styling package bundles unique bumpers, aluminum roof rails,
LED daytime running lamps and 20-inch wheels (no 500-hp engine, though).

The
GLK seats five, offering two rows of seating, not three. The GLK offers
nearly 55 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down.

A
compact sport-utility, the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class competes with the
BMW X3, Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Infiniti EX, and Land Rover LR2. The Lexus
RX is also a competitor, though the Lexus is longer and has more cargo
space. The Mercedes-Benz GLK appeals to those who want some of the
capabilities of an SUV in a less expensive, scaled-down package. It’s
relatively small, and easy to park.

The GLK-Class comprises just
two models, the GLK350 with rear-wheel drive and the GLK350 4MATIC with
all-wheel drive. They are otherwise equipped identically.

The
Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 268
horsepower at 6000 rpm, with 258 foot-pounds of torque available from
2400 to 4500 rpm. Mercedes-Benz officials claim the GLK350 can
accelerate from 0-60 mph in just 6.5 seconds with a top speed of 143
mph.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 16/23 miles per gallon, or 16/21 mpg for the 4MATIC.

We
found the GLK drives more like a car than a truck, which makes sense,
considering the car-based vehicle is built on the same platform as the
C-Class compact sedan. The GLK accelerates quickly, cruises easily at
high speeds and quietly soaks up bumps.

Off-road it performs
admirably, better than most in this class, and the 4MATIC
all-wheel-drive system keeps it going through mud and over rocks.

Model Lineup

The
2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is available as a GLK350 ($35,500) and
four-wheel-drive GLK350 4MATIC ($37,500). Standard equipment includes
cloth upholstery, two-zone automatic climate control, automatic
headlamps, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped multi-function
steering wheel, tilt/telescoping steering column, cruise control,
Bluetooth hands-free phone system, eight-speaker audio with CD player
and aux jack, remote keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers, 19-inch alloy
wheels.

Optional equipment includes the Multimedia package
($3,000) with rearview camera, navigation system, voice controls,
digital music storage, 6CD changer and iPod and USB ports. The Premium 1
Package ($3,200) adds a power liftgate, sunroof, rain-sensing wipers,
auto-dimming mirrors, driver seat memory settings, driver seat power
lumbar support, satellite radio capability and a 115-volt (a standard
household) outlet. The Appearance package ($990) adds 20-inch wheels and
aluminum roof rails. The new AMG Sport package ($1,990) includes the
Appearance package plus AMG bumpers and LED daytime running lights.
Standalone options include the Panorama Sunroof ($1,480) and PARKTRONIC
($800). Also optional is an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound
audio system, heated front seats and a rear seat entertainment system
with dual front-headrest-mounted displays.

Safety features on the
2011 GLK-Class include anti-lock brakes (ABS), multiple airbags
including front, side-impact, roof curtain, driver/passenger pelvic
airbags and driver’s knee. Brake assist, traction control and yaw
control come standard. Optional safety features include 4MATIC all-wheel
drive and the rearview camera.

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Walkaround

The Mercedes-Benz GLK looks about like what you’d think a Mercedes compact SUV should look like.

The
exterior design of the GLK-Class oozes a whole lot of GL-Class, the big
full-size SUV. The GLK silhouette is upright and angular, but its boxy
shape is surprisingly aerodynamic, thanks in part to a deep hood and
rising side character lines. To get technical, the Mercedes-Benz
GLK-Class earns an admirable 0.35 drag coefficient in the wind tunnel,
which bests many curve-wielding, lower-riding, passenger cars, as well
as most of its direct competitors.

The GLK is shorter in overall
length than the other cars in the class, it’s nearly five inches shorter
than the BMW X3 and two inches shorter in wheelbase.

The
GLK-Class was launched as a 2010 model and shares its basic structure
with the C-Class compact sedan. It carries over to 2011 largely
unchanged.

The new AMG package is all show, no go, adding only
appearance features, not performance features. Don’t expect the AMG
20-inch wheels to soften the ride, and 19-inch wheels are standard. Our
preference is for the non-AMG GLK.

Interior Features

Inside,
the GLK is a Mercedes-Benz through and through. The GLK-Class reuses
many elements from the C-Class interior, but with a much more angular
instrument panel and dashboard layout. Dashtop panels in the GLK are
made of black, anti-glare materials.

Interior space is a mixed
bag compared with the other vehicles in the GLK class. The BMW X3 has
another inch of headroom in the front seats, though the Mercedes has
more front legroom.

The rear seats offer substantially more
headroom than what’s found in the BMW X3 or Infiniti EX, though legroom
suffers in the Mercedes. It seems like the GLK gives up some rear
legroom to gain front room, which seems like a good trade to us. After
all, back-seat riders typically don’t make car payments, so they don’t
deserve as much legroom as you do. But if you have tall, lanky teens in
the family, you might want to look at that.

Maximum cargo space
is listed at 54.7 cubic feet, with the load compartment measuring 66
inches long. That’s slightly less than what’s available in the BMW X3 or
Infiniti EX. The Lexus RX has vastly more cargo space due to its longer
overall length. The rear-seat backrests fold down in a 33/67 split or
fold down completely to produce a flat load floor. With the rear seats
are up, the load compartment of the GLK350 has a capacity of 23.3 cubic
feet when loaded to the top edge of the rear-seat backrests.

An
additional stowage compartment is hidden under the fold-up load floor.
This compartment is split into smaller partitions by a removable stowage
tub.

A safety partition net is available, handy for cargo and
possibly dogs. The load compartment can be hidden from sight thanks to
the load compartment cover, while standard-fit load-securing rings make
it easier to fasten down cargo. There are bag hooks, coat hooks in the
tailgate trim, a 12-volt power outlet and a lamp at the side of the load
compartment.

A power tailgate is available that can be opened
and closed at the push of a button, either from the driver’s seat or by
remote control.

Driving Impressions

The
Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 268
horsepower at 6000 rpm, with 258 foot-pounds of torque available from
2400 to 4500 rpm. For off-roaders, 87 percent of that maximum available
torque can be accessed as low as 1500 rpm.

Mercedes-Benz
officials claim the GLK350 can accelerate from 0-60 mph in an impressive
6.5 seconds with a top speed of 143 mph and expected highway fuel
economy of 22 miles per gallon. This is one of the most efficient and
sophisticated engines that Mercedes-Benz has ever built, including
lightweight casting techniques, forged connecting rods, variable valve
timing on both intake and exhaust valves, variable intake tuning, and
advanced combustion techniques for cleaner emissions and greater power.

Gears
shift smoothly with the 7-speed automatic transmission, which adapts to
the driver’s driving style and changes shifting patterns accordingly.
By analyzing speed-versus-throttle-opening comparisons, the transmission
will know whether the GLK-Class is going uphill or downhill and will
either delay upshifts or hasten downshifts accordingly. Comfort and
Sport shifting modes allow the driver to choose between higher rpm
shifting or softer shifts. Fuel economy for the 2011 Mercedes-Benz
GLK350 is rated at 16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined. The
4MATIC version differs only in the highway rating at 21 mpg, a
significant difference.

The 4MATIC uses a computer-controlled
all-wheel-drive system that employs a 45/55 front/rear torque bias and
uses a dual-disc clutch that acts as a locking center differential in
difficult traction situations.

The GLK-Class feels more like a
car than a truck, with its unit-body construction, quietly soaking up
bumps and potholes and other imperfections. It cruises easily at 115 mph
with the 3.5-liter engine. Acceleration is very good for a vehicle of
this weight, and in seventh-gear overdrive, it just purrs along at about
1800 rpm at 75 mph. We pushed a GLK350 4MATIC as hard as we dared,
trying to find flaws in its driving manners, and we came up empty.

The
suspension is designed to absorb impacts and vibration for a smoother
ride. Agility Control technology provides the benefits of both soft and
stiff shock absorbers. Each shock absorber in the GLK-Class is fitted
with a hydraulic by-pass piston that acts like a very soft shock
absorber to dampen road noise and tire vibration. The by-pass piston is
inactive during normal shock absorber operation, to maintain the
steering and handling response of a stiffer shock absorber.

On a
rugged and challenging off-road course, the GLK350 performed brilliantly
through a 35-percent grade and 35-degree side slope. It handled deep
water, mud, logs and rocks in stride, without having to back up or back
down. The 4MATIC system pulled through even when only one tire was
touching ground. The GLK is much better for rugged terrain than the
Lexus.

Around town, the compact dimensions of the GLK make
parking easier. Shorter than a BMW X3, it takes a little less space to
make a U-turn in the Mercedes.

Summary

The
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is a compact SUV that offers smooth, fast
highway performance with decent fuel economy. It performs well on rugged
terrain, better than most of the vehicles in this class.

Jim McCraw filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after driving a GLK350 4MATIC in Dusseldorf, Germany. 

 
 
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