The Mercedes Benz GLK is the German automaker’s entry into the compact crossover segment and with its swept back two box body, the new CUV is clearly derived from the rugged G Wagen, offering the same bold features that made the mighty Geländewagen so popular, except in a much smaller package. We joked about how our Mars Red GLK 350 looks like a red hot roller skate with its optional oversized 20 inch alloys pushed to the far corners of its chassis, but the GLK is certainly nothing to laugh about. The GLK offers new car shoppers a luxurious option when looking to buy into this new segment. Despite its compact nature, our out of this world GLK has styling to spare and is a welcome addition to the Mercedes Benzlineup. The GLK’s size not only makes it easy to park, but also quite maneuverable in traffic and combined with the safety of 6 airbags, makes it a great choice for new car buyers.
The inside of our GLK 350 features an Almond/Black Leather interior along with the Full Leather Seating Package that, as the name suggests, includes cow hide derived upholstery and a leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel as well as elegant Burl Walnut trim to go along with the standard brushed aluminum pieces. The infotainment system is made up of a Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system that will play everything from MP3s being stored on an iPod to Sirius Satellite radio as well as a hard drive based navigation system and a 7 inch LCD screen to let the driver in on all that is going on.
The GLK 350 is powered by a 3.5 Liter V6 sending 268 HP straight to the rear wheels through a seven speed automatic transmission allows the GLK to accelerate smoothly and get an estimated 16 MPG in the city and as much as 22 MPG on the highway. This sporty red GLK is a more affordable alternative than the last one we saw, especially when you consider the $3,150 Premium Package that includes just about power everything at a savings of over $1,200 if purchased separately. Tack on a very reasonable $970 for the brushed roof rails and plus sized wheel and tires amongst a few other items, this $34,600 GLK added up to a nicely equipped $45,645 premium CUV.
Continued after the jump.
The Mercedes Benz GLK looks like a miniature version of the German automaker’s mighty Geländewagen. The smaller crossover commands a similar presence as the Austrian Army’s favorite fast attack vehicle, except that where the G-Wagen is at home storming through a forest, the smaller GLK is sized perfectly for the tight narrow cobblestone covered streets of Europe. However unlike the fully loaded chrome clad bright white baby Benz that previously graced us with its presence, this GLK looks more like a red hot roller skate. You would never imagine just how much a Mars Red color change and a few less shiny bits, like the lack of running boards could completely transform the character of the compact crossover to create a sporty CUV with its 20 inch rims pushed far to all four corners and the swept back two box body make it hard to deny the roller skate similarities.
Every aspect of the new CUV looks cute; the flared fenders bulge out, but not too much, the front end is bold with its squared off edges but the ridiculously oversized emblem takes away whatever ruggedness the Mercedes Benz design team intended. The GLK has the presence of a much larger vehicle, but fits into a footprint not much bigger than a Ford Focus hatchback. The GLK is one of those vehicles that look good from above thanks to the oversized sunroof, just like on the S-Class , the German automaker went the extra step to make their vehicle visually interesting from more than just the conventional camera angles. Our GLK’s optional seven spoke rollers were well worth the upgrade, and as part of the Sport Appearance Package, you also get the brushed aluminum roof rails that make the GLK look even better from above, while the sparing use of chrome trim cleverly breaks up the out of this world paint scheme.
The inside of our MB GLK 350 was everything we have come to expect from the German luxury car builder. From the way you sit upright in the firm Almond/Black leather wrapped interior and grab a hold of the multifunction steering wheel makes you vertebrae align perfectly, almost as if a posture specialist had a hand in designing the interior of the GLK. The materials used are nothing less than exquisite, like the Burl Walnut trim and especially the use of brushed aluminum on the dash and doors. The Design team from Germany did an excellent job of making the driver feel comfortable inside the GLK, surrounding us with a set of straightforward controls and an fine combination of upscale materials.
The center stack integrated all of the vehicle’s infotainment features like the Command system hard drive based navigation, Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound radio system with iPod, MP3 and Sirius Satellite radio capabilities and Bluetooth wireless telephone connectivity.
However the pièce de résistance was the 7 inch LCD screen at the top that serves as a display for every electronic amenity. The shifter was comfortable in our hands and moved through all seven forward gears smoothly. The placement was perfect, right where your digits should be resting. That also made the little knob just behind the shifter our best friend when behind the wheel, allowing the driver to control the multi function display as well as tune in to whatever radio frequency they desire. However it was a bit of a pain that it couldn’t adjust the volume, we found ourselves constantly flicking our wrists back and forth from the ergonomic armrest to the center stack in order to hear the music, however we could have just used the controls mounted on the steering wheel.
The view from the backseat was almost as nice as up front, the German design team delivered a dual glass sunroof which goes a long way towards opening up the compact GLK’s interior and unlike the last time the front buckets didn’t have the gaudy set of TV screens hanging off the back of their headrests which smoothes out the look of the GLK and goes a long way towards cleaning up the interior. The automatic tailgate is a nice touch, it effortlessly opens up the more than adequate storage space behind the 60/40 split rear seats, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that underneath the trunk mat, Mercedes has included a large removable storage tray and more tools to work on your GLK then any of their owners will ever find use for.
The GLK350 was powered by a 3.5 Liter V6 just like the unit that came in the 4Matic version we tested previously, however unlike mini Pablo Escobar ’s four wheel drive Mercedes the roller skate strictly sends power to the rear wheels. As most sport utility owners won’t ever take their vehicles off road it shouldn’t be an issue. This does mean that the power plant can send all 268 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque to the drive wheels more efficiently. One of the drawbacks to owning such a heavy CUV with a potent power plant is paying the gas bill, our six cylinder GLK was a bit thirsty, consuming and EPA estimated 16 MPG in the city and average 22 MPG at highway speeds.
The GLK behaves just like you would expect a Mercedes Benz to; it’s luxurious, comfortable and fun to drive. While the GLK does feel a bit heavy behind the wheel, it does so in a way that lets you know that the GLK is a solid vehicle. The compact GLK’s small size helps it to get in and out of traffic efficiently and is guaranteed to leave a smile on your face despite how manly you may want to be. The compact nature of the GLK is also one of its drawbacks, it would seem as if the Mercedes Benz designers didn’t intend for people much larger than 5’6” to fit behind the wheel. Measuring in at just under six feet tall, we managed to squeeze in just fine, however there wasn’t much room to spare. An inconvenient fact that was proven by our knees being able to touch both the door panel, steering wheel and center armrest all at the same time.
Why to buy?
While we would like to report that the Mars Red finish was enough to emasculate the compact GLK, it is still what we would call a chick car. So if you dream of being Samantha from “Sex and the City” then the GLK is definitely for you. The premium CUV is the perfect choice for any woman looking for a bit more luxury from their day to day driving experience. However Mercedes Benz might just have another market in mind, Europe. With narrow streets and parking being an issue, the GLK offers all of the amenities of a full size luxury limousine in a package that takes up about as much real estate as a Ford Focus hatchback.
Our 2010 GLK350 was a bit pricey, selling for $45,645. Considering the CUV starts at $34,600 and was then equipped with a few goodies like the “PO1” Premium Package that included everything from a power lift gate to the panoramic sunroof and even satellite radio for $3,150 was a steal, considering that separately everything included would add up to $4,380. The “318” Full Leather Seating Package that adds the obvious leather upholstery, Burl Walnut Wood Trim as well as Premium Interior Lighting for $1,750. The “320” Multimedia Package sold for $3,350 and the “322” sports appearance package added the upgrade rollers and brushed aluminum roof rails for $970 more.
Why not to buy?
Full sized females and plus sized models need not inquire; getting in and out of the GLK might be an embarrassing act to pull off in front of the valet at your local country club if you are larger than the average member of the opposite sex, so stay away, you will be much happier with something like a GL550 or even a mighty G-Wagen to show off to your friends.
If you just can’t go the way of the silver arrow, then consider the BMW X1 when it finally comes out, the size is similar and the feel should be as well, after all there aren’t many premium compact crossover utility vehicles on the market. If cost is one of your major concerns, but still want to ride above the road in a stylish CUV, then consider the VW Tiguan . Volkswagen always does an excellent job finishing the interiors of their vehicles, and the Tiguan’s style is equally as unique as the GLK, but at a much less luxurious price.
Top Speed final verdict
As you can expect for a vehicle that made its debut in a movie about four sex crazed women in Manhattan, the Mercedes Benz GLK is undeniably the best sweet sixteen present of all time. Here at Top Speed we are always pulling our minds out of the tuning gutter, so we couldn’t help but think about Brabus getting a hold of a GLK in order to shoehorn in one of their red and black twin turbocharged V12 specials, or see the Renntech Pikes Peak Rally concept actually compete in the race to the clouds. So while the GLK may be better suited for a secretary, just like the original Ford Mustang, it certainly has a lot of potential.
"Perhaps the toughest-looking of all the small luxury sport-utes, the GLK is loosely based on the compact C-class sedan and shares its 3.5-liter V-6. Slightly less carlike than its rivals, the GLK is still comfortable, handsome, and a bit of a bargain in its segment. Rear-wheel drive is standard...Tight rear seat, affordability goes poof! if you’re not careful with options, more trucklike than its competition."-Car and Driver
"Setting a new standard of refinement among the new breed of compact crossovers."-Edmunds
"A C-Class crossover"-Road&Track