When we first saw the new Mercedes Benz GLK make its big screen debut in a film about four women looking for love in Manhattan, it was hard to think of Mercedes Benz’s entry into the compact crossover market as anything but a chick car. After a few days of driving around our Arctic White GLK riding on upgraded 20 inch rims outside the vehicle, and enjoying the combination of black leather and aluminum trim inside the new CUV, we were pleased with what we had. Our 2010 GLK was optioned to the brim with features like DVD entertainment, navigation and other premium amenities; our car’s asking price had soared from the $35,900 M.S.R.P to almost $50,000.
The 268 HP V6 was more than enough to power our GLK 350 and when combined with the 4Matic all wheel drive system and seven speed automatic transmission made the crossover a blast to drive. Despite its compact nature, the GLK has styling to spare and is a welcome addition of attitude to the Mercedes Benz lineup. The size made the car easy to park and maneuver in traffic and combined with the safety of 6 airbags, makes the GLK a secure choice for new car buyers.
Continued with video walk around 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 Autrian Army’s favorite fast attack vehicle, except that where the G-Wagen is at home storming through a forest, the tinier GLK is sized just right for the tight narrow cobblestone covered streets of Europe. Everything on 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 nicest design cues of our GLK is the impression that begins at the trailing edge of the front fenders, continues through the doors and creates a narrow channel that frames the top of the rear arch. The GLK is one of those vehicles that looks good from above thanks to the oversized sunroof. The large tinted panes of glass break up what would otherwise be a large white piece of sheet metal, just like on the S-Class, the German automaker went the extra step to make their vehicle visually interesting.
Our GLK’s optional 20 inch rims are well worth the upgrade, and as part of the Sport Appearance Package, you also get the brushed aluminum roof rails that make the top of the GLK look even better. One option that looked nice, but didn’t work so well with our long legs were the running boards, also finished in the brushed metal, they add a lot visually to the GLK’s exterior, but their practicality is definitely questionable.
The interior of our MB GLK 350 was everything that you have come to expect from the German luxury car builder. They way you sit in the firm leather driver’s seat and hold onto the multifunction steering wheel, makes you vertebrae align perfectly, almost as if it were a cure for slouching. The materials used are nothing less than you would expect from Mercedes, there was even more use of brushed aluminum trim on the dash and doors. The Design team from Germany did an excellent job of making the driver feel comfortable inside the GLK, surrounding them with straightforward controls and an exquisite combination of hard and soft materials.
Atop the center stack, a unit that can can control items like the telephone, Command system hard drive based navigation, Harman/Kardon Logic 7 surround sound radio system with iPod, MP3 and Sirius Satellite radio capabilities, is a perfectly sized 7 inch LCD screen that works as a display for everything.
The shifter was comfortable in our hands and moved through all seven forward gears smoothly. The placement was perfect, right where your digits would be resting. That also made the little knob just behind the shifter our best friend when behind the wheel, allowing the pilot to fully control the multi function display as well as tune in to whatever frequency you desire. However the knob wouldn’t do everything, it was a bit inconvenient having to reach back over to the controls on the radio to adjust the volume.
It’s nice that the rear seat passengers will enjoy more leg room than in a full size G-Wagen, that is not saying much, they get to enjoy their own DVD entertainment system, and it is nice that the screens are huge, despite being in your face, Our question is why can’t the engineers who can make a headrest that will wrap a scarf around your neck, make one that can fit a TV in it?
The GLK once again drives like you would expect from Mercedes Benz. The car is luxurious, comfortable and fun to drive. The GLK feels heavy, in a way that lets you know you are behind the wheel of a solid machine. The small size of the GLK helps it to get in and out of traffic efficiently and in a way that will leave a smile on your face. That compact size is also one of the drawbacks when driving the GLK. It appears to us that the Mercedes Benz engineers didn’t intend to sell this vehicle to persons over 5 ½ feet tall, at just under 6 feet tall, we fit in just fine, but there was not much room to spare, our knees were capable of coming into contact with both the door panel and center armrest, at the same time. As you can expect for a vehicle that made its debut in a movie about four women in Manhattan, it is apparent that Mercedes Benz had a target audience in mind, can you say “best sweet sixteen present ever.”
Our GLK 350 4Matic came equipped with, a 3.5 Liter 24 valve V6 that made 268 HP and 258 lb-ft of torque. We had the opportunity to test out the 4Matic permanent all wheel drive system during a South Florida summer shower. The compact crossover’s four wheel drive system, which sends 55% of the engine’s available torque to the rear wheels, did a perfect job of making baby G-Wagen as fun to drive as the real thing, even in the wet. 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 21 MPG at highway speeds.
Why to buy?
The GLK is definitely the car for you if you ever dreamed of being Samantha from “Sex and the City,” the compact crossover is also perfect for any woman looking for a bit more luxury in their day to day driving, or if you are one of the girls on a sweet sixteen reality show.
However; Mercedes Benz has another market in mind, aside from screaming women of all ages, Europe. The GLK offers all of the amenities of a full size luxury limousine; features like Bluetooth telephone, hard drive navigation, CD/MP3 and DVD players, and multiple large LCD screens all in a footprint not much bigger than a Ford Focus hatchback. European buyers are looking for their money to go in terms of ICE, in car entertainment, and are less worried about performance; so long as the CO2 emissions aren’t too high, and the car is small enough to fit into tight parking spaces, they are happy. Sounds like a good fit for the GLK.
Why not to buy?
Women with full sized figures and plus sized models need not apply; 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, so stay away, you want something like a GL550 or even a mighty G-Wagen to show off to your friends.
Our 2010 GLK350 was a bit pricey, retailing for $49,445. Considering the CUV starts at $35,900 and was then optioned with a few goodies like option number “864,” a rear seat entertainment system for $1,880. 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 “319” lighting package that gets you bi-xenon headlamps and LED taillights is an extra $970. The number “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. If you want the same style and can live without the luxuries, see how close to the actual M.S.R.P. you can get a GLK for.
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 new GLK, but at a much less luxurious price.
Top Speed final verdict:
The GLK was a great car and although at times it felt a little small, it was definitely fun to drive. The CUV’s exterior screamed attitude, from the bold squared off edges to the oversized 20 inch rims the GLK is stylish. The interior was comfortable and well finished, despite being a little cramped. The baby Benz drove amazingly, there was enough grunt from the engine to power the GLK to wherever you desire and a drive train that can make it happen. Mercedes Benz should be able to sell as many of this G-Wagen inspired city sized trucks as they can possibly produce.
Here at Top Speed we are always pulling our minds out the tuning gutter, so we can’t help but think about how nice it would be to see Brabus get a hold of a GLK and shoehorn in one of their red and black turbocharged V12 specials. Or see the Renntech Pikes Peak Rally concept actually compete in the race to the clouds. These compact crossovers could spawn a whole new form of racing. Imagine DTM crossed with Hartmut Feyhl’s creation to create a miniature version of MAN truck racing for German CUVs.