First Drive: 2012 Mercedes Benz GLK 350
In the world of mid-size mom mobiles, style is often a hard thing to find. When you examine the field most fit in the background as opposed to the centerfold. As Benjamin Franklin once said "A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body." Most of the luxury mid size SUV’s fail to deliver this food and fire to the consumer. This precedence of indifference ended when we walked to the parking lot and gazed at the 2012 Mercedes Benz GLK 350.
What struck us about this is the graceful angles of the GLK that set it apart from the rest of the field. Although the GLK has only been in production since 2009, it has taken lessons from others in the field. The interior looks like it can stand up to your Lab and yet also haul the kids to school in the morning. The teflon interior is very comfortable which makes that early morning commute with kids in tow that much more bearable. On top of all this utility, you actually get some sport in your SUV (imagine that!). The GLK makes the most mundane tasks like merging onto the interstate quite fun. When you press the loud pedal you are pleasantly surprised and the engine emits a raspy bark akin to Tom Waits impersonating a seal.
More details on the 2012 Mercedes Benz GLK 350 after the jump.
Every time we walk out to the GLK we can’t help but smile. It really does stick out on the road. While the GLK is angular, it does not fall into the trend of making a car look like a Frank Lloyd Wright plan gone awry. These angles are particularly on the hood. Mercedes has taken the idea from the GL’s hood and made the hood line slant downwards and all the lines lead to the hood. At the same time these angular lines are combined with a somewhat square stance. The particular model we tested was also equipped 20" 5 spoke wheels( Part of the $1,990 AMG Package) and added to the presence of this vehicle. The high door line also gave the illusion of added height. If we had to sum up the exterior in two words it would be: stylistic compromise. Mercedes has made this vehicle something special in the market by keeping a somewhat standard shape and making it eye catching.
As soon as we laid eyes on the interior, an aura of opulence cascaded us. We were surrounded by beautiful walnut inlays. This test model came with two packages (Premium and Multimedia). The Premium package ($3,200) makes this interior even better. As we drove around sunny Southern California we realized the panoramic sunroof is worth its weight in gold. This package also added XM radio, that made the inevitable LA traffic jam that much more bearable. It also added a power lift gate which made unloading mounds of gear that much easier. The GLK easily swallowed all this gear thanks to the fact that, with the rear seats folded flat, there was an astounding 54.7 cu.ft of space. The other elements of the Premium package included auto dimming rear view mirrors as well as 10 way power seats. We also found the compass in the mirror very helpful when we tootled in Downtown Los Angeles.
The other package installed on our tester was the Multimedia package ($3,000) which was the icing on the cake. This package gave us the Command system, where we found the interface easy to use and the display (7 in.) easy to read. This system also came with XM/ Sirius traffic which was absolutely brilliant and anyone who lives in Southern California needs to get this upgrade. This system also allowed for seamless Ipod integration which, combined with the standard speaker system, was great.
In addition to the fantastic features we found, the GLK was also good at people hauling. Even as we drove around on pavement that has seen better days, the seats were supportive but comfortable. The one complaint is that our optional 20’ wheels generated a fair amount of road noise. When we took on passengers they found out they had plenty of space. This is because the GLK rear row features 35.1 inches of leg room and 39.7 inches of head room. Even with the intrusion of the panoramic sunroof, tall passengers won’t feel squished.
The interior of the GLK 350 is one that every car manufacturer should learn from. The ease in which all the controls were reached and the quality of the materials and electronics were outstanding.
Originally, SUV’s were built and valued for their off road prowess and not for their on-road performance. Lately, SUV’s are being built with a fair bit of on-road prowess with the aim of tackling the urban jungle. The GLK suspension helps in this task. The suspension consists of 4 wheel independent multi-link and shock absorbers that are constantly adjusted via a program called AGILITY CONTROL. This suspension surprised us because on paper it looks like a brilliant system. In practice, particularly in the city, we were dismayed by the fact that we could feel the suspension work spoiled the ride a bit.
Although the GLK had speed sensitive power steering, especially when turning a sharp corner, the steering felt numb. It felt like the steering had been given Novocaine. The one thing we loved about the GLK was the fact that its engine and transmission are a world class duo. The first half of this duo is the 3.5 liter aluminum head dual overhead cam (DOHC) V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 258 lbs/ft of torque. This engine also features multi-point direct injection in addition to a ’knock sensor’. The V6 was like an automotive ’Sybil’ if you wanted to play Schumacher, it was more than happy to oblige, yet if your sensible side showed up, it was more than happy to cruise. When you decide to play Schumacher and bury your foot, you’ll see that the GLK will hit 60 mph in 6.5 seconds. Its transmission was also a stunning piece of engineering. This seven speed automatic never felt clunky or slow to downshift.
We like the feisty GLK350 from its rambunctious engine to the magnificent interior. The problem is this might be a case of ’too little, too late’ because the market is awash with competition. We see the GLK 350’s main competition as the BMW X3 28i and the Audi Q5. This all-German brawl pegs the GLK350 at $800 more than a comparably equipped X3 ($44,495 vs. $44,125) and the Audi Q5 was the most expensive ($45,050). Out of these three only one provides a home and food for the soul: the Mercedes Benz GLK350.