May 22, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 27 May 2010 14:36
Mercedes-Benz won over U.S. consumers 14 years ago with its M-Class midsize sport-utility vehicle, a handsome, durable, rugged, comfortable and fairly economical car. But unlike the major Asian, American and a few European automakers, Mercedes-Benz didn’t offer a compact SUV — until now.Glimpse the new GLK out of the corner of your eye and you might think it’s a slightly upsized Subaru Legacy Outback wagon. But the long hood and the three-pointed star dominating the front grille identify the GLK as Mercedes’ latest foray into the SUV game.
Mercedes-Benz used the platform of its popular compact C-Class sedan in designing the GLK, so it should be fairly bug-free in its debut year. Like the C-Class, it’s quiet, smooth and thoroughly refined. It’s much more versatile than its sedan cousin, however, and better equipped to handle harsh weather and rough roads.
Fuel economy is somewhat disappointing, given the GLK’s modest dimensions: 16 mpg city, 21 highway, a little worse than our family’s 10-year-old M-Class, a bigger car. With the GLK, we averaged a little less than 20 mpg in mainly highway driving. Mercedes hasn’t indicated if or when it offer a diesel option in the GLK; this package would average better than 30 mpg.
All GLKs come with a 3.5-liter, 268-horsepower V-6 engine and 7-speed automatic transmission, a combination common to most compact and midsize Mercedes-Benz sedans and SUVs. The GLK is available with rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Our GLK350 4Matic started at $36,600 and reached $48,735 with options, including power liftgate, panorama sunroof, rear-view camera, navigation, COMAND system for managing various electronic systems, and Sirius satellite radio. The base price of the rear-drive model is $34,600.
Though in many ways an agreeable ride, the GLK comes up short in a few respects when compared with another new-for-2010, European compact luxury SUV, the Volvo X60. Similarly refined, well-equipped and safe, the Volvo has 67 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, compared with the GLK’s 55. The GLK wins points with crisper handling, and its engine is more powerful than Volvo’s base power plant.
The GLK’s front seat is roomy, but knee room is tight in back, and the high sill makes access and egress awkward. On the plus side, the rear seats fold down flat for cargo.
Mercedes-Benz’ COMAND system, operated by a dial placed at the driver’s right hand, is an ergonomic triumph. Even our most technology-challenged driver was able to figure out its intricacies and capabilities without consulting the owner’s manual. The climate-control and navigation systems also are quite user-friendly.
Consumer Reports magazine says the GLK’s reliability has been better than average. It’s built in Germany, rather than in a Mercedes-Benz plant in the United States or Mexico.
With a base price that meets or even beats other compact luxury SUVs, and with driving dynamics superior to all but BMW’s X3, the GLK is handicapped only by its commonplace styling and limited cargo room.
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6, 268 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 7-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 4,036 lb.
Ground clearance: 7.9 in.
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 19x7.5-inch alloy
Tires: 235/50R19 H all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 23.3 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 67 cu. ft.
Towing capacity: 3,500 lb.
Fuel capacity: 17.4 gallons
Fuel economy: 16 mpg city, 21 mpg highway
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