2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4maticPosted on March 8th, 2009
Compact sport-utility vehicle with sports car performance
By Nina Russin
On the surface, the Mercedes-Benz GLK looks more like a show car than an active lifestyle vehicle. Twenty-inch chrome wheels, part of a sport appearance package on the test car, can be misleading. Stylish as it is, the automaker’s first compact SUV is more than a pretty face.
On-road performance is akin to a sports car. The GLK swallows up turns like a panther on the prowl. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine and seven-speed automatic transmission are so well suited to each other that shifts between gears are barely perceptible.
The manufacturer’s agility-control suspension system adjusts shock damping according to the driver’s needs. If the driver takes the vehicle off-road, damping is softer to enhance ride comfort. On the highway at speed, the shocks get firmer to keep the chassis flat and enhance steering response.
Speed-sensitive steering produces more assist at low speeds while maintaining a positive on-center feel on the highway. Large disc brakes with dual-piston calipers up from and single pistons in the rear stop the car on a dime.
Fuel-efficient all-wheel drive system
The test car comes with the automaker’s 4matic all-wheel drive system that maintains a rear-wheel bias during normal driving conditions. On wet or uneven pavement a center differential automatically transfers engine power to the wheels with the best traction.
One of the drawbacks of all-wheel drive is that it makes the car thirsty. Since the GLK’s engine requires premium fuel, poor gas mileage could seriously impact cost of ownership.
To address this, engineers designed the engine, transmission and transfer case as a single longitudinal unit versus the common transverse setup. Doing so improved fuel economy while reducing engine noise and vibration.
The seven-speed automatic transmission also helps to conserve fuel, in part because it provides large overdrive gears for high-speed cruising. Actuators also decouple the transmission when the car is idling to reduce parasitic energy loss.
Average fuel economy for the 268-horsepower GLK is eighteen miles-per-gallon; about twenty-one on the highway.
Mercedes produces two clean diesel versions of the GLK for Europe: one uses a new four-cylinder diesel engine that gets close to thirty-five miles-per-gallon. No word yet on whether either car will be certified for sale in the US.
I often tell people that if they must be in an accident, they want to be driving a Mercedes-Benz. Not that anyone would want to wreck such a nice car, but the chances of both driver and passengers walking away unharmed are far above average.
The GLK continues in this tradition with an extremely robust body structure that’s designed to protect pedestrians as well as its occupants. Engineers added space between the car’s sheet metal and front structure to let the hood deform if the car hits a pedestrian. The front bumper uses a softer foam to minimize injury.
An adaptive brake system precharges the brakes when a collision is imminent to help the car stop faster. When sensors detect an emergency braking situation, the pistons move the brake pads closer to the brake rotors so that they can engage more quickly. The same technology can dry the rotors when the vehicle is on wet or snow-covered pavement. Standard hill start assist applies the brake on steep inclines to prevent the car from rolling backwards when it accelerates off a stop.
Optional adaptive bi-xenon headlamps on the test car throw a brighter, longer beam of light than halogen. The headlamps swivel according to steering input to light corners of the road. As a runner who frequently runs at night, I appreciate the way that this system can protect pedestrians crossing through intersections.
All cars come with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front head restraints, roll-over protection, antilock brakes and electronic stability program with trailer sway control.
The G designation in the model name refers to the Gelandewagen: the automaker’s iconic off-road vehicle. Originally designed for military use, the Gelandewagen is as capable of scaling the neighborhood hi-rise as Spiderman.
The GLK doesn’t have the extreme off-road capability of the original G-Class, but properly equipped, it should be able to get its occupants far enough off the beaten path. According to the manufacturer, the GLK can climb inclines of up to seventy percent, and remain stable on a thirty-five degree side angle.
The test car’s chrome wheels made me wary of trying this myself. Twenty-inch rims and low-profile tires don’t do well off-road, and I didn’t want to be known as the journalist who bent the wheels that came as part of a $970 option package.
Modern, well-lit interior
Inside, the GLK has all of the amenities one would expect in a mid-luxury sport-utility vehicle. Designers have used mouse-type controls to eliminate much of the center stack clutter in earlier models. The controls are fairly intuitive, and are much less distracting than the myriad of buttons they replace.
Multiple power points up front and in the cargo area allow passengers to recharge electronic devices on the go.
The screen for the optional navigation system doubles as an information display for audio and temperature controls, and for the rearview camera. The GLK is small enough to fit easily in the average parking spot. But the camera, which displays a wide angle view to the back, makes it easier to squeeze into tight spaces on the street.
An option package on the test car adds three-position driver’s seat memory, a power liftgate, panoramic sunroof, satellite radio, and a 115-volt outlet in the cargo area.
Power controls let drivers adjust the steering wheel to maintain a clear forward view. Redundant steering wheel buttons give the driver access to the Bluetooth interface and program other convenience controls.
Mercedes-Benz uses a stalk to the left of the steering wheel for the cruise control. Although the automaker has used this system for years, I still find it confusing and potentially dangerous. The driver can easily mistake the cruise controls for the turn signal stalk adjacent to it.
The gearshift in the center console includes a manual shift option. The GLK has a foot-operated parking brake, which can be more difficult to use than a hand brake when driving off-road.
Buttons next to the rear view mirror connect passengers to a live operator using the optional COMAND tele-aid system. I try this system on every Mercedes-Benz test car I drive, and it always works instantly.
The same option package upgrades the standard audio system to seven-speakers with 5.1 surround-sound. A separate option package adds an iPod and MP3 interface.
The optional panoramic sunroof brings ambient light into the passenger compartment. Due to its large floor tunnel, the second row is better suited to two passengers than three. Second row seats are easy to fold flat using a single lever on the outboard seatbacks. With the second-row seats folded flat, the GLK meets our bicycle-friendly standards.
The power liftgate keeps both hands free for loading in cargo. An under-floor storage area contains a tray with compartments to hold small items in place. A standard wiper keeps the back glass clean in rain and snow.
Base price for the GLK350 is $35,900, not including a $875 destination charge. The GLK is currently on display at Mercedes-Benz dealerships nationwide.
Likes: A stylish sport-utility vehicle with exceptional on-road performance and segment-leading safety.
Dislikes: Location of the cruise control stalk is confusing and potentially dangerous.
Model: GLK350 4matic
Base price: $35,900
As tested: $46,905
Horsepower: 268 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft @ 2400 rpm
Zero-to-sixty: 6.5 seconds
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 16/21 mpg city/highway
Comments: The GLK requires 91 octane fuel.
One response to “2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4matic”
This website seems pretty cool, I will add it to my 4×4 bookmarks.
Leave a reply