Jude Morte / Brent Co, Jude Morte | January 23, 2009 00:00
G-Class for the posh crowdThe premium compact SUV arena now finds itself getting a little more crowded with the recent launch of the new Mercedes Benz GLK. Arriving at a time when the BMW X3 has yet to introduce its second generation iteration, the Audi Q5 has yet to reach local shores and the Volvo XC60 still yet to make an impact sales-wise, the GLK is Mercedes Benz's take on compact SUVs, plus daily practicality and Mercedes-Benz refinement.
On looks alone, the GLK seems dead set to make a tire print (or four) on the aforementioned segment. Taut lines and large expansive surfaces mix with short overhangs, an upright front end, slender roof pillars, a steeply angled windshield, flat roof lines and tall angles of approach and departure to create a vehicle adept on nearly all roads. When viewed from the sides, the GLK is reminiscent of its larger G-Class sibling, with seamless yet striking visual interplay between the roof, the body-colored side skirts, the high-gloss black side window panels, a chrome-plated trim strip (running along the beltline, below the side windows) that merges into the contours of the front wing and rear sidewall and a shoulder-line that emanates from the front wheel arch and ends in the rear.
Inside, the GLK draws inspiration from its C-Class brethren. It borrows instruments, features and switchgear – including auto-dimming side mirrors and rearview mirror, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control and the COMAND (COckpit MAnagement and Navigational Device) system - from the said brand, thus creating a high sense of purposeful yet refined ergonomics. However, unlike the C-Class you can store a lot more stuff in the GLK. With both rear backrests folded flat, the GLK swallows 1550 liters of load. You also have bag hooks, coat hooks in the tailgate trim, and an Easy-Pack tailgate that can be opened/closed at a button's push (either from the driver's seat or on the key fob). The seating position is set 6.3 inches higher than in the C-Class, providing a reasonably commanding view of the road. Still, it is not so high as to leave you feeling detached from the action.
Moving its 4,034 lbs. of curb weight around is a 231 hp 2.8L V6, helped along immensely by 4Matic all wheel drive (with 45:55 torque split between front and rear wheels), a multiple-disc clutch and a seven-speed slushbox. Agility Control suspension (also derived from the C-Class) keeps the unit firmly planted during lateral movement at all speeds, acting more like a sporting wagon than a traditional off-roader yet delivering a comfortable ride at par with the R-Class or ML-Class units. A speed sensitive power steering unit makes light work of parking and long backing moves, but increases resistance as speed increases for greater directional stability. Lastly, the GLK's Adaptive Brake system has three unique features – 1) Hill-start assist, preventing the unit from rolling contrary to the intended travel direction; 2) Brake "priming," in which the system prepares for possible panic braking by pressing the brake pads lightly against the brake discs. If the brake pedal is applied with full force, stopping distance is increased; and 3) Adaptive brake lights, in which the hazard warning lights are turned on during sudden, emergency stopping.
The Mercedes Benz GLK comes in two variants – the P 4.48 million GLK 280, and the by-order-only GLK Edition 1 (with Designo leather seats, aluminum pedals and shift paddles on the steering wheel). Its arrival makes the premium compact SUV segment a little more crowded, but gives the competition plenty of thinking room before entering their products.