Mercedes' GLK is Really Good
, Sat, 20 Feb 2010 02:49:08 PST
DETROIT -- The third time is not always the charm. Sometimes it's the fourth.
It seems that's the case with the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic.It's the fourth utility vehicle that Mercedes has designed for the U.S. market and all I can say is that it should have been the first.
Don't get it twisted; the other three were not bad vehicles but the Mercedes-Benz GLK small sport utility is just that good. The styling is angular with a lot of muscularity. Thus the GLK really looks like a mid-size SUV. It wasn't until I got into it that I really sensed its compact size.
The vehicle's unibody construction gave it car-like characteristics that were really impressive. The ride was as smooth and bump free as that of a Mercedes-Benz sedan. It was quiet and the GLK had the handling characteristics of a sedan, not a sport utility. In short, The Mercedes-Benz GLK seemed like a car.
It was equipped with Mercedes' 3.5-liter V6 that made 268 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet of torque. The engine was mated to a seven-speed transmission and the combination provided as smooth a powertrain as I've felt in a while. And 4Matic is Mercedes-speak for all-wheel-drive.
Gear selection was dead on, shifts were seamless and power rippled through to the pavement effortlessly. Indeed, if not for the downturn in the U.S. market, I would think that Mercedes would end up having the best selling entry level luxury SUV on the market.
It was a vehicle that was really easy to drive. Acceleration was good. I got on expressways with ease and the engine had plenty of reserve power. The GLK responded to drive input immediately, lane changing was decisive and pothole avoidance was pretty quick.
My test vehicle stood out, it was red and it got a lot of attention which is rare for a sport-utility. It had aluminum roof rails, 20-inch alloy wheels and aluminum rubber studded running board that were functional but really were only served as aesthetics. I didn't have to step up or down to enter or exit the GLK.
Some vehicles have an ambience. In other words, the GLK felt good. The angular styling was carried over into the interior. Flat, angular taunt surfaces defined the dash board and they gave the GLK's interior a squared up appearance that worked. Ergonomically, the inside was well executed.
There was ample head and hip room in the front seats and the second row provided the same. My test vehicle had a glass moon roof that covered the first and second row seats. However, only the section covering the front row was movable.
The rear seats folded forwarded and the headrests did not have to be removed for them to be completely let down. The cargo floor was completely flat but it could serve as functional storage space.
My only real quibble with the GLK applies to all Mercedes-Benz vehicles and that's the Bluetooth connection. Connecting a compatible cell phones is not intuitive it's frustrating, if you can figure it out at all. Mercedes-Benz apparently has not let go of the idea that it can sell its own brand of cell phone that operates as a car phone. I spent a lot of time with my nose in the owner's manual and got my phone connected to Bluetooth for all of a day. This process should take seconds not minutes or longer to do.
Anyway, I was somewhat surprised that the GLK was equipped with a backup camera. It was part of the $3,350 multimedia package that included a 600 watt, 11 speaker premium sound system with a 6GB hard drive, MP3 capability, in dash 6 disc DVD/CD changer, a navigation system and voice controls.
Prices start at $35,900. With options and shipping charges, my Mercedes-Benz GLK 4Matic had a sticker of $43,425. That's somewhat steep but when I got in the GLK the price faded away.