What's New for 2010
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is an all-new compact luxury SUV.
Mercedes-Benz was one of the first players in the luxury SUV market, but until now, the compact segment of that market had been ignored by the three-pointed star. Correcting that problem is the all-new 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, a compact crossover that combines elements from throughout the brand's lineup. Based mechanically on the C-Class sedan, but boasting blocky styling aped from its bigger GL- and G-Class siblings, the GLK is like a greatest hits album with one or two new tracks up its sleeve.
The 2010 GLK350 is the second-cheapest Mercedes you can buy in this country, but you'd never suspect it. The GLK is built to such a high standard that its price premium over most similarly equipped competitors seems well worth it. Close the GLK's doors and the sound they emit gives the feeling of closing a bank vault -- all that's missing is that spinny wheel thing. Go over railroad tracks and the body doesn't flex a bit, nor does any jarring or jiggling greet your backside. This little SUV feels like you could drive over a grenade and experience nothing but a muted "thump." The GLK350 may not be perfect, but when it comes to meticulous build quality, it simply has no equal in this segment.
Drive the GLK back-to-back with a C-Class sedan and you're bound to get a sense of déjà vu all over again. In addition to its aforementioned ironclad feel, the GLK's steering and ride are remarkably similar to the C's. Not surprisingly, the GLK is built using a C-Class platform that's been shortened by 4 inches and given some appropriately pumped-up SUV ground clearance. The GLK and the C350 share the same 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, which in the GLK is the only power choice (a Bluetec diesel option should be available in future model years), while the seven-speed automatic is the lone transmission.
The interior is also a chip off the ol' C-Class block -- and we do mean block. The controls are virtually identical, but they're placed on an upright dash with nary a curved surface in sight. When done up in black, the GLK's austere cabin is the most stereotypically Germanic environment short of the Hofbräu tent at Oktoberfest. What it may lack in flair, though, the GLK interior more than makes up for with superior materials and impeccable fit and finish. Mercedes' interior quality took a nosedive for a few years, but the GLK's quality construction proves that the three-pointed star represents a world standard once again. The rather haphazard electronics interface is less impressive, but we do like it better than BMW's iDrive system.
The GLK does have a couple downsides, however. Its maximum cargo capacity and rear leg room are on the low side among luxury SUVs, so if you're looking for a hauling machine, you should probably look elsewhere. The Volvo XC60 provides just enough of that extra utility to make it more appealing to families, while the Lexus RX 350 is also about the same price and a full size larger. If the size is right, but you want something a little more stylish and sporty, the Audi Q5 is also worth consideration. The Acura RDX and Infiniti EX35 would be cheaper choices that offer a more dynamic driving experience.
However, even if the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 may not be the cheapest, biggest or most fun to drive compact luxury crossover, it's so well-rounded that finding glaring faults is difficult. We think buyers will find it a compelling choice and will be pleased to discover that Mercedes is once again at the top of its game.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Mercedes GLK-Class luxury crossover SUV is available in one trim level known as the Mercedes-Benz GLK350. When equipped with all-wheel drive, it is the GLK350 4Matic. Standard equipment includes 19-inch wheels, cruise control, automatic headlamps, eight-way power front seats, MB Tex premium vinyl upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power tilt and telescoping steering column, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The Premium 1 package adds a panoramic sunroof, a power tailgate, rain-sensing wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, driver seat memory settings, a 115-volt household outlet and satellite radio. The Multimedia package adds a hard-drive navigation system, the COMAND interface, a rearview camera, and a surround-sound system with 11 speakers, in-dash six-CD changer (available as stand-alone) and 6 GB of digital music storage. The Appearance package adds 20-inch wheels and aluminum roof rails. Other options include front and rear parking sensors, xenon headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, running boards, an iPod interface and a rear-seat entertainment system with dual front-headrest-mounted displays.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2010 Mercedes GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 good for 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission with comfort, sport and manual settings is standard. Rear-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive (known as 4Matic) is optional. In performance testing, a GLK350 4Matic went from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds. Estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with 4Matic. Sticking with rear-wheel drive nets 1 mpg better on the highway.
The GLK comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front-seat side airbags and side curtain airbags. A rearview camera, parking sensors and TeleAid emergency telematics are optional.
Interior Design and Special Features
The GLK's cabin looks like its designers stuck exclusively to rulers -- there's barely a rounded edge to be found. While this produces a rather austere and stark environment (particularly in black), the interior is beautifully crafted, with top-notch materials and tight panel fitment. The standard MB Tex vinyl upholstery is convincingly leather-like -- uninitiated passengers will likely mistake it for the real thing. Headroom is ample all around, but rear legroom is tight. Getting in and out can be a squeeze, too.
Some cabin controls are overly complicated, and the climate controls are mounted a little low, but the overall combination of physical dash buttons, steering wheel controls and the optional multifunction COMAND knob are reasonably effective at corralling the GLK's various functions. Maximum cargo capacity is 54.7 cubic feet, which is less than most luxury competitors.
The 2009 Mercedes GLK's most notable driving characteristic is the rock-solid feel of its chassis and unibody construction over every bump and road imperfection. The ride may be on the firm side for some (that some should buy a Lexus), but all others will appreciate the way the GLK350 confidently glides over the road. Through corners, the GLK remains securely planted despite its top-heavy nature, and its steering is well weighted and offers respectable feedback. We wouldn't describe the GLK as particularly fun compared to the X3 or EX35, but its dynamics are bound to please its likely clientele.
The V6's 268 hp is more than adequate -- the GLK's acceleration isn't breathtaking, but the dual exhausts give off a pleasant Germanic growl during aggressive driving. On the highway, the V6 is remarkably quiet, emitting an almost imperceptible purr. The seven-speed transmission is remarkably smooth -- even in sport mode -- but it can be a bit slow to downshift at times.