Full 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class remains largely unchanged. A driver-side knee airbag and lower front-seat side airbags have been added. On the options list there's a new AMG Sport package.
It is no accident that the GLK350, Mercedes' smallest and least expensive SUV, leaped into the crowded compact crossover market last year as an immediately desirable contender. After all, Mercedes-Benz pioneered the combination of SUV utility and luxury-car trappings with its ML-Class SUV in the late 1990s. About five years ago, Mercedes showed it could put together an excellent full-size luxury SUV as well with the GL-Class. The company still lacked an entry for the growing small crossover segment, however. So last year the GLK350 came along to fill the gap.
Drawing from Mercedes' well-stocked store of components, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK is based on the C-Class sedan and features Mercedes' familiar 3.5-liter V6 and seven-speed automatic transmission. And despite being one of the cheapest Benz models, the GLK is built to such a high standard that its price premium over most similarly equipped competitors seems well worth it. Go over railroad tracks and the body doesn't flex a bit, nor does any jiggling greet your backside. This little SUV feels like you could drive over a land mine and experience nothing but a muted "thump." The GLK350 might not be perfect, but when it comes to meticulous build quality, it simply has no equal in this segment.
The interior is also a chip off the old 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 a Stuttgart beer garden. What it may lack in flair, though, the GLK interior more than makes up for with superior materials and impeccable fit and finish.
However, there are a couple of minor downsides to the GLK. Its maximum cargo capacity and rear legroom measure slightly behind the leaders among luxury SUVs, so if you're looking for the extra room, there may be better choices. Families who often utilize the rear seat will likely prefer the Volvo XC60 or the even larger Lexus RX 350, and those who care more about dynamic driving than luggage capacity would do well to consider the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Infiniti EX35.
Even if it's not the quickest or largest of the compact crossovers, the GLK350 stands out because it so effortlessly blends the elements of luxury motoring with utility as well as any vehicle on the road. Not all Benzes have upheld these traditions, but the GLK most certainly earns its three-pointed star.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 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 wheel, 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, driver seat power lumbar support, a 115-volt household outlet and satellite radio. The Multimedia package adds a navigation system, a rearview camera, the electronics interface, voice controls, digital music storage, an iPod/USB audio interface and a six-CD changer.
The Appearance package adds 20-inch wheels and aluminum roof rails. The AMG Sport package offers the roof rails, 20-inch wheels, AMG bumpers and LED daytime running lights. Other options include a styling package, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, front and rear parking sensors, a panoramic sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, heated front seats and a rear seat entertainment system with dual front-headrest-mounted displays.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with an output of 268 horsepower 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 Edmunds performance testing, a GLK350 4Matic accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, an average time for this segment. Estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with 4Matic. The rear-wheel-drive GLK bumps the highway number up to 23 mpg.
The GLK comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and, new for 2011, a front knee airbag and driver/passenger pelvic airbags. Parking sensors and Mercedes' mbrace emergency telematics are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a GLK 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet -- a good number for this type of vehicle.
Interior Design and Special Features
There isn't a hint of French curve to be found anywhere inside the GLK, but the geometric lines are softened by an abundance of amenities and framed within an elegant simplicity that echoes the exterior's no-nonsense character. The craftsmanship and materials are of an obviously high standard, and even Mercedes' vinyl upholstery could be mistaken for real leather. Headroom is ample all around but rear legroom is tight, and climbing in and out through the small rear door openings can be difficult.
A few systems are overly complicated to operate 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 make the GLK no less friendly than other cars with extravagant electronics. Maximum cargo capacity is 54.7 cubic feet, which is less than most luxury competitors, but the rear seats are easy to fold flat when the need arises for more luggage room.
Given the compromises of ride height and weight commensurate with its class of vehicle, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK is beautifully balanced and evokes comparison to the C-Class sedan, its closest showroom relative. If the GLK is not quite as sporty as the X3 or Q5, its incredibly solid structure, compliant ride quality and maneuverability through tight urban streets are sure to appeal to the GLK's likely buyer.
With its 268-hp V6, 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.