2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

The entry-level luxury crossover segment just got a lot more competitive.

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350
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Mercedes-Benz ushers fresh looks into the SUV market with the arrival of the all-new 2010 GLK350 sport utility vehicle. The newcomer joins Mercedes’ palette of premium luxury and performance vehicles adding the GLK-Class to the brand’s spectrum of passenger cars and SUVs that range in price from $32,000 to $500,000.

FAST FACTS

1. The GLK is an entirely new entry-level luxury crossover from Mercedes with a starting MSRP of $35,900 for the 4MATIC model.

2. Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 with 268hp on tap.

3. An appearance package adds chrome roof rails and 20-inch wheels.

The compact GLK350 enters the segment priced under $34,000 as the entry-level vehicle to compliment the automaker’s G-, GL-, M- and R-Class SUV lineup that today commands 30-percent of the brand’s U.S. sales.

“Mercedes GLK is the right product at the right time,” said Bernhard Glaser, Mercedes-Benz general manager product management. “Today’s consumers are downsizing their vehicles. The GLK350 is the perfect balance of styling, performance and versatility.”

According to Glaser, the luxury compact SUV segment is forecast to grow 72-percent from 2007-2009.

BOLD AND YOUTHFUL EXTERIOR

The 2010 Mercedes GLK350 mirrors styling cues from its SUV siblings with an upright windshield, large grille and flared fenders. Beyond that, this freshman brings a look all its own to the front of the Class. The GLK350 is bathed with edgy styling that oozes vitality. The design language is youthful, with a bold appearance to compliment today’s active lifestyle consumer.

Coved door treatments, dressed with chrome beltlines, bookend wheel wells that house standard 19-inch 10-spoke alloy rims. An available Appearance Package provides aluminum roof rails and 20-inch 7-spoke alloy wheels. Optional running boards add a road hugging look to GLK’s profile.

But beyond their visual appeal, the running boards serve little purpose, as GLK’s cabin is already postured at step-in height. Driver and passengers will keep the board’s edge nicely polished as pants have a tendency to drag across their edge when exiting the vehicle.

Polished surfaces also highlight GLK350’s rear styling with dual chrome exhaust tips, chrome bumper sill and corner trim topped by an integrated monotone rear spoiler that crowns the top-hinged rear hatch.

INSIDE: HITS AND MISSES

Inside, five occupants enjoy an up-scale interior with broad seating surfaces for adult-size hip room that makes a trip across-town or cross-country a pleasure. Back seat legroom can be a bit tight for adult passengers, but improved greatly with only slight forward positioning of the front seats. Front and rear seat headroom is extraordinary.

GLK’s high seat position provides a commanding view of the road while an available power-operated dual panorama glass roof offers all riders a brighter outlook. However, the combination of multiple window and roof pillars in the right rear quarter panel creates a pesky blind spot. Turning the right exterior rearview mirror angle further out helps to increase side visibility.

The GLK-Class comes with standard upholstery that simulates the look and feel of leather. The genuine article is included in a Full-Leather Seating Package. Regardless of the top coat, seat cushions are supple with front bucket seats that feature an extended bottom cushion for comfortable thigh support. Heated front seats and a driver’s-side memory feature are also available.

Up front, broad aluminum trim plates highlight the dashboard and door panels. Burl walnut wood trim comes with the Seating Package. Instrumentation is ergonomically pleasing with straight-forward dials and switches. The optional navigation system is operated by pressing a button on the dashboard or by using the Command System’s multifunction controller on the center stack. The knob-based system is intuitive and interfaces well with the navigation system’s onscreen menus.

The cabin’s climate control is comfortably accessed from the driver or front passenger position. The low placement of the vents on the dash is aesthetically pleasing, but hinders air-flow of the cooling system to reach all parts of the cabin.

COMPETITIVE CARGO SPACE AND TOWING CAPACITY

If your travel requires carrying a load, GLK’s 60/40-split flat-folding second row expands the rear cargo bay from a 23.3 to a 54.7 cu.-ft. capacity. Standard electronic trailer stabilization system helps keep a 3,500-lb towing load in check. The trailer hitch is optional, however.

Optional Multimedia Package includes the Command multifunction controller, navigation system, six-disc Harmon/Kardon entertainment system and backup camera. A Special Lighting Packages caters to improved night time driving visibility with swiveling bi-xenon headlamps and integrated washers. Large LED taillights highlight the rear fascia. Dual screen rear seat entertainment system, iPod connection kit and parking sensors are stand alone options.

POWERFUL V6 COMBINED WITH AWD AND 7-SPEED TRANNY

The GLK350 is powered by a feisty 3.5-liter V-6 engine that builds 268-horsepower governed by a slick-shifting 7-speed automatic transmission. The transmission includes Comfort and Sport modes in addition to a manual setting for more driver-directed control. Mercedes 4MATIC gives the GLK the added benefit of full-time all-wheel drive traction. A rear-wheel drive model arrives in April.

The GLK delivers an ultra-smooth ride courtesy of Mercedes’ Agility Control that automatically adjusts shock damping and suspension to soothe road harshness. Fuel economy yields 16-mpg around town and 22-mpg on the open road.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 starts at $33,900, with the 4MATIC version running $35,900. Add $875 for freight.

THE VERDICT

In the entry-level luxury SUV/Crossover category Mercedes might just have hit a home run with the GLK. With a reasonable starting price and plenty of luxury options, it’s also competitive in the functionality department with good power, cargo room and a reasonable tow rating. It’s also a fabulous looking vehicle, with a look that is both rugged and hip – and that three-pointed star up front doesn’t hurt either.

PLUS

Youthful exterior styling
Interior headroom
Standard Trailer Stability Control

MINUS

Nonfunctional running boards
HVAC vent location
Rear seat legroom

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