2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC Review

Mercedes GLK brings luxury to the masses

2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC Review

The Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC arrived in the midsize luxury SUV market with such charisma and style that it completely caught the competition off guard. Value priced starting at $35,500 for 2011; it seems incredible Mercedes-Benz can make something so refined and sell it for such a sensible price.

FAST FACTS

1. At launch the GLK was available only with 4MATIC AWD for $37,500. It can now also be ordered as a RWD model for $35,500.

2. Only one engine is available, a 268-hp 3.5L V6, mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission.

3. While hardly lacking in acceleration, the GLK is expected to get a new direct-injection V6 soon with 300-hp.

The GLK350 4MATIC offers a fresh take on what defines a luxury SUV. It looks striking as we take it for a highway spin to see how much everyday driving excitement an SUV can muster. Our destination is wine country in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada. 

POWER AND DRIVABILITY

Power comes in the form of a 3.5-liter 24-valve V6 engine. Quiet and smooth, it produces a total of 268 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 ft-lbs of torque from 2400 rpm. Mated to the 7G-TRONIC 7-speed automatic transmission, 0-60 mph flashes past in a rather quick 6.5 seconds with top speed limited at 130 mph.

Fuel economy is a chink in the GLK’s armor, however, with a rating of just 16-mpg city and 21-mpg highway.

4MATIC Permanent All-Wheel Drive is standard on the GLK350. So too is ESP (Electronic Stability Program), ABS and ASR (Acceleration Skid Control). New for 2011 is the option to de-select AWD and choose a rear-wheel drive only model, which will save you $2,000.

Handling over the twisties and city streets is first-rate, due in part to the standard Agility Control suspension. Designed to adjust suspension settings automatically to match road and driving conditions, it works flawlessly behind the scenes making necessary changes in milliseconds. Agility Control steering works in harmony to provide maximum driving pleasure and confidence.

I experience this first-hand as we take the opportunity to explore several of Niagara’s more challenging back roads and wine routes. And while SUVs are traditionally intended to deliver excellent off-road capability, the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 also offers enough swagger when the muddy roads become pavement and bravura takes precedent over brawn.

DESIGNED WITH STATUS IN MIND

A stout prow and steep rear quarter blend seamlessly with strong character lines flowing front to back. Angled wheel arches add appeal while at the same time making it easy to see where you are on the road. Standard equipment includes 20-inch twin 5-spoke alloy wheels and aluminum roof rails.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 sits high off the road. A two-bar chrome grille highlights the three-pointed star logo, announcing your presence long before you arrive. Tall windows provide excellent outward visibility. Large side mirrors are tapered to improve airflow and show clearly what’s behind. Satin metal finish roof rails round out a remarkably well-executed exterior design. 

Inside, passenger car dimensions provide a relaxed interior for 4 or 5 with plenty of rear cargo space. In total, there’s 23.3 cu.-ft. behind the rear seats, which expands to 54.7 cu.-ft. with the second row folded flat. Seats are positioned high in the cabin for increased visibility and safety. Superbly comfortable, they offer 8-way power adjustment and 3-position memory for both front seat occupants.

Multiple cupholders, dual-zone climate control and our optional panoramic sliding glass sunroof add to the experience. Power window controls provide the added convenience of one-touch up/down. Spilt-fold rear seating with cargo cover is standard.

A 3-spoke sport steering wheel features tilt and telescope adjustment. Built in controls include stereo adjustment, telephone and a wide range of information options including fuel economy, tire pressure and more. 

Large round white on black gauges dominate the driver’s dash layout. In a nod to the past, a key fob engages the engine (no push button?). The center dash features dual-zone climate control, AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and navigation where equipped. Our vehicle highlights piano black trim and soft gray leather.

THE VERDICT

The small to midsize SUV and crossover market is crammed full with excellent vehicles all vying for a piece of the action. The evolutionary design and execution of the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC is sure to position it as one of the main contenders. Though it won’t start a revolution, it certainly crosses the line between expensive taste and working with a budget.

RELATED READING

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

2010 Lexus RX350 Review

2009 Audi Q5: First Drive

2010 Infiniti EX35 Journey AWD Review

2010 Volvo XC60 First Drive

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