• Jun 3rd 2010 at 11:58AM
  • 32
2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 - Click above for high-res image gallery

When you launch a vehicle during the year's most over-hyped estrogenfest, you're obviously trying to appeal to a specific demographic. Specifically, not us. There's a reason we haven't taken a crack at the Mercedes-Benz GLK until the sequel to Sex and the City hit the screen. It was just too easy to pigeonhole this cute 'ute as nothing more than a boxy four-wheeled trinket – a cynical fashion accessory designed to compliment your rat-faced pooch and Manolo Blahniks (yes, we had to look that up).

But a funny thing happened on the way down I-5.

While blasting the stereo and hauling along at a decidedly Germanic clip, all of the stereotypes about the GLK's target demographic flew out its expansive sunroof. For as much as we dislike the mere idea of "entry-level luxury" – and in particular the scads of pseudo-SUVs that populate it – the GLK started to make sense. It's well proportioned, has adequate power and comes with nearly enough amenities to match its tri-pointed badge. We actually enjoyed it, even though our manhood might've taken a hit in the process.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

Speaking of hits, from a stylistic standpoint, the GLK is either a solid double or a strikeout. Over the course of a few days, we warmed up to it, enjoying the E-Class-inspired rear fender flares, expansive greenhouse and tight posterior. Its Sports Appearance Package 20-inch, seven-spoke wheels fit the blistered arches to a "T," and while the emblem is larger than a Big Gulp lid, we've resigned ourselves to the fact that Mercedes-Benz is taking a "go big or go home" approach to its fascias.

Inside, the slab-sided aesthetic of the exterior carries over to good effect, with a right-sized dash, center console and steering wheel. It's a clean, if staid design for its segment and made up of de rigueur C-Class materials to match. The center-mounted speedo recieves the standard Merc LCD display in the middle, allowing you to toggle between everything from fuel consumption to trip readings. The gauges are clear and legible, the steering wheel controls easy to understand and even easier to operate.

The stereo is an ode to simplicity, save the numerical keypad running along the right side, and the dual-zone climate controls are nicely knurled, if a little shifty in their fitment. In short, everything is exactly where you'd expect, including the large COMAND knob aft of the shifter and the absolutely massive (and slightly comical) dollar-coin-sized engine start button.

Finger that aluminum-look starter and the 3.5-liter V6 gets startled to life and falls into a smooth drone in the background. With just over 4,000 pounds to motivate, the 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque are up to the job, and in our tester's 4Matic (read: all-wheel-drive) trim, the first stab of the throttle was met with more acceleration than expected. The standard seven-speed automatic flicked through the ratios with the speed and assurance we've come to expect from the Benz boyz, lending more credence to the claims that Mercedes vehicles offer some of the best 'boxes in the biz.

A few circular on- and off-ramps along with a run down a local Bay Area backroad proved that the GLK is remarkably more at home on the curves than most of its closest competition. The steering, while fingertip light, provided a connection to the road largely devoid on most luxo-soft-roaders and, despite its lanky proportions, the GLK was remarkably adept at handling the twisties. The rough(ish) ride we experienced on the highway and around town became an asset, not a curse, when bouncing from bend to bend, with body motions kept in check and an uncommon amount of front grip when heading into a corner a touch to fast. Scrubbing off speed with the four-wheel discs was never an issue, with firm, positive feedback that proved fade-free throughout our various drives.

Mercedes' COMAND interface seems to fall somewhere in between Audi's MMI and BMW's iDrive when it comes to ease-of-use, with a well thought out menu structure and a "Back" button always providing you a quick escape from sub-menu hell. While we understand the safety concerns about entering a destination into the nav system, the inability of the passenger to get directions while the GLK is trundling through traffic became a reoccurring annoyance. Even more galling was the lack of Bluetooth audio streaming or even a standard 1/8th-inch jack to run our phone into the system. If Ford can do it in the bargain basement Fiesta, surely a Benz driver shouldn't be forced to listen to their tunes through a crappy set of headphones – particularly on an audio system this damn good.

A quick review of the GLK's interior stats proves what we've suspected all along: its quarters are slightly more cramped compared to the competition, particularly in rear leg and shoulder room. Similarly, its maximum cargo capacity – 55 cubic feet – is notably lower than the 71 cu-ft provided by the BMW X3 and slightly less than the 61 cubes found in the Acura RDX. However, considering it's the shortest of the bunch, that's to be expected, although it is the tallest and the widest amongst its German competitors.

Situated in the firm, comfortable seats while peering through the uncharacteristically upright windshield, we began to think of the GLK as more of a mini-G-Wagon rather than the high-riding C-Class on which it's based. That impression lasted right up until the moment we pulled up next to one of M-B's WWII throwbacks. Despite its marginally rough ride, the GLK is not a Gelandewagen at two-thirds scale. It's far too modern, far too composed and, yes, far too ordinary to carry on that legacy. But that's not a bad thing.

With competition coming from all coasts, the GLK is remarkably well-equipped to handle the onslaught of buyers looking to downsize. Our fuel economy numbers landed smack-dab in the middle of the EPA's estimates (16/21 mpg city/hwy, 17.7 mpg tested) and the 4Matic's starting price of $36,600 (minus $2k for rear-wheel drive) puts it right on par with the rest of the pack.

However, as with anything hailing from Deutschland, the price rockets skyward like Atlantis on its final flight if you get crazy with the options. Our tester – fitted with the $3,150 Premium Package (memory seats, power liftgate, Panorama sunroof, etc.), $3,350 Multimedia Pack (5.1 Dolby surround, seven-inch color display, COMAND) and an assortment of other kit – rang up an MSRP of $50,235. That's nearly enough to buy Ford's aforementioned subcompact for your kid along with a bone-stock GLK. Then again, that's just how the German's roll.

Needless to say, in the realm of compact luxury crossovers, you're basking in a big bucket of choice. But while the RDX might be sportier, it's decidedly less refined. And while the Audi Q5 might fit like a well-tailored suit, it lacks the panache to stand out from the crowd. So where does the GLK fit in? Right in the middle; a pseudo-'ute for fashion-conscious Cougars and maybe their well-heeled suitors. We wouldn't mind driving it to the multiplex, even if that involves a rendezvous with four insufferable forty-somethings. No matter, we'll leave with our manhood intact.

Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      It looks more like a jeep cherokee than a forrester if you want to compare a lux with an econo. And more macho looking without all those curves you find in the other suppository shaped cute utes. This car is solid. Feels like you are opening a vault when you open the door. 6.8 seconds from zero to 60 mph beats out most of the competition. The ride is nice and quiet too. Made in Germany and rated tops in reliability by Consumer Reports. What more can you ask for? Maybe better mpg (then get a hybrid or diesel) and room at the back (then get a bigger suv or station wagon like the Outback or Volvo).
      • 5 Years Ago
      I like the GLK outside and even more inside. As for those that complain about the back seat space, they must be passengers. I drive, so who cares about the back seat, I don't sit there. There are so many nice accessories you get for the money and the AWD gets you anywhere in the winter, not to mention all the safety features you don't find on on other models in this class. Who offers lifetime roadside assistance than MB ?
      • 5 Years Ago
      The main problem I see with the GLK, and its bretheren among the other small luxury crossovers, is that they do nothing better than cheaper ones. What does a GLK do that an Outback with the flat six doesn't do for thousands less? Or, for that matter, an Edge, Equinox, Rav4, Tucson, or Sorento? Zilch. They all drive ok, ride ok, handle a snowy or rough road ok, go camping ok, look ok. Unless you just can't deal without the most prestigious brand, there really isn't a lot of reasons to buy a crossover from a premium brand. At least with premium cars, you usually get a superior driving experience even if options and features are the same, but who buys a crossover for driving fun?

      It's rumored that MB will bring a small diesel to this model and the C class sometime soon. That'd be a compelling reason for a rational person to buy one.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm talking about premium SUVs, though. The Tiguan is a moderately nice small crossover , if a trifle small, but it isn't exactly premium - it's a VW.
        • 5 Years Ago
        i bought my tiguan because it was fun to drive, but will still handle the snow and I can take it on the beach

        perhaps im the only one, but more likely your logic is flawed
      • 5 Years Ago
      hmm... i was not aware of the female-targeted marketing this car utilized (i guess they were *quite* good at targeting women), but to look at it... i don't find it very feminine at all. i mean, sure, while it's much cuter than say, a G-klasse, its overall shape and character to me still reflects that military vehicle heritage. it's definitely more masculine than, say, an E-class coupé, no?
        • 5 Years Ago
        E class is a great car and its odd to see an SUV with its interior.

        This car is pretty feminine though and it perfectly matches every woman I've seen in it. Its definitely not for me though. I'm an S-class man.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I just don't like the styling on the GLK.
      • 5 Years Ago
      My wife has this model. I've never like the C-Classes she's had in the past, but this is actually quite good. The sound when you step on the accelerator brings a smile to my face.

      My big gripe: the interface for the iPod integration was designed my a chimpanzee on acid:
      1. plug it into the adapter in the glove box
      2. hit "disc" on the dash.
      3. Monkey with the dial on the center console to choose aux.
      4. Hit the "phone" button on the steering wheel to bring up the menu
      5. choose your playlist using the arrows on the steering wheel, looking at the console between the speedo and tach.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Apparently it has no album/artist info through the iPod interface either.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I drove one of these recently, and had major problems with it. The entry level models ($35k or so) come with absolutely no equipment, and Mercedes' base-level stuff is garbage. Outfit one with some desirable options, and you're looking at $50k. I'm sorry, but that's way too much to spend on an average crossover. The Q5, though it lacks the aggressive styling of the GLK, was a much better driver, and felt like a much better value similarly equipped.
      • 5 Years Ago
      You know it's funny, I absolutely fell in love with the styling the first time I saw one of these on the road (love the sport red color), but after I did some investigating, and realized this CUV comes in at a whopping $50k...well let's just say I realized there were better ways of spending that kind of dough...

        • 5 Years Ago
        That is a fully optioned GLK with more unneccessary crap accessories than you would ever need. A 2WD GLK can be had for $32,000. Did you even bother to build one on MBs site?

        Loaded with all the options that I would want and it falls in at under $42,000 which is very competitive in this range. I'd certainly take one over the Q5 which I think is hideous, and definitely over the X3 and RDX.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If you go stupid with the options as press samples always do, yeah.

        It starts at $35. Which is pretty cheap for a Benz these days.

      • 5 Years Ago
      No matter what I think of this car (in short: not bad), I have to commend Mercedes on calling it an "SUV" on their site. No "CUV" or "SAV" crap here.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's unfortunate just how delusional they are...
      • 5 Years Ago
      How does it stack up against the XC60?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I was wondering when someone would make the intelligent comparison.

        XC60 - way more attractive, more torque (T6), better AWD, safer, City Safety, more cargo room, better fuel economy, even the 3.2 AWD comes with Bluetooth, panoramic roof and leather standard.
        T6 included everything that is in both Xenon package and Premium package. Plus leather, USB, Sirius, no charge metallic paint.
        Add leather, roof, Xenon's and Premium pack to the GLK it goes up from $42,900 to $51,265 (Canadian dollars)
        GLK - 7 speed, slightly better NAV, available bigger wheels (20"s are only available on XC60 R-Design).

        From the few people that I spoken with that have drive both, the GLK is tinny. Doesn't feel like a Benz should.
        Take a deeper look, if you compare it to the Q5 or XC60, you really shouldn't want one anymore.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ugly and pointless
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not that impressive.
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