The compact GLK 350 is the newest member of the Mercedes-Benz Sport Utility Vehicle family, one that already includes the full-size M-Class, the GL-Class, the crossover R-Class and the rough-and-tough G-Class.
Launched in 2009, the GLK is billed as being just the right size for today’s family, whether it’s parking in town while running errands or making a cross-country trip. With a bold profile that suggests power and agility, it looks like a smaller version of the GL. However, closer inspection reveals that it is a modern interpretation of the iconic G-Class, with its angular nose, projection headlights, steeply raked windshield, tightly styled roof and integrated rear spoiler.
Smaller and lighter than its SUV siblings, the GLK brings a combination of agility and comfort to the lineup. And as with almost all Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, the GLK has four-wheel independent suspension that makes you think you are driving a sports sedan. The Standard Agility Control suspension provides the benefits of both soft and stiff shock absorbers. Each twin-tube shock absorber is fitted with a hydraulic by-pass piston that acts like a very soft shock absorber to effectively dampen road noise and tire vibration. However, over bumpy or uneven roads, the by-pass piston is inoperable, preserving the steering and handling response of a stiffer shock absorber.
With very good ground clearance for off-road driving, a standard roof rack and optional running boards, the GLK is a versatile SUV. Its powertrain features a 3.5-liter V-6 engine mated to a sophisticated seven-speed automatic transmission and available 4MATIC full-time four-wheel-drive.
Standard equipment also includes 19-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, roof rails, privacy glass and chrome detail touches inside and out.
On the inside, the GLK has all the design ambiance and safety technology of Mercedes-Benz cars. The instrument cluster has three analog gauges that show engine speed, road speed, fuel and coolant temperature. A 4.5-inch display in the center of the speedometer is linked to a 12-button multi-function steering wheel that can call up a variety of information such as phone and audio system information — radio station, CD track or MP3 playlist.
Similar to the system on the S-Class sedan and CL coupe, an electronic controller on the lower console works like a computer mouse to provide easy, quick operation of many functions that used to require multiple buttons and switches. By turning and pressing the aluminum controller, menus and sub-menus on the center-console display are displayed and selected for the audio system, as well as the optional navigation system and integrated phone. The controller also is linked to the rocker switches on the multifunction steering wheel.
Base price on the 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 is $35,500.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.