The exterior quickly shows what it is all about with the GLK.
This isn't the next wannabe SUV, but a car that provokes and says
everything is possible. The sharp edges are derived from the
Mercedes G-Class and also give this small GLK an invincible appearance.
Inside the car everything is square and "edgy" as well, by which
the GLK clearly distinguishes itself from the masses. The driver
sits up straight and sees the world trough a relatively small and
upright windscreen. The tall bonnet is always in sight, adding to
the mighty feeling.
The space in the front of the GLK is fine. On the back seat,
room is no more than average for a car this size. The luggage
compartment measures 450 litres, a little less than average. To
make clear that this smallest SUV is also a real Mercedes, all
features from the larger models are available on the GLK. For
example the tail gate can be operated electrically. To make parking
easier a rear view camera can be installed.
When the GLK is first launched, two six-cylinder engines will be
available. Smaller power units will be added later. A seven speed
automatic gearbox (with the possibility to shift sequentially)
comes as standard. For this road test both the GLK 350 (3,5 litres
six cylinder petrol engine) and 320 CDI (3,0 litres six cylinder
diesel) were driven. Both change this modest looking SUV into a
Both engines are very eager to perform and downright fast. The
petrol version is the more aggressive of the two. A gentle tap on
the throttle is enough to launch the car in one powerful move.
After experiencing this once, the temptation is almost irresistible
to utilise the full power whenever possible. Time and time again a
roaring, deep sound (even with the diesel engine!) adds to the
excitement. The diesel is just as provoking, but especially excels
at high speeds on the Autobahn.
When driven slowly the GLK is very quiet; noises from the wind
and mechanical parts are limited to an absolute minimum. At slow
paces gas mileage is very modest for a car this size.
Thanks to "Agility Control" the GLK can change its
suspension to adapt to every situation. The GLK is supposed to be
dynamic and direct on highways and offer extra comfort in city traffic.
In reality the effect of this system is disappointing. The GLK
has firm suspension, but still tilts over when cornering. In quick
turns or during an emergency stop it is evident that this is a very
heavy car, smart electronics cannot change that fact. No matter how
well the engine performs, this is still an off-roader (although
from a technical point of view the GLK is based on the C-Class).
Mercedes' ESP (Electronic Stability
Programmes) guaranties maximum safety in every situation.
However this system interferes earlier and more frequently than
with conventional cars. On bad roads and at high speeds the GLK can
even start to bounce making the ESP continuously perform little
corrections. Especially for passengers this can be very unpleasant
or even nauseating.
The optional sports-package lowers the GLK by 20 mm supposedly
improving road holding. But in fact the difference with the
standard suspension is small. For many the sleeker and streamlined
looks of the sports-version will be attractive though. For this
road test the standard version was mainly used.
Every GLK is fitted with permanent four wheel drive and a system
that prevents most of the power going to the wheel with the least
resistance. When going off-road the wheel with the lowest
resistance can be up in the air or hopelessly spinning in loose
sand (not providing any traction). By sending most power to the
wheel with the most resistance, the GLK even manages to pull away
from situations where only one wheel still grips.
Altough the GLK is not fitted with pure off-road technology like
"low gearing" or "diff locks", a similar effect is obtained by the
electronics in the optional "off-road" package. With this
extra feature the ESP (Electronic Stability
Programme) and ABS (Anti lock Brake
System) are adopted to off-road driving. In the special
off-road modus the throttle responds much less direct. This makes
it easier to keep the car exactly between slip-and-grip, as
necessary for off-road driving.
Also the computer makes off-road driving very easy. To climb a
steep hill it is enough to floor the throttle, the computer takes
care of the rest. For descending it is enough to activate
"Descent Control", select the desired speed and let go of
the brake. After that the GLK descends slowly and perfectly
controlled, from hills as steep as 70%!
In real life these systems work very well. The GLK plows, thanks
to the computer, bravely up the most improbable slopes. The
computer saves the driver from situations that would normally
require some serious off-road experience and know-how. Also the car
gives good feed back, making off-roading even easier / nicer.
The underbody protection can withstand very heavy beatings and
even when the going gets too tough, the GLK continues through every
terrain. This is no softy, this is a sharp off-roader that really performs!
Does Mercedes manage to pack the sensation of the big SUVs in a
compact shape? Yes! The sharp edges of the GLK make the car just as
impressive looking as the bigger models. The interior is a good
blend between those same sharp edges and all the luxury that is
expected from a modern SUV. Thereby the GLK gives the driver the
special feeling of driving a powerful, mighty vehicle.
This feeling is enhanced by the driving characteristics. Despite
"Agility Control" the GLK always behaves like an off-roader,
not like a normal car. That means tilting over in corners. The GLK
drives well, but this certainly isn't the best driving car in its
class. When going off-road the GLK does really distinguish itself
from the competition. This is where the GLK feels right at home and
matches the impressive looks with impressive performance.