We've already driven all three of the new luxury small crossover SUVs going on sale in America over the next few months, but we drove them all in Europe, and only one Automobile Magazine editor has been behind the wheel of each of these new premium 4x4s: the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, the Audi Q5, and the Volvo XC60. But yesterday two representatives of Mercedes-Benz USA arrived at Automobile Magazine's editorial offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with a 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, and now all of our Ann Arbor testers will get a chance to sample the vehicle that, more than any other, will finally give BMW some real competition for its aging X3. In the accompanying photos, Mercedes-Benz USA GLK Product Manager Dave Larsen and Product PR Manager Rob Moran show Automobile Magazine editors the high points of the GLK350 at the curb outside our offices.
So far, only editor-in-chief Jean Jennings has been behind the wheel of the GLK350, and she likes it so much, she's hogging it for the weekend. We'll bring you more updates soon on our impressions, but here are some basic facts. Mercedes-Benz USA just priced the vehicle, and the recent drop in the value of the euro allowed them to offer it at a reasonable starting price of $33,900 plus $875 destination charge (total: $34,775). Naturally, there's a hitch: that sticker price is for the rear-wheel-drive model. If you want 4Matic all-wheel drive, which of course those of us in the snowbelt do, add another two grand, for a total starting price of $36,775. The 2008 X3, by comparison, starts at $39,425, including all-wheel drive. Happily, the Benz is well-equipped for its starting sticker, with a standard 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a seven-speed automatic, nineteen-inch wheels, and either aluminum (with the black M-B Tex simulated leather upholstery) or burled-walnut (with almond Tex) trim. Our fully loaded test vehicle with genuine leather upholstery, twenty-inch wheels, and a killer Harman/Kardon stereo/DVD system, among other goodies, rings in at about $49K. The EPA has not yet issued its official ratings for the GLK350, but Mercedes is hoping for 16/22 mpg, and maybe 16/23 for the rear-wheel-drive version. These figures are comparable to the BMW X3's. The GLK350 goes on sale as a 2010 model on Monday, January 5, 2009, ahead of the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60, which don't arrive until March.