2009 Mercedes-Benz GLK

Radovan Varicak

Mercedes-Benz is finally getting ready to introduce its first small SUV. After scrapping efforts based on the tiny A-class and the Smart ForMore and rejecting a partnership with corporate cousin Jeep, Mercedes-Benz is using the next-generation C-class wagon as the basis for its small crossover, which it plans to call the GLK.

Don't let that first letter mislead you. Like its chief rivals, the BMW X3 and the forthcoming Audi Q5, the GLK is a four-wheel-drive on-roader. If you insist on extended mobility, you can get all-weather tires, hill-descent control, a mildly raised suspension with skid plates, and some outdoorsy cosmetics but no extra diff locks or a low-range transfer case. The GLK also will be available in two-wheel-drive guise, if only in combination with the two least powerful engines.

Chassis-related changes over the C-class 4Matic include a new steering rack, bigger brakes, and a modified independent suspension that permits more wheel travel for extra axle articulation. A handling package (adaptive dampers, quicker steering, fatter antiroll bars) will be available, and wheel sizes should top out at twenty inches. Curb weight should fall between 3400 and 3700 pounds.

The U.S. market likely will see the following models: the GLK280 V-6 4Matic (228 hp); the GLK350 V-6 4Matic (268 hp); and the GLK320 CDI V-6 4Matic (221 hp). All will be fitted with a seven-speed manu-matic. Of course, no Mercedes-Benz lineup would be complete without an AMG version, so the near-500-hp GLK63 AMG 4Matic should come along shortly thereafter.

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