2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4matic

I’m sorry, but until Mercedes makes this car look better than a 2004 Subaru Forester with a three-pointed star in the grille, I’m going to have a tough time taking it seriously. It’s perfectly nice inside, drives well and functions perfectly at its assigned tasks, but there’s not enough here to get over the lackluster styling and make you take this little SUV over a host of cheaper, and more attractive, alternatives.
– Matt Tierney, Art Director

Only two years into its tenure in our market, the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class small crossover is being eclipsed by the Audi Q5, the Volvo XC60, and I would venture the new BMW X3, although I have not yet driven the latter. I find here loosey-goosey steering and a somewhat recalcitrant transmission. The exterior lines are not aging well; this is definitely not one of Mercedes-Benz’s best styling efforts in recent years. This is still a very competent vehicle, but the aforementioned competitors outshine it.
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Well, unlike Matt and Joe, I happen to like the GLK’s styling, although the red paint on this particular test vehicle, doesn’t do the car any favors. The available AMG styling package-not present here-helps matters, too.

Like Joe, I found the steering disappointingly sloppy, as GLKs I’ve driven before handled more crisply. Perhaps this is simply the difference between nineteen- and twenty-inch wheels.

I cringe slightly whenever a given car manufacturer adds a model in order to fill a perceived “gap” in its lineup, but the GLK seems to make good business sense, since it’s part of a relatively new, fairly hot category. Over the last two years, this Benz’s sales numbers have been competitive with those of the Audi Q5 (about 20,000 units in the U.S.) and smoked the old BMW X3 but come nowhere near the 95,000 or so RXs that Lexus dealers move annually.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

Mix the name Mercedes-Benz and the letter G into a sentence, and the mind conjures images of a sturdy, military-derived, body-on-frame SUV that hasn’t changed in nearly forty years of production: the legendary G-class. The GLK may be a far cry from that vehicle, but it’s certainly worth looking at if you’re considering a compact luxury crossover.

Riding upon a modified C-class architecture, the car-based GLK owes almost nothing to the G-wagen apart from its name and exterior styling. Unlike the curvaceous profiles of the Audi Q5, Infiniti EX, and BMW X3, the GLK’s exterior is surprisingly boxy.

That unusual exterior does pay dividends inside the GLK. Front seat occupants are treated to a commendable 39 inches of headroom, along with an expansive view of the road ahead. Rear seat passengers are given an almost equal amount of space, and cargo room also manages to eclipse most competitors.

Competitors’ interiors, however, offer much more flair than that found inside the GLK. Mercedes’ cabins have often been much more conservative than those by BMW and Audi, and the GLK is no exception. The plain, horizontal dashboard here is rather uninspiring. On the plus side, all controls are arranged in an easy-to-reach fashion, although the HVAC interface is placed well below the driver’s line of sight.

The GLK drives fairly well — no surprise, perhaps, given its C-class roots — but the powertrain doesn’t exactly sparkle. The 3.5-liter V-6 will certainly hustle the crossover along, but the seven-speed automatic is a little slow to respond to throttle input with a downshift.

Fuel economy, sadly, is not the GLK’s strong suit. The EPA rates the rear-wheel-drive version at 16/23 mpg (city/highway), while the 4Matic earn a 16/21 mpg rating. A six-cylinder Audi Q5 gets 18/23 mpg, while the BMW X3 xDrive35i manages an impressive 19/26 mpg rating. I’d love to see Mercedes squeeze its Bluetec turbo-diesel V-6 underhood in the name of fuel economy, but perhaps the twin-turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4, which launched in the new 2012 C-class, would be a better choice for the diesel-phobic North American market.
– Evan McCausland, Web Producer

The Mercedes-Benz GLK is a perfectly nice car in its own right, but it falls to the back of the pack when compared against excellent competitors like the BMW X3, Audi Q5, and Infiniti FX35. The GLK’s engine lacks the top-end urgency of its sportier peers and its transmission is neither as smooth nor as quick as the eight-speed ZF automatic used by both Audi and BMW. The ride quality is a redeeming trait and the interior is comfortable, though rather drab. While the GLK’s styling doesn’t offend me, I do agree that it’s not aging well. In fact, at just two years old, the entire vehicle isn’t aging well. Mechanically and stylistically, the GLK is in dire need of a significant update.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

Most people agree that the GLK is odd-looking and, if you’ve only seen it in pictures, it’s even more so in person. Its hard lines and squared-off shape also don’t seem to mesh with the curvy, muscular styling that dominates the Mercedes-Benz lineup. It only vaguely looks like a smaller version of its big brother, the GL, but in the downsizing process, the GLK’s proportions got a bit wacky and its overall shape became more like a tall wagon rather than small SUV. We here at Automobile Magazine tend to like wagons, but the general car-buying public doesn’t.

The ironic thing is that its odd proportions are a big contributor to what’s good about the GLK. Its boxy shape and upright greenhouse make it easy to see out of and create an abundance of headroom, front and rear. And, the complete lack of tumblehome creates a cargo area that is quite large. In fact, the cargo capacity behind the rear seats of the GLK (35 cubic feet) is 7 cubic feet more than the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5, and is comparable to the much larger M-class.
– Jennifer Misaros, Production Editor

2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4matic

Base price (with destination): $38,375
Price as tested: $45,985

Standard Equipment:
3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 engine
7-speed automatic transmission
Agility control suspension with selective damping
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
19-inch alloy wheels
Electronic stability program with trailer stability assist
Electronic traction system
Hill start assist
Tire pressure monitoring system
Bluetooth connectivity
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Leather-wrapped steering wheel
AM/FM radio with 8-speaker sound system
Auxiliary audio input
Single CD player with MP3 capability
8-way power adjustable front seats
Tilt/telescoping steering column
Cruise control
Automatic headlamps

Options on this vehicle:
Premium package — $3200
Garage door opener
Rearview mirror with compass
Auto-dimming rearview mirror
Sirius satellite radio
Power liftgate
Panorama sunroof
Multimedia package — $3000
Rearview camera
Voice control radio and navigation
Comand system with hard drive navigation
In-dash 6-disc CD/DVD changer
7-inch color display
6GB hard drive
iPod/MP3 media interface
Heated front seats — $750
Mbrace in-vehicle services — $660

Key options not on vehicle:
AMG styling package — $1990
Rear-seat entertainment system — $1910
Full-leather seating package — $1780
Keyless Go — $1140
Lighting package — $985
Harman/kardon Logic7 surround sound — $810

Fuel economy: 16/21/18 mpg city/hwy/combined)

Size: 3.5L 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2400-5000 rpm
Drive: Four-wheel
Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Curb weight: 4079 lb

Wheels/tires: 19-inch aluminum wheels; 235/50R19 Continental 4×4 Contact all-season tires

Competitors: Audi Q5, BMW X3

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