The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 first appeared as a concept at the 2008 North American International Auto Show before debuting as a production vehicle at Auto China in Beijing. Then we were given a taste of the vehicle's off-road prowess during an off-road-only drive. We were excited to spend some time on-road behind the wheel of Mercedes' smallest SUV to see how it stacks up against competitors like the Acura RDX, Audi Q5, BMW X3, Land Rover LR2, and Volvo XC60 in the small luxury SUV/crossover segment.
First, let's take a minute to figure out the role of the GLK: Mercedes set out to build a small SUV that is more akin to a baby G-class than a slightly smaller M-class. The vehicle looks most like a smaller GL-class, but its ability off-road lends some credence to the baby G-class idea. It's a macho vehicle that hits the market just as competitors are trying to convince consumers that an SUV should drive just like a car. This execution is much more interesting than the competitors'.
On the outside, the GLK is very angular and quite masculine. That's a stark contrast to the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, which look more sporty and car-like. Mercedes even makes more of a design statement than Land Rover while boasting better off-road capability. The masculine look of the GLK isn't offensive, and we were told that it will appeal to male and female buyers equally. Exactly how much of the popularity with female buyers is due to the Sex and the City movie can't be determined, but there's no way that product placement will hurt sales of this SUV.
The 19-inch wheels (20-inchers are optional) add to the aggressive look of the GLK and help set it off from the sea of crossovers that the Mercedes will compete with in the showroom. When viewed on the street, the GLK is the perfect size for people who don't require a third row of seats. Bold looks suit the GLK especially well in Europe, where the available off-road package backs up the aggressive looks with incredible performance where the pavement ends.