Rock-solid structure, sophisticated ride, impeccable cabin construction, high-tech features, impressive handling for an SUV.
Short on cargo space, pricier than Japanese competitors, some may find the ride too firm.
Call It a Tank, Call It Gretel. We Call It Very Good
True, the GLK will still appeal to brand snobs in search of a small luxury sport-utility, but it at least does it while being a meticulously engineered piece of 100 percent Mercedes-Benz excellence - if it were any more German, it'd be named Gretel. The GLK may be the second-cheapest Benz you can buy in the United States, but it certainly doesn't seem that way. Closing the doors is like sealing yourself in Terry Benedict's Bellagio vault - impenetrable to everything but George Clooney and 10 pals. Railroad tracks and deep potholes are casually brushed off without a millimeter of body flex. It feels as if you could roll over a grenade and suffer nothing but a muted thump. On second thought, forget Gretel; try Panzer.
The current Mercedes C-Class feels the same way, and it's no surprise that the GLK is based on the compact sport sedan. The steering and ride quality feel similar to the C, while both Benzes share the same 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 (the only engine available in the GLK). However, the platform's compact SUV version is 4 inches shorter in length, plus it receives the obvious ride and body height pump up. While the result may not be the sportiest compact SUV around, like the C350, the GLK350 represents an ideal balance between ride and handling that should please most luxury buyers.
We were prepared to dislike the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, but we handed over its keys duly impressed. While others provide more space and/or more equipment for the same amount of money (or less), none offer those unmatchable Mercedes traits of painstaking over-engineering and top-notch interior craftsmanship that is certainly worth some, if not all, the price premium. Not all Benzes have upheld these traditions, but the GLK has most certainly earned its three-pointed star.
Every 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. Rear-wheel drive is standard; however, our test car came equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Paired with the buttery-smooth seven-speed automatic that features Sport, Comfort and Manual modes, the GLK350 4Matic went from zero to 60 mph at our test track in a tidy 7.2 seconds. That seems just about right for this type of vehicle - respectably quick - and on the open road, the GLK is never wanting for power. In fact, Mercedes could probably pop in the C300's smaller V6 and it wouldn't be significantly worse for wear.
The brakes are also a GLK strong suit, producing a best stop from 60 mph in 119 feet with fade-free subsequent stops of similar length. Pedal feel is solid and trustworthy without any of the nebulous dead travel that some Mercedes exhibit.
While it may not provide the sort of slick handling of a BMW X3 or Infiniti EX35, the GLK350 nevertheless feels capable and confidence-inspiring around corners. The steering can be on the heavy side in parking lots, but at higher speeds is linear in its buildup, with just enough typically German road feel. Whether you're looking for sport sedan-ish handling or just a comfortable cruiser, the GLK should strike a pleasant balance.