Mercedes-Benz is rolling out its BlueTec clean-diesel and gasoline-electric hybrid technology while adding a small SUV to its lineup as part of its bid to “build the most efficient SUVs in the world,” says marketing chief Klaus Maier.
To reach this target, the Stuttgart-based automaker will introduce the GLK series (the “K” is for kleine, which is German for “small”), Mercedes’ smallest SUV to date, expected by the end of 2008.
At an event in Kitzbühel, Austria, head of Mercedes passenger-car design Hans-Dieter Futschik gave us a first look at the car that is not styled as a baby ML, but rather as a baby brother to the Mercedes GL. The GLK will take on such competitors as the BMW X3, the Land Rover LR2, and the Audi Q5, due next summer.
Unfortunately, Mercedes did not let us leave with pictures, but the spy shots here provide a pretty good idea of what to expect. At 180 inches long, 68 inches wide, and 71 inches tall, the new GLK is 10 inches shorter than an ML and 22 inches shorter than a GL. It rides on a 109-inch wheelbase—essentially sharing the platform of the new C-class, including axles and suspension.
The short overhangs, in conjunction with the design of the greenhouse and tail end, give this small SUV its tough appearance, and the 20-inch wheels, upswept beltline, and sculpted wheelhouses add a sporty touch. The hatch raises as a single piece.
There is an elegance in the interior, with three round instrument gauges—fuel and temperature on the left, speedometer in the center, and rev counter on the right—as well as the COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data System) unit that is controlled via a knob located between the front seats.
The Mercedes GLK will not be equipped with an off-road package; that is, it won’t get a low range or conventional differential locks. But Mercedes’ latest 4MATIC system, which already is available in the S-class and will be available in the C-class in September, will be standard. The torque distribution is expected to be split 40/60 front-to-rear. The GLK also comes with electronic stability control, seven airbags, and active headrests.
The five-seater will share the adaptive hydromechanical damper system, known as Agility Control, with the C-class. The system automatically switches between the comfort and sport settings, depending on how the car is being driven. An Advanced Agility package will allow the driver to preselect the mode. Look for it on the C-class in the U.S. for 2009.
Car and Driver is told that the first off-road driving tests with the GLK found it to be more capable climbing hills than the M-class because of its lighter weight and improved 4MATIC system.
Mercedes is expected to launch the GLK-class SUV in the second half of 2008, starting with the GLK230 with a 204-hp gasoline V-6 engine for Europe. We likely won’t get that model, but U.S. Mercedes dealers should offer the GLK300 (GL280 in Europe), which uses a 228-hp, 3.0-liter V-6, as well as the GLK350 with a 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6. On the diesel side, we expect to see the 224-hp GLK320 CDI BlueTec cross the Atlantic.
Mercedes-Benz’s smooth seven-speed automatic transmission will be standard in the U.S.; Europe will get a six-speed manual transmission on the entry-level GLK230. In the future, we anticipate direct-injected gasoline engines and a mild hybrid with a start/stop system.
In Europe, the GLK will start at €35,000 ($46,600). North American pricing has not been disclosed.