Mercedes-Benz’s Vision GLK Freeside concept marks the company’s entry into the luxury class of small SUVs currently occupied by the Acura RDX, BMW X3, and Land Rover LR2.
Designed to look like a scaled-down version of Mercedes’ GL-class, the square-jawed GLK will be the fifth SUV crossover in Mercedes’ enormous lineup. With pricing expected to start at about $35,000 and rise to more than $45,000 for a fully loaded model, there will be some overlap between the GLK and the larger M-class when the GLK goes on sale later this year.
This lightly disguised concept is basically what the production version will look like. Mercedes is counting on the upright roof pillars, square wheelhouses, and GL-class styling cues to attract a different type of buyer to the GLK, distancing it from the comparatively soft and feminine M-class.
Built on a beefed-up version of the new C-class platform, the GLK shares its 108.7-inch wheelbase and some floor stampings with the sedan. Although the concept being unveiled at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is powered by a 2.2-liter turbo-diesel engine with 170 horsepower, the GLK is expected to launch in the U.S. as the GLK300 (3.0-liter V-6 with 228 horsepower) and GLK350 (3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower).
A turbo-diesel engine is a possibility for the future. For the GLK, the most likely candidate will be the 3.0-liter V-6 diesel that is currently available here in the E-class, M-class, R-class, and GL-class. After launch, the GLK350 will get a direct-injection version of the 3.5-liter V-6 with more than 300 horsepower.
In addition to engine options, prospective buyers will get to choose between two different chassis setups—on-road friendly or off-road ready. The on-road-biased GLK, called the Townside, gets larger wheels and performance tires. The more off-road capable GLK Freeside will sit higher for more ground clearance and will have off-road-oriented tires on smaller wheels.
The Vision concept unveiled in January differs only in details from the production GLK. Look past the matte-finish paint, the leather-swathed interior, and the diesel under the hood, and the production version emerges.