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First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK

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2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK

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Earlier this year at the Detroit auto show, Mercedes-Benz showed us its new GLK, a compact SUV with a crisp shape and the promise of city-sized utility. This week, I'm over in Germany getting a first look and a first drive of the GLK, which promises to give BMW's X3--and Audi's new Q5--a run for their Euros.

With vehicles like the X3, the Q5 and most closely, the Land Rover LR2 in its sights, the Mercedes-Benz GLK goes on sale in January 2009 in 4Matic four-wheel-drive form. A rear-drive version will come over from Mercedes' Bremen factory in April 2009. Both 2010 models will carry a base price "with a 3 in it," Mercedes execs said at the worldwide press launch of the new sport-ute.

But while the Audi Q5 bears a striking resemblance to the larger Q7, the GLK isn't anything like the next-bigger ML-Class. "Everybody expects us to have a smaller ML," says Dr. Klaus Maier, head of sales and marketing for Mercedes-Benz. The new GLK had to have "a different character," he insists. And while Mercedes draws comparisons to its touchstone G-Class, what the GLK most resembles--other than the LR2 and some Japanese crossovers--is Benz' seven-passenger GL-Class.

When it comes to size, though, the GLK will be the smallest activity-oriented vehicle in the company's lineup. The GLK's interior space is less than that of the C-Class Wagon, Maier says, but the GLK sits higher, with a higher driving position and more vertical volume than the C-Class Wagon. The coefficient of drag is 0.35.

U.S. versions of the GLK will come only with a 3.5-liter V-6 with 268 horsepower, a seven-speed automatic and an interior dressed in burled walnut at launch. The gas-powered version hits 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, according to company estimates.

Other engine options are a possibility, Maier says--including the likelihood of a version of the 2.0-liter diesel that will be the mainstay powertrain for the GLK in Europe. "Diesel will be an option at some point" in the U.S., Maier says.

American versions will carry power front seats as standard equipment, along with Bluetooth, the adjustable "Agility Control" suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a panorama sunroof. A six-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, a power liftgate, a navigation system, and 20-inch wheels are among the options.

I'll have more driving impressions for you tomorrow as we hit the road--and the off-road trails--with the new GLK in about eight hours' time.

 
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