Performance » 8
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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10
The V-6 and seven-speed team well together for brisk acceleration and terrific passing performance
brisk off-the-line acceleration and impressive in-gear performance
Edmunds’ Inside Line
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
a pleasure to drive, thanks to the venerable V6 engine, which is smooth and strong off the line
The Mercedes-Benz GLK is offered, for now, with a V-6 engine and automatic transmission, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. There's little difference between those versions: both steer and ride more like the crossovers with which they compete, than the SUVs the GLK's styling so heavily suggests.
The engine in the GLK is a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which makes all U.S.-market versions GLK 350s. A long-rumored diesel version is still in the offing; we suspect it's coming in the 2013 model year, along with a mild makeover. The six-cylinder generates plenty of power--268 horsepower in all--and connects to a seven-speed automatic with a couple of nicely spaced launch gears and quick, firm and smooth shifts. The combination gives the 4,100-pound GLK some very brisk acceleration numbers; Mercedes says it will reach 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, and the GLK feels relaxed delivering that power in normal driving. Shift paddles and an aggressive throttle tip-in also underscore that this crossover SUV is truly meant for the open road, not the boulder-strewn one.The GLK looks like an SUV and is billed as a luxury compact SUV, but its performance leans much more toward large sedan—that is, it accelerates faster and turns better than its styling would lead you to expect. We like the GLK's light but precise and well-weighted steering feel, and adding 4MATIC all-wheel drive doesn't dampen the GLK's enthusiasm too much. The queasy body motions and pitchiness you find in some other comparable vehicles during abrupt maneuvers is remarkably absent here. If anything, the GLK has lots of lateral ride stiffness, which you'll feel as side-to-side head toss on rough pavement. Otherwise, Mercedes-Benz has tuned the GLK's suspension to be taut but well damped; it doesn't allow the GLK much body motion, but the suspension will soak up most roughness from the road and the cabin stays tight and quiet even over rough roads or in high-speed cruising.
Off-roading is not the GLK's forte. But its four-wheel-drive system adjusts as the various traction systems determine where torque is needed most. What the GLK does do well is get you home safety in foul weather; the 4MATIC system excels in distributing power smoothly on a snowy road and avoiding wheelspin.
It looks like an SUV, but the Mercedes-Benz GLK behaves like the better crossovers, with brisk acceleration and tautly controlled moves.