After months of spy photos and speculation, Mercedes-Benz will unveil its new compact SUV at the Detroit auto show. Dubbed the GLK, the new ute will get its world debut as a thinly disguised concept wearing the “Freeside” badge.
The GLK slots beneath the classic G-Class Benz ute, the large GL-Class SUV, and the mid-size ML-Class sport-ute. In this case, Mercedes says, the “G” denotes an off-road vehicle, the “L” luxury, and the “K” is shorthand for the German word for compact.
The concept machine is closely related to a production vehicle due early in 2009 from Mercedes, though the company says the design study is just that. Off-road capability in the GLK is teamed with stability, a quiet cabin, and agility, according to the initial press materials.
While BMW is bringing “blue” diesels of its own to the Detroit show, Mercedes’ concept also features a “Bluetec” diesel engine outfitted with urea-aftertreatment systems to clean its emissions of up to 80 percent of nitrogen oxides. The GLK concept’s diesel four-cylinder is a 2.2-liter unit that puts out 168 horsepower, thanks to direct injection and a two-stage turbocharger. The engine not only meets U.S. diesel standards enacted for this year — it meets European standards that take effect in 2015.
The engine is teamed with a paddle-shifted version of Benz’ seven-speed automatic, which is itself integrated with an all-wheel-drive system that distributes the engine’s power in a 45:55 split, varying torque to the wheels as traction needs change. Stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are also part of the GLK’s chassis controls. A switch on the console, labeled “G,” changes the GLK’s throttle and stability control mapping, giving it better control in off-road modes. Mercedes also promises good approach and departure angles for better off-road capability.
Other features bundled into the GLK concept include Benz’ PRE-SAFE system, which activates seat belts and brakes when a crash is imminent; intelligent lighting; and the COMAND in-vehicle infotainment system, coupled to a rear-seat entertainment system.
The exterior design of the GLK owes much to the shape of the big GL-Class, and inside the GLK harks back to Mercedes style of the past, with a big swath of zebrano wood arching across the dash. The wood in the concept is stained black, in high contrast to the “diamond-white magno” paint job and custom-made 20-inch wheels.
There’s more to the GLK story, including our first drive of the production version later this year before it goes on sale in January 2009. Stay tuned to TheCarConnection.com as we get more details on the GLK at the Detroit auto show, starting January 13.
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