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2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Preview

2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Preview

By Jeff Youngs, December 31, 2009

Critical Knowledge:
  • Sportiest SUV in the Mercedes-Benz lineup

  • 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 powerplant

  • Manufactured in Bremen, Germany

  • Available 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive (AWD)

  • Standard 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission

  • 2010 model arriving in showrooms in January 2009


Introduction
Mercedes-Benz added to their sport utility lineup with the all-new GLK-Class, set to debut as a 2010 model in January 2009. The GLK350, the first model introduced in the new family of vehicles, is slotted to be the smaller SUV sibling to the midsize Mercedes-Benz M-Class and its big brother the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class. Significantly sportier than its siblings, the the 2010 GLK will find itself competing against the likes of the BMW X3, Land Rover LR2, Acura RDX, and the new Audi Q5.

According to Mercedes, each letter in the nomenclature has a specific connotation. The "G" alludes to the archetypal cross-country vehicle, the "L" characterizes luxury and, as in other Mercedes model series, the "K" stands for compactness (German: Kompaktheit). Engineered to offer class-leading driving stability, low cabin noise, and a high level of passive safety, the bold styling of the GLK350 may be a vision of the shape of Mercedes' SUVs to come.

Design
Instantly recognizable as a Mercedes, the compact, 4-door, 2010 GLK350 mirrors the company's unmistakable design idioms of taut lines and large expansive surfaces. Typical of an SUV, the GLK features short overhangs, upright front ends, and slim roof pillars. Projector beam headlamps frame the prominent 3-pointed star set in the middle of the grille. A roof rack and rocker sills lend additional strength to the design, Mercedes says. Instead of exiting under the vehicle, the dual exhaust exits two rectangular pipes mounted high within the bumper itself, just below the rear reflectors.

Hardware
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter engine. The 6-cylinder powerplant is connected to a Mercedes 7G-Tronic 7-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. Power is permanently sent to either the rear wheels, or optionally to all four wheels through a new 4Matic AWD system. According to Mercedes, the innovative low-friction AWD driveline is engineered around a longitudinally installed engine, transmission and transfer case to reduce any fuel economy penalty at the pump. Under normal conditions, drive torque is split 45:55 between the front and rear axle with electronic oversight from the ESP, ASR and 4ETS dynamic handling control systems ensuring predictable control, according to the automaker. A newly developed multiple-disc clutch in the center differential is able to partially lock the front and rear axles under low traction conditions to improve vehicle responsiveness.

According to Mercedes, the GLK350's suspension system allows the vehicle to give a smooth ride while maintaining competence with off-road terrain. The solution was to configure the shocks to respond flexibly rather than lineally. Under normal driving conditions the ride is soft and comfortable for the occupants. If a situation calls for hard driving or abrupt evasive maneuvers, the suspension delivers harder setting to ensure stability. The steering is speed-sensitive to ease parking and slow-speed driving while retaining stability and road feel at higher speeds, the automaker explains.

When the GLK350 encounters off-road conditions, a "G" button in the center console activates a special transmission mode switching the 7G-Tronic into "softer" acceleration characteristics. The ESP changes to a special off-road function, and a switch-activated Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) program is able to maintain a controlled descent on steep downhill inclines. The standard wheels are 19-inch, cast-in aluminum alloy, with 235/50 tires.

Safety
Mercedes designed a high-strength passenger cell with energy-absorbing deformation zones at the front and rear to protect occupants of the GLK350. In addition to the Pre-Safe anticipatory safety systems, Brake Assist (BA), and Intelligent Light System (ILS), other standard occupant-protection features include front air bags, side air bags, window air bags, and crash-responsive head restraints.

Technology
The 2010 Mercedes GLK350 features the optional Mercedes-Benz COMAND APS (COckpit Management And Navigation Device) system. COMAND APS is the central hub for controlling nearly all of the navigation, entertainment, and communication electronics on the vehicle. Integrated with Bluetooth for seamless hands-free mobile phone communications, COMAND APS also offers voice-recognition software for hands-free control. The COMAND APS system in the GLK350 has been designed to follow the control logic used in the S-Class, with additional shortcut buttons to make the most important functions easier to access.
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