Monday, March 22, 2010

Mercedes-Benz GLK - Riding with the M-B Owner's Club

On the first Sunday of each month, the San Francisco Bay Area Section of the Mercedes-Benz Club of America gets together for an informal drive. I’m a member, but I don’t own a Mercedes yet, so for the February drive, I borrowed one of the newest Mercedes models from the press fleet – a Steel Gray GLK 350.

My compact, sharply chiseled five-passenger SUV rolled along with 17 other cars, including sleek two-seat convertible SLs, a classic “fintail” early sixties sedan, a fresh 2010 model E-Class sedan and even a couple of smart cars (Mercedes makes ‘em).

The GLK should appeal to small families searching for station wagon convenience, moderate off-road ability, glorious comfort, complete safety, and reasonable fuel economy. The larger GL, American built ML, and pricey, traditional G fill out the SUV roster in the brand’s 12-vehicle 2010 lineup in the U.S.

We gathered in the now-civilian San Francisco Presidio. We checked out each other’s cars as we pepped ourselves up with fresh coffee and then caravanned out across southwestern San Francisco streets. We joined Highway 1 in Daly City, and then rolled along the Pacific coast.

The GLK is a fine place for driver and passenger. My co-pilot, son David, read off the directions as we stretched out in firm leather seats and looked out over a typical Mercedes dash. The shapes of this brand new model are sharply drawn to match the Jeeplike angular proportions of the car’s exterior. It ends up looking a lot like the more angular Mercedes sedan designs of earlier eras. Everything feels taut, solid, and top quality—just what you expect in an upscale car.

The GLK turns, stops and rolls along with firm precision, but the ride is never punishing. The Agility Control suspension system uses twin-tube shock absorbers fitted with a hydraulic by-pass piston that acts like a very soft shock absorber, dampening road noise and tire vibration on standard roads. When the surface turns bumpy or uneven, the by-pass piston drops out, preserving the outstanding steering and handling response of a stiffer shock absorber.

On our ride, we reassembled in Princeton-by-the-Sea, where some of us purchased fresh crab for later and headed off again. After we turned left onto narrow, winding Tunitas Creek Road and headed east, we were soon lost in a splendid forest, and the GLK provided a great view through the windows and a confident feeling as we wound slowly along with Mercedes-Benzes ahead of us and behind us. The seven-speed automatic picks the right gear for you, or you can use the touch shift to pick your own.

Mercedes-Benz vehicles are luxurious, and the GLK is no exception. Like its predecessors, it can be upgraded substantially. The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is one way, and my Steel Gray tester had it, with its 45-55 percent front/rear split and completely automatic operation.

The GLK has a 3.5-liter V-6 under its chunky hood that puts out 268 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. That provides plenty of energy to the two-ton vehicle while delivering EPA mileage of 16 City, 21 Highway. I averaged 18.3 mpg in 20 hours of motoring.

The EPA Green Vehicle numbers are only so-so on the Greenhouse Gas score—a 4 out of 10—but the Air Pollution score is either a laudable 7 or a wonderful 9.5. In California and other high-standard emission states, verify that you’re getting the model that scores the latter number.
It’s a Mercedes-Benz, so you can assume that all the normal luxuries are part of the package. But my tester, base-priced at $37,475 (including shipping) slipped past the $50,000 mark, thanks to many worthwhile but costly options.

The Premium Package contributes auto-dimming mirrors, a rain sensor for the wipers, a power rear liftgate, an expansive panorama sunroof and the joys of Sirius Satellite Radio (monthly fees apply). The Multimedia Package brings a navigation system, exquisite harmon/kardon sound system , a rearview camera and more.

The Full Leather Seating Package adds fancy lighting and burl walnut trim too. Heated front seats are extra. The TeleAid emergency system will cost you too. By the time you add in an upgrade from 19-inch to 20-inch alloy wheels, brushed aluminum roof rails and an iPod interface, the sticker says $50,235.

But it’s all top drawer here. The navigation system says “Please prepare to turn right.” Because you keep the key fob in your pocket when you enter and start the car, a message flashes across the instrument panel when you turn the ignition off—“Don’t forget your key.” Thanks, car.

I’m looking forward to another ride with the Mercedes folks. They love their cars, just as people have for well over a century.

1 comment:

Fred said...

When are you going to get your hands on the new 4 door Porsche?