Introduced in 2009 for the 2010 model year, the compact Mercedes GLK 350 was designed with younger customers in mind. According to the company, it was aimed both at brand-conscious young professionals with an active lifestyle, and up-and-coming female buyers.
With 4Matic full-time four-wheel-drive as standard equipment, the GLK 350 featured a 3.5-litre V-6 engine that developed 268 horsepower, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift feature. Fuel economy was decent, but not exceptional: 13.3 litres/100 kilometres in town and 9.6 on the highway, and the GLK 350 offered lively but not overwhelming performance.
4WD was standard issue and this particular system featured the tried-and-true 4Matic "slip-and-grip" setup. On-board monitors sense wheel slippage or loss of traction, and simultaneously reduce power to the wheel(s) in question, while redirecting torque to another corner where the power will do the most good. This was the fourth generation of Mercedes's 4Matic system and used throughout the model range.
Despite its 4WD system, the GLK 350 was, and is, primarily an upscale compact luxury SUV, with modern conveniences galore, and an extensive list of standard equipment. Heated front seats, power tilt/telescoping steering, cruise control, climate control system and Bluetooth connectivity all came standard, and you could order things like a rear-view camera, media interface with iPod, USB, back-seat DVD entertainment system and a navigation system. You could choose between genuine leather upholstery, or Mercedes's man-made faux leather fabric called Artico. The GLK 350 was also equipped with a conventional floor shift, as opposed to the push-button column shifter in use on some of its other models.
Although it featured a comparatively choppy ride, the GLK 350 was a typical Mercedes behind the wheel. Comfort level was high – in the front-seat area – and you could choose between 19-inch or 20-inch wheels and tires. It also came with the new Agility Control suspension setup. Briefly, this automatically adjusts the suspension to suit driving conditions. For around-town cruising and off-road situations, it eases up on the damping and gives a less harsh ride with more suspension travel than during high-speed conditions. If the driver executes tight cornering and abrupt turning manoeuvres, the system tightens itself up to cope.
Other features included split folding rear seats, 1,549 litres of storage space with all the seats folded flat, a full complement of safety equipment, including four-wheel disc anti-locking brakes, front, side and side curtain airbags, and an emergency braking system that automatically increases brake pressure during a panic.
No safety recalls are on file for the GLK 350, but the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a whopping 45 technical service bulletins for the 2010 model. These cover a lot of ground, including recalcitrant front seat belts, issues with the alloy wheels, software and hardware glitches, a power rear lift-gate that may not close properly, and possible leakage from the power steering pump hose assembly.
Despite receiving top marks in virtually every category, the GLK 350 only garners an "average" used-car prediction from Consumer Reports. Skimpy rear passenger legroom and counter-intuitive controls and switchgear are issues with C.R. Comments from owners include: "Doesn't have that 'Made In Germany' quality that I thought it would," "Feels more like a V-8 than a V-6," "Overly wide step-over required for entry" and "Would love more cargo room." Complaints about the lack of rear-passenger elbow room and mediocre fuel economy are common here.
As far as market research firm J.D. Power is concerned, the GLK 350 fares well in some areas – powertrain quality and performance, for example – but doesn't really shine in any department. It falls flat in overall quality and the phrase "damning with faint praise" comes to mind.
Depending upon the level of equipment, you can expect to pay somewhere in the mid-$30,000 range for a 2010 GLK 350. Although there were several "packages" (Sport and Premium) with various extras, there was essentially only one model of the GLK 350.
Tech specs: 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350
Original Base Price: $41,800; Black Book: $34,125; Red Book: $31,900
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 268 hp/235 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 13.3 city/9.6 highway; regular gas
Alternatives: Honda CR-V, BMW X3, Infiniti FX35, Audi Q5,Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Suzuki XL-7, Subaru Forester, Ford Escape, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Xterra