Mercedes GLK at Detroit

Published: 15 January 2008

When the pictures of Mercedes’ new small SUV concept were shown prior to Christmas, there were plenty of pained expressions in the CAR office. To be honest, the cars look little better in the metal.

Aiming to draw inspiration from the iconic boxiness of the legendary G-Wagon and the more car-inspired sculptural curves of the huge GL-class, the resulting melange does no credit to either. It just goes to prove that good-looking parents don’t always make an attractive kid – or in this case twins.

Why are there two GLKs at Detroit?

Mercedes chose to unveil two Vision GLKs – Freeside and Townside – to show how the GLK could look in rugged off-road and sleeker on-road guises. Of the two, the white Freeside – all roof rails, bonnet bulges and ridged front and side skirts – looks the more convincing but both look too fussy.

This is especially apparent on the silver-coloured Townside in side profile where the rising feature lines almost collide with the flared rear wheelarch and the oddly oval-shaped door handle scoops jar with the straight lines elsewhere. The Townside’s thicker and flatter razorblade front grille looks needlessly brash too.

Remind me why the UK isn’t getting the GLK?

The official line varies. Some say the 4Matic powertrain wouldn’t fit in a right-hand drive version, others say that it would but is too expensive to re-engineer given the sales volumes (which seems unlikely given the huge success of this sector: X3, RX and now Tiguan and Q5) while some industry insiders have even suggested that the RHD Merc markets might not have put their hands up for consideration early enough and were ultimately not considered.

That’s no great loss. Only one final model will be made, with the details of the two concept cars potentially available as options. The production version will be unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show in April and go on sale in autumn 2008 looking extremely similar to these ‘Visions’ models. Just remove the glitzy alloys, front grille and interior appointments.

UK Merc fans can look forward to a new-generation SLK also unveiled at Detroit, and arriving in British showrooms in April 2008. It features a restyled exterior, modified interior plus more powerful engines and lower CO2 emissions.

They say: The Vision GLK Freeside and Townside are set to take the world by storm.
We say: The Land Rover Freelander has little to fear.
CAR verdict: 2/5

By Guy Bird

Contributor, cultural curator, design commentator

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