This is the GLK, Mercedes' inevitable addition to the burgeoning mid-size SUV ranks. In 2008, Audi with the Q5, Volkswagen's Tiguan and Mercedes will all join this party. Prices for the five-door, five-seat soft-roader should start around £28,500.
What it does/ how it looks
The name speaks volumes: Benz will pitch the GLK as a shrunken version of its monolithic, seven-seat GL SUV. Codenamed X204, the GLK will major on staple Mercedes values like safety, comfort and quality, but with plenty of GL-style versatility and opulence.
Under the skin
The GLK shares its underpinnings with the 2007 C-class estate. Benz will offer both two- and 4Matic four-wheel drive versions. Why two-wheel drive with the base petrol and diesel engines? To cut weight and fuel consumption, and offer a cheaper entry-level point. All engines are coupled to the seven-speed G-tronic automatic. The C-class chassis is naturally revised for the GLK, with increased ground clearance and ramp and departure angles, plus bigger wheels. The base model wears 225/55R16 footwear, the V6 variants get 235/55R17 tyres. Extra money buys 18, 19 or 20in gumballs. The modified independent suspension permits more spring travel for extra axle articulation, and it incorporates a self-levelling rear end - but no airmatic air suspension. There are heaps of new safety features. Expect Brake Assist-plus, which boosts stopping distances even if the driver only applies 50 percent of maximum brake pressure. The Distronic-plus cruise control system can automatically decelerate to a stop, if traffic slows ahead. Presafe-plus, which preps the GLK's safety kit if sensors detect a potential crash, anti-whiplash head restraints and anti-dive seat belts all feature.
On- or off-road bias?
Most definitely on-road. Indeed, Merc seems serious about challenging the X3 as the best-handling SUV, even if the BMW is currently hobbled by a ride that keeps chiropractors in business. Like the next C-class, the GLK can be had with a new 'direct-control' handling kit for superior kinematics. It features quicker steering, more progressive springs, adaptive gas-pressure dampers and fatter anti-roll bars. The prime effect of direct-control is a more inspiring and entertaining drive, claimed to neutralise inherent SUV drawbacks like the higher centre of gravity and the greater weight. According to one source, major strengths include much improved body control, above-average directional stability and a totally failsafe behaviour at the limit. Ride is said to be comfy, just like a true Merc should be. If you insist on venturing off-road, you can specify all-weather tyres, a hill descent control braking system, specially calibrated ABS/ESP software, a slightly raised suspension and a sump guard. But you can't have extra diff locks or a low-range transfer case.
The engine room
Will it fit in the garage?
The GLK's dimensions are dictated by the next C-class estate's platform. The length is bang on an X3's at around 4500mm, while it's 1900mm wide and 1700mm tall. The trunk holds 450 litres of luggage, the fuel tank will swallow 80 litres of fuel. And the GLK is no bloated beast: its target weight range is between 1550 and 1700kg – bang on the class norm.