The Truth About Cars » GLK350 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:47:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » GLK350 Tales From The Cooler: The Persian Conversion Fri, 01 Mar 2013 10:00:43 +0000

You are looking at the rarest Mercedes-Benz vehicle ever built: a 2011 GLK350 AMG that I spotted last week. How uncommon is this SUV? The exact production number was zero as that model does not exist. It appears the owner of the car added an AMG emblem to its hatch, part of an epidemic of de-badge and re-badge engineering happening here in Southern California. 

When my father bought the first 1964 Mustang in our small Midwestern town, we drew a crowd of people everywhere we stopped. The only problem was the “260″ V-8 emblems on our fenders instead of the coveted “289 High Performance” tags. I soon learned folks were buying the Hi-Po emblems and sticking them on their Stangs. I believe the original Mustangs marked the start of the Emblem Manipulation Era.

Here in you-are-what-you-drive land, you can spot examples on a daily basis, like a BMW 328i magically transformed into an M3. There are many Chrysler 300s running around with Hemi badges that are actually V-6s. Some conversions are just plain dumb, like the 1988 Cadillac Coupe De Ville GT that Murilee recently unearthed. Word is that former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal once bought a Mercedes-Benz S500 and transformed it into the world’s first S1000. Even more curious are the people referenced in the title of this story who sometimes remove all the emblems from their rides.

The motivation of these individuals is not always to impress their neighbors – during my Chrysler used cars days a decade ago, we had more than one customer try to trade in their Grand Cherokee 2-wheel-drive adorned with “4 X 4″ badges on its flanks. There are no doubt dealers who failed to check the drivetrain on such trades and thus allowed $1500 too much, just as the closed-mouth clients had hoped.

At least one automaker will not be party to this game – if you are looking for a Ferrari emblem for your Fiat 500, you are out of luck as Ferrari retailers reportedly ask for proof of ownership before they fork one over.

Have you ever seen, or God forbid participated in, a case of re-badge engineering?


]]> 133
Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Thu, 03 Jan 2013 13:00:08 +0000

We’re all familiar with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, from its new-for-2010-looks-like-2002 exterior to its “they want how much for this?” interior. But the fourth model year is MCE time. Mid-cycle, has Stuttgart enhanced its compact crossover enough that previous rejecters should reconsider it?

This being an MCE, the “aimed for G-Wagen, hit late-model Forester” metal hasn’t changed. More Volvo than any post-Horbury Volvo, it remains the yang to the Audi Q5’s yin. New light assemblies and fascias address an LED deficit (and then some) while taking the box they append uptown.

Mercedes got the message that many people (or at least many reviewers) found the original GLK interior overly basic, to put it kindly.

The revised interior has more soft surfaces and looks more worthy of a price north of forty. Plain, hard-edged black plastic surfaces are out, displaced by some subtle curves (though the basic forms remain blocky), additional wood trim, and many not-so-subtle chrome bits. The new white-ringed instrument faces are classier. Unless it’s dusk, when the main thing you’ll notice is how hard it is to read silver digits on a white background.

Before you get carried away by visions of opulence, realize that the seat cushions remain flat and firm. Rear legroom also hasn’t changed, and so remains short of the segment average. A six-footer will fit behind a six-footer even if they’re wearing tall hats, but shins will be grazed. If you need more space, a dealer will happily show you something in a larger size.

The GLK brochure proclaims the “SUV embodiment of a sport sedan’s soul.” From the start, the fundamentals have been present: a big V6, nearly balanced weight distribution, and 19-inch wheels shod with low-profile rubber, all as standard equipment. For 2013, the V6 receives direct injection and a power bump from 268 to 302. Lay into it, and the GLK350 will scoot, but the powertrain’s initial response isn’t snappy as engine remains paired with an aging (if updated) seven-speed automatic. The newly offered (and standard) shift paddles don’t help. Add in the need to hit a button on the console to activate them (the P-R-N-D shifter is column-mounted), and they might as well sign up for unemployment.

The 2013 GLK’s retuned suspension feels tighter than I recall from the one one I drove two years ago. Body control is up while lean in hard turns is down. The steering, now electric-assist, contains less slop than the previous hydraulic unit while providing a similarly low level of feedback. Drive the GLK the way such vehicles are typically driven, and it behaves well, with the ride quality and quietness people expect from a premium brand and the evident solidity people expect from a Mercedes. Push the ute, though, and you’ll discover limited grip as the outside front Latitude Tour HP scrubs and a non-defeatable, far-from-transparent stability control system jerks your chain. If you’re looking for fun, you’re much more likely to find it in the competing Audi, BMW, Infiniti, or Volvo.

Fuel economy has also been enhanced. In addition to direct injection and electric-assist steering, the GLK350 has gained an automatic start/stop system. Unlike Munich’s contraption, which produces shudders unbecoming any machinery this side of a Tata Nano, Stuttgart’s operates almost imperceptibly. The EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 24 highway might seem less than impressive, but they’re considerably better than last year’s 16/21! (Unlike with an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but like the Infiniti EX37, you can get rear-wheel-drive. The EPA highway figure is then 25.)

Like Toyota’s hybrids, the updated GLK grades your driving. The grades are more precise than in a lowly Prius c—out of 100 rather than on a five-point scale—yet they are considerably less helpful. In a Prius c, the grades are for the current accelerate-cruise-brake cycle. In the Mercedes, they’re for the entire period since the car was started or the system was manually reset. Consequently, the link between what you do and the grade you receive is far less intuitive. You start out with a 50. From there, it’s easy to sink your score into the teens, and surprisingly difficult to nudge it over 80. On one suburban drive I managed a 98 with a feather-light foot and a sharp eye for anything that might require the brakes. The trip computer reported 28 mpg. When paying less attention to my driving, but still driving far from aggressively, the trip computer reported a score in the 40s and about 21 mpg. If your foot is at all heavy you won’t observe north of 20 in the suburbs, with 16-17 a very real possibility. Require better fuel economy? A GLK250 BlueTec powered by a 190-horsepower, 2.1-liter diesel arrives next spring.

Of course, most people don’t buy Mercedes for how they handle or how far they go on a gallon. What likely matters most—beyond the three-pointed star—is the amount of technology packed into the vehicle, and especially that focused on safety. To remind you of the priority the GLK puts on your well-being, the front seat belts are given a very firm tug each time you start the car.

Every redesigned or refreshed Mercedes beginning with the 2010 E-Class has received a drowsiness monitor as standard equipment. The system works entirely by evaluating the frequency and amplitude of steering corrections. So, if you are not aware that you’re falling asleep, a “coffee cup” icon below the speedometer will inform you.

Blind spot and lane departure warnings are available in passive and active forms. In “active,” the system doesn’t only warn you via a large graphic between the tach and speedometer. It also selectively blips the brakes and tugs the wheel to help get the car back where it’s supposed to be. I found the blind spot system helpful, perhaps because the warning light in the mirror alone was sufficient and I never tripped the “active” level. The lane departure system, on the other hand, proved a PITA. Touch the lane marker (quite easy to do with the one on the blind side) and you’d think death was imminent from the strength of the system’s reaction. To be fair to Mercedes, I haven’t yet encountered a lane departure system that wasn’t a nuisance. This one was only the most intrusive of the bunch.

The optional adaptive cruise control impresses, even in traffic. On some of my trips around town I let the GLK do most of the driving. (The car gave its own driving style a grade of 46%.) Even if it’s not on, the Distronic system will sound a warning if you approach the car ahead too quickly. If you don’t react, it will attempt to stop the car itself. In a major ergonomic revolution (for Mercedes, at least), the turn signal and cruise control stalk have swapped positions. I made it through the entire week without setting the vehicle speed in an attempt to signal.

The GLK is also now able to steer itself into a parallel parking space. Unfortunately, life in the burbs provided no opportunity to test this system.

The Lighting Package now includes, in addition to steering-linked xenon headlamps, “adaptive highbeam assist.” Theoretically, this means that the car determines the appropriate and safe amount of forward lighting, and automatically provides it. In practice, it meant I had to switch the lamps out of “auto” to get the high beams. In “auto,” the car almost always rescinds your request for the brights the moment you release the stalk.

On the infotainment front, the GLK can now connect you to news, Google search, Yelp, Facebook and (when parked) the entire Internet for $14 a month on top of the $280/year basic “mbrace” telematics fee. Yes, it all costs money. Load up a GLK350, and the price jumps from $39,995 to the tested car’s $55,015. Even at this price the tested GLK lacked proximity key ($650), premium audio ($810), an Appearance Package (20s, shiny roof rails), and an AMG Styling Package that includes the previous and adds more aggressively styled fascias and wheels ($1,990). For the sake of comparison, let’s add the first two options, yielding an MSRP of $56,475.

This only seems like too much money for a compact SUV until you compare the competition. A loaded BMW X3 xDrive35i lists for $620 more—and running both through TrueDelta’s Car Price Comparison Tool finds that over $3,000 of the stuff on the Benz isn’t available on the BMW. Adjust for this, and the BMW is $3,700 higher. An Audi Q5 3.0T lists for a scant $45 more. But back in the 1990s, the idea of an Audi costing even a dime more than a Mercedes would have been written off as just another one of Piech’s insane ambitions. After adjusting for feature differences the Audi is $500 more. Of course, if you’re willing to go non-German, an Infiniti EX37 or a Volvo XC60 is about $3,000 less. Or, if you don’t need 300+ horsepower, the 240-horsepower X3 xDrive28i is about $1,200 less than the GLK while the 211-horsepower Q5 2.0T (not available with some of the 3.0T’s pricey options) undercuts a similarly decontented Mercedes by about $4,000.

Which leaves us where? Those who liked the GLK’s exterior before will like it more now. Those who didn’t like it before most likely still won’t, unless their issue was insufficiently fancy lights. Performance and handling have both improved, but not by enough to win over driving enthusiasts. The array of available technology could impress some people. Competitors offer many of the same features, but the GLK could have the most in the class, at least for now. Most of all, though, the dramatically upgraded interior could warrant another look. When you think of how people actually use this class of vehicle, an upscale look and feel matters a great deal, and the 2013 GLK is a much more credible luxury vehicle than the 2012 was.

Mercedes-Benz provided a GLK350 with insurance and a tank of gas.

Michael Karesh operates, an online provider of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

]]> 79
Review: 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:09:12 +0000

To highlight the “BMW difference,” the marque traveled from dealer to dealer with not only the redesigned X3 but a few competing compact crossovers as well. Among the bunch, one stuck out as not like the others. But it was the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, not the BMW. Different in a good way? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

First off, styling. Unlike other compact crossovers, the Mercedes GLK350 makes no attempt to look sleek or even conventionally attractive. Instead, it’s for those who want the chunky look of the classic G-Wagen, without the six-figure price tag or horrendous fuel economy. Sure, there’s an aesthetic similarity to the related C-Class, as this model was introduced only a couple of years ago (as an early 2010), but with an upright, square profile that’s all truck. (Or all late model Subaru Forester, if we’re being less charitable.)

Inside, the GLK350 is similarly much more trucky than competitors. There’s hardly a curve to be seen, and the overall ambiance one of durability and functionality rather than luxury (despite plentiful wood trim). The MB-Tex upholstery should last much longer than leather—while fooling many who don’t suspect vinyl in a $46,000 car. As in other Mercedes, the cruise control lever is easily mistaken for the turn signals.

The GLK’s windshield is upright in the traditional SUV idiom. The instrument panel is tall—all but the tallest drivers will want to raise the seat. The pillars all around are thinner than most these days. The seats are firm. In back, there’s less rear legroom than in the revised X3 despite the GLK’s upright packaging. Shins can uncomfortably contact the lower edge of the front seatback. In terms of cargo space, the GLK joins the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 at the low end of the segment’s range.

Like many other Mercedes, the GLK350’s powertrain is a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with a manually-shiftable seven-speed automatic. The numbers are competitive, but subjectively this powertrain feels somewhat sluggish compared to the Audi, the BMW, and even the Lexus. There’s enough power here to move the GLK350 4Matic’s 4,200 pounds, but the throttle and transmission programming prioritize something other than on-road responsiveness. Unlike in the BMW, rear-wheel-drive is available, but most buyers will no doubt opt for the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which channels torque to the rear wheels until they slip. Despite the trucky looks, there are no fancy off-road-oriented features, or even a low-range. The GLK should do fine in light off-roading, but so will many more car-like competitors. The larger ML might be a little more capable, but is no longer offered with a low-range in the U.S.—no doubt because there was little demand for the option.

The GLK350 handles with commendable balance—the rear-wheel-drive platform pays some dividends—but leans considerably more than the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 in turns. Change lanes quickly at high speeds, and the tail wags in a way it doesn’t in the others. The Mercedes-Benz’s steering is light, with a little slop on center. Here as well the GLK makes little attempt to pass as a car, much less a driver’s car, despite standard low-profile 235/50R19 tires (even larger 20s are optional). On the other hand, the ride is smoother than in the Audi and BMW. Even so, the GLK doesn’t quite have a premium feel to go with its premium price.

The tested 2011 GLK350, with the Premium and Multimedia Packages and heated seats, lists for $46,045. A similarly-equipped Audi Q5 lists for about $800 more, but according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool includes about $2,100 in additional features—including leather upholstery and xenon headlights. The X3 xDrive28i with similar features and the $1,550 Sport Activity Package (to get 18-inch wheels, 19s are only available with the xdrive35i) lists for $1,690 more but includes about $2,400 in additional features. Bottom line: once you adjust for feature differences (or spec the GLK up to the same level as the others) the Mercedes is the most expensive of the three, but not by a large enough margin that many people are going to pick one over the others based on sticker prices.

With the exception of BMW, the Germans (and Swedes, for that matter) arrived very late to the compact SUV party. With the Q5, Audi offers the segment’s most car-like entry, and the redesigned BMW X3 shifts in the same direction. Mercedes-Benz, perhaps consciously opting to take a different tack than everyone else, perhaps simply not paying attention to industry trends, went in the opposite direction. The GLK350 is the segment’s most truck-like entry—even the Land Rover LR2 looks, sits, and drives more like a car. As a result, the GLK is far from the best choice for driving enthusiasts. But few buyers in this segment are driving enthusiasts. In what has recently become a very crowded field, it helps to stand apart from the crowd. The GLK350 achieves this. Want some traditional SUV flavor in your premium compact SUV, but care more about the badge or German engineering than luxurious appointments? Then the GLK350 has that space largely to itself.

BMW provided the vehicle for this review at a ride-and-drive event for BMW owners.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail GLK350 instrument panel GLK350 cargo GLK350 front Who are you calling a cute ute? GLK350 front seats GLK350 rear quarter 2 GLK350 rear seat GLK350 interior GLK350 side GLK350 rear quarter ]]> 54