Mercedes-Benz has found a silver lining to the economic recession: It’s helping boost sales of its smallest sport utility vehicle in the United States. In fact, the 2010 GLK has been outselling the other Mercedes SUVs in this country in 2010. Shorter than most major competitors, including the Lexus RX and Infiniti’s EX35, the compact GLK appeals with a starting retail price that’s $11,800 lower than the previous lowest-priced and smallest Mercedes SUV, the M-Class.

Mercedes-Benz has found a silver lining to the economic recession: It’s helping boost sales of its smallest sport utility vehicle in the United States. In fact, the 2010 GLK has been outselling the other Mercedes SUVs in this country in 2010.

 

Shorter than most major competitors, including the Lexus RX and Infiniti’s EX35, the compact GLK appeals with a starting retail price that’s $11,800 lower than the previous lowest-priced and smallest Mercedes SUV, the M-Class.

 

The five-seat GLK also is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine and offers the status of a Mercedes, plentiful standard safety equipment and a comfortable ride without all the heft of the bigger Mercedes SUVs.

 

Less than 15 feet long from bumper to bumper, the GLK has a MSRPof $34,775 for a two-wheel drive version and $36,775 for a model with four-wheel drive. But the test GLK had a final price of more than $48,000 with a navigation system, power liftgate, garage door opener, leather seat trim, premium sound system and other goodies added in.

There’s one engine for the 2010 GLK: a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter, dual overhead cam, gasoline V-6.

 

What’s noteworthy is the low-priced GLK comes standard with a seven-speed automatic transmission. This kind of high-tech gearing usually is reserved for pricier vehicles.

Usually, the increased gearing helps provide decent gasoline mileage while maintaining responsive power. But the GLK’s best mileage rating from the federal government is nothing special, 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway for a rear-wheel drive model.

 

This compares with the 17/24-mpg rating that the EX35 earned from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Lexus RX350’s 18/25-mpg rating.

The test GLK with four-wheel drive didn’t even get the EPA’s estimated 18 mpg for combined city/highway travel, which makes you question the thrifty, compact image of the GLK.

 

And with premium gasoline required in the tank, a fillup could cost more than $50.

It’s easy for a driver to feel comfortable in the GLK. The interior is quiet, the high seating position affords good views out and there’s more than 41 inches of front-seat legroom.

Legroom in the back seat, however, is limited to 35.1 inches, which compares with 40 inches in the back seat of the M-Class. While it is better than what’s in the back seat of Infiniti’s EX35, it’s less than that of the Audi Q5 and the Lexus RX350.

 

There was a sense of quality in the German-built GLK tester, where all seams and gaps were well-aligned and fit and finish was excellent. Standard safety items include six air bags, traction control and electronic stability control. And the Consumer Reports says first-year reliability has been much better than average.

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