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Sport-utes aren't dead ... they evolved into something a 'little' better

December 29, 2008|By MALCOLM GUNN / Wheelbase Communications

If you thought the prolific lineup from Mercedes-Benz covered all the bases, it appears there's room for one more body, and a lean and trim one at that. Enter the 2010 GLK compact sport utility vehicle.

While the popularity of sport utility vehicles (even the use of the term) has seemingly fallen out of favor, there is an emerging group of compact, five-passenger luxury-focused urban wagons for those who still need at least some sport-ute-y-ness.

Of course they possess far more capability than the term "urban" implies. The range of vehicles includes such luminaries as the Acura RDX, BMW X3, Land Rover LR2, Lincoln MKX and Audi Q5. All provide stylish, all-weather transport along with people-pampering accommodations. That they can also ford modest streams and scramble over gritty surfaces is simply icing on a rarely sampled cake.

The new GLK, which arrives in early 2009, is the smallest of Mercedes' quartet of sport utes (oops, there's that term again), but should prove to be one of the most appealing. From a size and weight standpoint, it's similar to the BMW X3 and Acura RDX, but the GLK does enjoy about a six-inch advantage in width. Unfortunately, that does not translate into more storage space behind either the front or rear seats, a specification that significantly lags behind that of the Acura and Bimmer.

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One of the most striking aspects about the GLK is the friendly face it projects, as opposed to the sort of fender-flared, bull-nosed bravado that permeates the category. The wagon has been artfully sculpted and displays more beauty than boldness, although the giant-sized three-pointed-star logo affixed to the grille leaves no doubt as to its heritage. Mercedes' own comparison of the vehicle as a smaller version of its M-class sport ute really doesn't do justice to the GLK's inviting looks.

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