Mercedes-Benz has unveiled a near-production concept for its forthcoming compact SUV, the GLK, at an exclusive preview attended by company leaders in Stuttgart — and backed it up with details of all its new models for 2008, including a new-look CLC (C-class Compact) and mid-life ‘refresher’ versions of five other models, including improved SL and SLK sports cars and A- and B-class compact saloons.
Mercedes GLK: still no right-hand drive
In a rapidly expanding segment containing many new compact SUVs styled to disguise their bulk, the GLK, which is about 25cm shorter than the full-sized M-class, has almost Jeep-like styling, with prominent, squared wheelarches and generally aggressive lines. “We are new to the market,” says Mercedes CEO Dieter Zetsche, “and we were anxious not to produce a me-too product. Our car had to stand out. And the car has had a very good reception from customers who have seen it so far.”The car, which will be seen in two distinct guises (Street/Sporty and Offroad) won’t come to the UK because the forward driveshaft of its 4Matic drive system can’t be acommoated with a right-hand steering system. “We’re desperate to have the car, and the problem could be beaten,” says a Mercedes UK spokesman, “but other right hand-drive markets aren’t as sophisticated as ours, and the work isn’t seen as cost effective.” The GLK will be launched with two petrol V6 engine options, a 2.8 and a 3.8, and two diesel options, a V6 and an all-new ultra-economical 2.2-litre four-pot, which will come into other small and middle-sized Mercs later.
Merc' s stars of 2008: CLC, facelifted SL, SLK
Also new is the CLC, a revised version of the old Sport Coupe. The car is still on the outgoing C-class platform, which will hit the UK market at the beginning of March, along with a new C63 AMG mega-saloon.The SL and SLK retain their major dimensions and structures, but have nose and rear underbody modifications designed to make them appear fresh and more dynamic. Introduced at the same time is a high-output 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine which produces 315 bhp — almost the same power as the old 5.0 litre V8 — and revs to 7200rpm, yet consumes around nine per cent less fuel than its predecessor. The cars will hit Britain early in spring 2008. At the same time, the C-class gets a new staple engine, a supercharged 1.6-litre four producing 156bhp, but pumping out only 156g/km of CO2.
Supporting acts: facelifted A-class, B-class
The A- and B-class compact hatchbacks get nose and tail styling revisions, plus improvements to interior graphics and material quality.In some general cross-model revisions, 2008 Mercs — SL, SLK, CLS, M-class, A- and B-class — will get a new, easier-to-use telematics system. SL and SLK, C-class estate and the brand new blown 1.6 litre engine will all hit the market by spring, with revised CLS and new CLC coming “a little later”. Production versions of the GLK 4x4 will hit the market late in ’08 at the Beijing motor show, after a “quieter” concept version is shown at Geneva. There’s no sign yet of a production route for Mercedes’ Diesotto engine, which combines the advantages of diesel and petrol engines, but engineers insist production is not far away.