Despite assurances from its head of research and development Thomas Weber at the time of launch back in 2008, Mercedes-Benz has failed to deliver on the promise of finding an “engineering solution” to allow the first-generation GLK, pictured here officially in facelifted form for the first time, to be sold in right-hand drive – even with basic rear wheel drive.
The BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Land Rover Freelander rivalling SUV - launched today at the New York motor show - is sold in all of the German car maker’s traditional left-hand drive markets but is not offered in the UK owing to a cost cutting decision made during the GLK’s development that meant its four-wheel drive system was engineered exclusively for left-hand drive. Other key right-hand drive markets denied the angular looking five-seater include South Africa, Australia, Indonesia and Thailand.
In spite of the earlier guarantee that the GLK, baby brother to the larger M- G- and GL-class, would be re-engineered to allow right-hand drive sales, Mercedes-Benz now says this won’t be possible until the introduction of a second-generation model, due out in 2015 and already undergoing development at the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany under the codename X205.
The problem, according to Mercedes-Benz engineering sources, is a driveshaft used to operate the front wheels on four-wheel drive versions of the GLK. It is positioned such that it encroaches slightly on the right-hand-side footwell, something Weber has revealed to Autocar can’t be altered without “significant and expensive” alterations to its steel floorpan and driveline architecture.
A low-cost solution that would have seen the first-generation GLK sold exclusively in rear-wheel drive form in right-hand drive has apparently now been ruled out by Mercedes-Benz, which concedes it has given Audi and BMW a major sales fillip in many important markets, including the UK. The M-, G- and GL class all use a different four-wheel drive system to the GLK.
The facelifted GLK, set to get its first public outing at next week’s New York motor show, continues to be sold with the choice of three engines in Europe. They include Mercedes-Benz’s widely used 2.1-litre four-cylinder common rail unit – the OM651 as it is known internally.
It delivers 168bhp and 295lb ft in the entry level GLK220, which now comes in two distinct versions: the CDI 4Matic BlueEfficiency and BlueTec 4Matic – the latter equipped with a urea injection system that allows it to meet EU6 emission standards. Both models posses 0-62mph times of 8.8sec, combined cycle fuel consumption of 46.3mpg and average CO2 emissions of 159g/km.
Joining it is the GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic. It uses a twin-turbocharged version of the OM651 delivering the same 201bhp and 368lb ft of torque as the pre-facelifted version of the GLK but now comes fitted with urea injection as standard. It is claimed to hit 62mph in 8.0sec and return the same 46.3mpg and 159g/km figures as its less powerful diesel siblings.
Further up the range is the GLK350 CDI 4Matic with a 3.0-litre V6 common rail engine. It delivers 263bhp along with a sturdy 457lb ft – sufficient, according to official claims, for 0-62mph acceleration in 6.4sec together with 40.9mpg and 179g/km. Also available is the GLK350 4Matic BlueEfficiency. It runs the latest version of Mercedes-Benz’s naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 302hp and 273lb-ft. The top-of-the-line GLK hit 62mph in 6.5sec and returns 34.9mpg and 189g/km. Among the gearbox options is a six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic.
Among the subtle visual changes brought to the boxy GLK are new bumpers, revised headlamps and tail lamps, reworked roof bars and new 17, 19 and 20-inch wheel designs. Buyers can also choose an AMG body kit.
The interior has also been upgraded with new instrument graphics, a column mounted gear selector – Mercedes-Benz’s so-called Direct Shift stalk that frees up space on the centre console for larger cup holders and added oddment stowage, round ventilation units and higher quality trim panels.
Among the options is a whole range of new safety features, including the anticipatory Pre-Safe system, collision avoiding Distronic Plus, drowsiness detecting Attention Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assistant, Active Blind Spot Assist. As part of an upgraded range of optional entertainment and system features, the facelifted GLK also offers a 360-degree parking camera.
The GLK is produced at Mercedes-Benz’s Bremen plant in Germany and at its joint venture factory run in co-operation with Beijing Auto Works in Beijing, China. The second-generation model is also planned to be produced alongside the M-, R- and GL class as well as the fourth-generation C-class at the company’s US-based plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Enjoy the week's top pictures in our free Car Pics iPad app - great high-res photography (1024x768 pixels) exclusive to the iPad