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.