Design: The trendsetter in a flourishing vehicle segment

Jul 15, 2008
With its poised, confident presence, the mere look of the GLK-Class leaves one in no doubt about its intent to conquer the premium compact-SUV segment. All while displaying unmistakable echoes of the G-Class, the forefather of the Mercedes-Benz SUV family. As Head of Design, Gordon Wagener, remarks: "Combining the puristic design of our style icon, the G-Class, with the latest Mercedes-Benz design idiom makes the GLK a model with genuine character."
Distinctive personality radiating power and dynamism
No other model in the world of compact SUVs, past or present, comes close to matching the GLK's distinctively expressive appearance. The body is beautifully proportioned (length 4528 mm, width 1840 mm, height 1689 mm), while there is a special allure in the interplay between the classic angular shape and the typical design features found in all contemporary Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Here the unmistakable design idiom, consisting of taut lines and large, expansive surfaces, is combined with the typical body features of a practical off-road vehicle, such as short overhangs, an upright front end, slender roof pillars, a steeply angle windscreen and flat roof lines. Rather than being a stylistic end in itself, however, the body design allows the typical advantages of an off-road vehicle to be introduced to the more road-oriented compact-SUV category. Large angles of approach and departure coupled with generous ground clearance make excursions off the beaten track a highly pleasurable experience. The fact that the driver enjoys both an excellent overview of the body and a good all-round view courtesy of the raised seating position boosts everyday practicality and guarantees relaxed motoring, even when driving in dense city traffic.
Powerful and expressive: the front end of the GLK
The most eye-catching feature at the front of the GLK is the powerful radiator grille with its succinctly styled frame, which leaves no doubt that this model series belongs to the family of Mercedes-Benz off-roaders and SUVs. Featuring two fins
on the "exterior sports package" model variant and three on the "off‑road styling package" variant, both radiator designs are painted in a "matt brilliant silver" finish. Additional chrome trim provides a contrast to the radiator grille mesh, which – just like the air intake grille and front fog lamp covers below it – is coloured in matt black, lending further emphasis to the car's sportiness. The standard clear-lens projection-beam headlamps create a visual link between the upright front end of the vehicle and its beefy flanks. The "off-road styling package" equipment variant hints at the off-road prowess of the GLK-Class by including matt black rub strips in the bumper on each side along with a simulated underguard.
Beefy profile with classic off-roader proportions
The side view of GLK is reminiscent both of the iconic G‑Class and its contemporary interpretation in the form of the GL-Class. The model's family ties are plain to see from the short overhangs, upright front end, steeply angled windscreen and the taut roof lines terminating in a distinctive rear spoiler. The body designers also turned the roof rails into a styling element. In conjunction with the "off-road styling package", this standard equipment detail has a matt black finish, and combines with the matt black off-road pads und side skirts to underline the off-roading character. On models with the "exterior sports package", the roof rails have a matt-lustre aluminium look. The visual interplay between the roof rails, the body-coloured side skirts and the chrome trim strips along their upper edge is a sign that this equipment variant is more destined for the road. Stainless-steel running boards with raised black studs are available as an option for both variants.
The side window panels in high-gloss black make the glass surface appear to be self-contained. This detail lends tranquillity to the profile view and elongates the greenhouse, as it is known, to dynamic effect. Running along the beltline below the side windows is a chrome-plated trim strip which merges into the contours of the front wing and rear sidewall. This produces a coherent link between the vehicle's front, side and rear sections.
Underneath the beltline, the side view is dominated by a powerful shoulderline which emerges from the front wheel arch and converges to a point at the rear. This striking feature line, which is repeated across all model series, clearly identifies the GLK as a member of the current generation of Mercedes vehicles. The expressive surface styling is continued into the muscular wheel arches where, regardless of the wheel size fitted, the standard-specification light-alloy wheels are almost flush with the outer edge of the wheel arch lip. The "off-road styling package" variant of the GLK rides on flat-styled 5-spoke wheels in a 17-inch format, with the option of more angular-looking 20-inch 7-spoke wheels. In "exterior sports package" guise, the GLK is shod with 19-inch wheels in a 10-spoke design. Here again, customers may also opt for 20-inch wheels, this time with a 5-twin-spoke design.
A fitting finale: the tail end of the GLK
The tail rounds off the coherent body design, with the individual styling elements coming together to form a perfectly shaped whole: the rear spoiler prolongs the taut lines of the roof, before bringing the vehicle to a neat conclusion with a continuous spoiler lip. The tail light units form a further connecting element between the flanks and the rear. Not only are they a key identifying feature of the current Mercedes design idiom common to all model series, their horizontal structure adds further emphasis to the rear's broad, imposing appearance. In conjunction with the optional lighting package, LED indicators are fitted whose brilliant, crystalline finish further enhances the high-class looks. The stainless-steel load sill guard, which effectively protects the painted bumper from damage when loading the vehicle, is flush-fitted and adds a further touch of visual appeal to the rear.
As at the front of the vehicle, there is a noticeable difference in focus between the "exterior sports package" and "off-road styling package" variants at the rear end too. Whereas the former pursues the sporty theme with chrome strip inserts, the tail of the latter is dominated by robust off-road elements, including matt black rub strips and a simulated underguard. The two-pipe exhaust system with rectangular tailpipes that is standard with all engine variants lends further impact to the striking looks of the GLK-Class.
Interior complements the exterior styling perfectly
The distinctive looks of the exterior are seamlessly continued inside the GLK-Class. On the one hand, the sophisticated finish of the surfaces brings the latest in Mercedes design to the interior. And on the other, the GLK offers an upmarket, luxurious interior, boasting materials of exquisite appeal plus precise detailing. There is a profound sense of wellbeing – a hallmark of all Mercedes vehicles – while the interior's overall quality feel is on a par with that in the GL-Class.
The orchestrating element here, due to its dominant styling, is the dashboard, visually extending into the door panels to lend additional width to the generously dimensioned interior. A large trim strip divides the basic structure into three vertically arranged sections. With its large, taut surfaces, precision-finished edges and perfectly positioned seam of chrome, this element sets the styling tone for the rest of the interior. In its basic version, this component has a coarser, yet nevertheless sophisticated textile covering, which matches the seat upholstery fabric. There are two different fine wood trims and an aluminium trim to choose from.
The upper section of the dashboard spans the instrument cluster and the fixed central display in a single sweep, and has a matt black finish regardless of the colour chosen for the interior appointments to prevent irritating reflections in the windscreen. Like the centre tunnel, the lower section of the dashboard is coloured black, grey or beige, depending on the colour chosen for the appointments. At the front end of the centre tunnel can be found two trim elements in piano lacquer look, in the form of the ashtray fascia and the shift console cover. Depending on the additional equipment features that are specified, these covers together with the trim strip in the dashboard may be finished in pine brown or burr walnut wood. There is also the alternative of aluminium trim in conjunction with the "interior sports package".
The door panels take their cue from the dashboard's styling. The beltline is always matt black, generating a "wrap-around" effect and making the vehicle's occupants feel safe and secure. And this has the added benefit of also eliminating reflections, of course. The characteristic Mercedes adjustment controls for the driver's seat and front passenger seat are located in trim panels whose appearance and material selection harmonise with the dashboard's trim strip. The same is true of the chrome door openers in the front and rear. The armrests below them rest on long, galvanised metal door pulls and match the selected appointments colour on all models. Many different materials are available to choose from: fabric, ARTICO man-made leather/fabric, ARTICO man-made leather and leather. GLK customers can specify either an all-black interior or an interior in black with contrasting alpaca grey or almond beige. In the latter case, the seats, armrests, door pockets with built-in speakers and the lower section of the dashboard are finished in the lighter colour, as is the carpet if almond beige is specified. An even more striking contrast is provided by the sahara beige colour that is available for the optional leather appointments: here, just the seats and armrests stand out with their light-coloured finish in the otherwise black interior.
But it does not stop there, as the Mercedes designo range presents customers with a yet wider choice of appointments options. The designo seats fitted as standard in the "EDITION 1" special model, which are upholstered in contrasting black and a very pale porcelain beige, are just one example of the possibilities on offer.