Benz wagon turns right

New plans send GLK our way, writes PAUL GOVER in the US

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

PRES­SURE from Aus­tralia has helped to put the Mercedes-Benz GLK on track for Down Un­der. The mid-sized all-wheel-drive wagon, which lobs this year into a cramped com­pe­ti­tion with crack con­tenders from Audi, BMW and Volvo, was orig­i­nally a no-go for right-hand­drive de­liv­er­ies.

Benz built its orig­i­nal GLK busi­ness case around left-hand-drive sales and said the car would be too costly to retro­engi­neer for right-hand drive.

But now it is back-tracking and a right- hand-drive GLK should be ready for action by the early months of 2011.

That’s not good enough for peo­ple who are go­ing to buy an Audi Q5, a BMW X3 or a Volvo XC60 or even a Volk­swa­gen Tiguan be­fore then, but it is bet­ter than noth­ing.

‘‘We’re work­ing to get the GLK as soon as we can,’’ Mercedes-Benz Aus­tralia’s David McCarthy says.

‘‘We be­lieve the dy­namic, safety and per­for­mance pack­age is class-lead­ing.’’

Af­ter driv­ing the GLK in Los An­ge­les I be­lieve him. It is an im­pres­sively re­fined and comfortable car with plenty of cabin space and stan­dard equip­ment.

It def­i­nitely shades the X3 and is a step up from Ja­panese com­pact wag­ons such as the Toy­ota RAV4 and Nis­san Mu­rano.

The only ques­tion now is the tim­ing and spec­i­fi­ca­tion for the GLK.

‘‘It’s not 100 per cent con­firmed yet, but we are very con­fi­dent it will come at the time of the facelift. That’s 18 months to two years away,’’ McCarthy says.

‘‘We’re aim­ing to have it in rear-wheel drive. It would be priced around X3 money, so in the mid-$60,000s.

‘‘If peo­ple re­ally want a four-wheeldrive we still have the ML.’’

Mercedes is still work­ing on en­gines for the GLK, but the V6 is prob­a­bly out, for the same rea­son as all-wheel-drive, though there will be a spread from the 200 Kom­pres­sor to the 250 petrol and diesel also used in the C-Class com­pact, which do­nates much of its me­chan­i­cal pack­age to the wagon.

‘‘I think the 350 V6 is prob­a­bly go­ing to be too ex­pen­sive. Be­tween $60,000 and $80,000 is where that car can re­ally hit the sweet spot,’’ McCarthy says.

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