The seven-seat Mercedes-Benz GLB launched in Australia last month, and while our review noted it slots in between the GLA and GLC in terms of size and price – and comes off like a miniature GLS in terms of format – the GLB reminded us of another Mercedes SUV, which we never actually saw in Australia...
Introducing the GLK.
Launched in 2008 and based on the W204 C-Class of the time, the GLK pre-dated the GLC as a compact SUV with a three-pointed star on the nose. In fact, in Europe and North America, it was sold up until the GLC’s introduction in 2015.
Like the GLB, the GLK follows a similar ‘tall and narrow’ approach, using a high glasshouse and raised roof-rails to extend its visual stance. It too looks like a pint-sized version of the comparable GL-Class, but was only ever offered as a five-seater.
It’s actually very similar in size to the new GLB, with only a few millimetres separating them in all key directions. The GLB is a smidge longer (112mm), but being a five-seater, the GLK has a bigger boot (575L v 500L).
Power came from a choice of petrol or diesel motors, with the 3.5-litre V6 petrol offering 225kW, ironically the same as the 2.0-litre turbo petrol in the GLB35 AMG. All cars were developed as all-wheel drive, although a rear-drive only model was added later. A diesel-electric hybrid model was shown as a concept at the 2008 Geneva motor show before the production GLK was unveiled, but that powertrain never made it to production.
Naturally, German tuner Brabus got its hands on one and jammed in a twin-turbo 6.3-litre V12 for 552kW and a mind-blowing 1350Nm output. Enough to claim the ‘world’s fastest SUV’ title in 2009 with a top speed of 322.3km/h (200.3mph). You could buy it too, for €397,000 (AUD$644k today).
The GLK was successful too, selling an average of around 25,000 units per year in the USA alone. In 2017, just two years after the launch of the GLC, Mercedes-Benz celebrated the one-millionth compact SUV produced (GLC and GLK combined).
So why didn’t we get the GLK?
Despite being built on the W204 platform, the driveshaft between the four-wheel-drive transfer case and front differential ran down the right side of the car, making a right-hand-drive version uneconomical to engineer. In 2014 it was announced that the second-generation GLK would be available in right-hook.
That car became the GLC, and the rest is history.