At first sight the test car looks like a disguised GL, but in reality it is one of the first real prototypes - not a mule - of the smaller GLK (short version of GL, K from the German kurz = short).

The GL’s little brother

Here are the first pictures of Mercedes’ upcoming compact SUV, the GLK, which will be competing against the successful BMW X3 and Audi's, soon to be, Q5.

At first sight the test car looks like a disguised GL, but in reality it is one of the first real prototypes – not a mule - of the smaller GLK (short version of GL, K from the German kurz = short).

The GLK is using technical components from the yet to come new Mercedes C-Class, which is set to debut in March 2007, and it will stay very close in design to the recently launched GL-Class.

Possibly the GLK will debut as a 2008 model on the IAA car show in Frankfurt in September 2007, however Geneva 2008 sounds more reasonable.

Power is expected to come from four and six cylinder engines, both petrol and diesel, and later on there could be a V8 powered GLK 55 AMG version too. While the competitors from Munich and Ingolstadt only offer their SUVs with all-wheel drive, Mercedes will offer the car in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive versions, with the GLK 220 CDI as the basis rear-wheel drive version and the GLK 280 as a petrol alternative. The all-wheel drive versions will be the GLK 350 with 272 bhp and the GLK 320 CDI with 224 bhp. All versions are expected to have the 7G-Tronic, TouchShift automatic transmission.

The chassis of the GLK is almost the same as the 4matic version of the new C-Class station wagon, except for bigger wheels and longer springs. The new Direct-Control chassis will make the car’s handling much better than with SUVs in general, in particular when taking narrow turns. With an overall length of approximately 4,50 m, the GLK will be about 30 cm shorter than the Mercedes ML .

In 2005, Daimler-Chrysler announced that the small GLK will be built in Bremen/Germany rather than in the US plant that assembles the ML and GL. The yearly production rate is expected to be 40,000 units with starting prices of about 35,000 Euros.

While the US is slowly moving away from big SUVs, Mercedes is loosing market shares to small SUVs like the BMW X3. With this new GLK they are hoping to get back to the top again.

The photos are showing a prototype of the GLK during a very short trip on a public road outside of the company’s headquarters in Stuttgart before disappearing again behind the protecting walls of its home base.

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