Stuttgart / Detroit. GLK – a combination of letters that has specific connotations. The “G” alludes to the archetypal cross-country vehicle, the “L” intimates luxury and, as in other Mercedes model series, the “K” stands for compactness (German: Kompaktheit). At first sight these three aspects may appear to be mutually incompatible. But on closer inspection they offer the perfect combination as Mercedes-Benz takes its SUV expertise and launches it in a whole new dimension – in the exciting Vision GLK FREESIDE. In January 2008 this compact character will be making its world debut at the Detroit Auto Show, providing a vision of the shape of SUVs to come.
The Vision GLK FREESIDE study, now close to series production, has a distinctive design and combines typical SUV characteristics such as robustness and off-road capability with refined motoring characteristics on “normal” roads. The AGILITY CONTROL suspension ensures excellent handling dynamics and agility, coupled with excellent ride comfort and pioneering active safety. A high-strength bodyshell forms the backbone of this model and also ensures other key characteristics: the driving stability and virtual absence of vibration and noise, whatever the conditions, are compelling, and the passive safety, as you expect from the brand, is of the highest standard.
The economical and environmentally friendly new-generation BLUETEC four-cylinder engine, combined with the 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission and the new 4MATIC all-wheel drive, ensures highly appealing performance. The compact concept vehicle, measuring 4.52 metres in length, also boasts technology usually reserved for higher vehicle classes. Features not only include the anticipatory PRE-SAFE® safety concept and the Intelligent Light System (ILS), but also the intuitively controlled COMAND APS infotainment centre, a rear-seat entertainment system with two screens and THERMOTRONIC 3-zone automatic climate control.
Extremely attractive in stylistic terms, this vision of a future compact SUV, a vehicle packed with character, succeeds by combining the angular design of the original G-Class with typical design features from the contemporary Mercedes-Benz passenger car range. The interior of the Vision GLK FREESIDE complements the expressive body design and impresses with high-quality materials and an ergonomically coherent overall concept, instantly conveying that typical Mercedes ambience.
The Vision GLK FREESIDE is to undergo its first test of character at the NAIAS in Detroit. “The Vision GLK illustrates the logical way in which our extremely successful model strategy can be continued in the SUV segment,” commented Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of Daimler AG. Dr Zetsche has a very close connection with the compact and distinctive Vision GLK FREESIDE, based on his time as a vehicle developer back in the mid-1980s. One of Dr Zetsche’s areas of responsibility at that time was the development of the legendary G-Class. Looking back, he explained, “The needs profiles are different now. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: if a Mercedes has a G in its name, it has to perform exceptionally in all conditions.”
Vision GLK FREESIDE: expressive, distinctive, independent
Stylistic borrowings from the forefather of all Mercedes-Benz SUVs give the Vision GLK FREESIDE a special positioning. Head of design Prof. Peter Pfeiffer put it in a nutshell, “With the G-Class we created a styling icon which has been the benchmark for almost 30 years. Combining this unostentatious design with the latest Mercedes-Benz design elements makes the Vision GLK FREESIDE a vehicle of genuine character.”
Indeed, never before has there been such a distinctively expressive vision of tomorrow’s compact SUV. Bringing together the angular original design with the typical design features found in all contemporary Mercedes-Benz passenger cars creates a thrilling allure. Here the company’s unmistakable design idiom, with its interplay of taut lines and large, expansive surfaces, is combined with the typical body features of a functional off-road vehicle, such as short overhangs, an upright front end, slim roof pillars, a steeply raked windscreen and taut roof lines. Specially manufactured 20-inch light-alloy wheels and muscular wheel arches add an extra touch of power and charisma to the Vision GLK FREESIDE.
The vehicle’s body design is by no means an end in itself. It allows the typical advantages of an off-road vehicle to be introduced to the road-oriented, compact SUV class for the first time. Large angles of approach and departure plus good ground clearance make off-road ventures a joy. The outstandingly clear layout of the body and the good all-round visibility, combined with the raised seat position, increase the vehicle’s suitability for everyday on-road use and ensure relaxed driving even in dense city traffic.
The Vision GLK FREESIDE’s convincing design concept is reinforced by the special-effect “diamond white magno” paintwork. Unlike conventional metallic paintwork, a matt clearcoat protects the surface here. The detachable body parts, in gloss sterling silver, produce a charming contrast and give the study an even more exclusive look.
The interior: trend-setter in the compact premium segment
The distinctive looks of the exterior are seamlessly continued inside the SUV study. A thrilling stylistic contrast is produced by the juxtaposition of two formally different worlds. On the one hand the Vision GLK FREESIDE offers a high-quality and comfortable interior with impressive materials and precise detailing. On the other hand the contemporary treatment of the surfaces brings the latest in Mercedes design to the interior. The dashboard is the dominant element here, its wide, emphatically three-dimensional trim lending the generous interior an additional sense of width. The main focus is an elegant trim tier in matt, anthracite-coloured cebrano wood with white grain and a precision-tailored chrome trim strip. This element, with its rich contrasts, extends across the full width of the interior and divides the main body of the dashboard into three horizontal planes. The upper area is trimmed in black leather and encompasses the instrument cluster and the static COMAND APS central display. The lower area, like the tunnel and the footwells, echoes the colour scheme of the exterior paintwork. The seats and the lower part of the door trim are in specially coated white leather which, like the “diamond white magno” paintwork, has a matt gloss finish. Treating the natural leather in this way not only produces a stunning look but gives it a velvet soft, skin-friendly, easy-grip surface. Black piping adds to the interesting black-and-white contrasts. The driver’s armrest and the COMAND APS controller are placed in the optimum ergonomic position. Control of the individual menus is intuitive, following the highly familiar control logic used in the S-Class. Additional shortcut buttons make it easier to access the most important main functions.
The occupants are protected by a comprehensive safety concept, based on a high-strength passenger cell and energy-absorbing deformation zones at the front and rear. The protective programme includes front airbags, sidebags and windowbags, plus a kneebag for the driver and crash-responsive head restraints.
New BLUETEC four-cylinder powerplant with AdBlue injection
The Vision GLK FREESIDE is powered by a new-generation diesel engine. The four-cylinder unit, with a 2.2-litre displacement, reflects the study vehicle’s dynamic basic concept and allows impressive performance figures with an output of 125 kW/170 hp, plus reduced consumption and reduced emissions. The technical features of the extremely compact and smooth CDI powerplant with rear camshaft drive include fourth-generation common rail direct injection with an injection pressure of 2000 bar and a two-stage turbocharger system.
The modular BLUETEC emission control system has been enhanced by Mercedes-Benz and the most efficient version has been combined for the first time with a four-cylinder engine. "BLUETEC gives us a technology that makes it possible for us to combine the high efficiency and impressive torque of modern diesel engines with extremely low emissions – a perfect propulsion unit for a compact SUV like the GLK," declares Dr Thomas Weber, member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and responsible for corporate research and the development of Mercedes-Benz Cars. The focus of BLUETEC technology is on ensuring the greatest possible reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions. This is the only exhaust gas component that is intrinsically higher in diesel engines than in petrol engines. In addition to an oxidising catalytic converter and a maintenance-free particulate filter, an SCR catalytic converter is also used. AdBlue, a harmless, aqueous urea solution, is injected into the exhaust gas stream. This converts up to 80 percent of the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water. Here the study highlights the way in which compact four-cylinder diesel models can also meet the most stringent emissions limits, even those specified by EU6, which will apply to all new vehicles from 2015. By then today’s EU4 nitrogen oxide limits will have to be reduced by around another 70 percent to 0.08 g/km. Even the strict US BIN 5 limits and the Californian LEV2 regulations would not present a problem for the Vision GLK FREESIDE.
Superior dynamic handling thanks to cutting-edge 4MATIC drivetrain
The new 4MATIC drivetrain in the Vision GLK FREESIDE is one of the most powerful all-wheel-drive systems. Thanks to the compact, lightweight and friction-optimised basic design, with a longitudinally installed engine and block-design main transmission and transfer case, it offers various advantages over other systems with a transversely installed drive unit. The fuel consumption, for example, is around the level of a comparable, conventionally powered vehicle. The minimal vibration and noise levels rival those of today’s luxury-class models.
The 45:55 percent basic distribution of the drive torque between the front and rear axle plus the ESP®, ASR and 4ETS dynamic handling control systems ensure effortlessly superior and predictable performance in all conditions. Optimum traction, the greatest driving stability and the best handling are assured at all times. The newly developed multiple-disc clutch in the central differential supports the system where the friction between the tyres and the road surface is particularly low, for example on snow or ice. A basic partial locking force of 50 newton metres between the front and rear axles produces a significant increase in traction, while maintaining the high level of driving stability.
The “G” button in the centre console increases the Vision GLK FREESIDE’s aggression when required on rough terrain. Pressing the button activates a special transmission mode which varies the 7G-TRONIC’s shift points, adjusts to “softer” accelerator characteristics and activates the ESP’s off-road function. A manual shift mode is also available – gears are changed using the shift paddles behind the steering wheel. A further switch activates the Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR), which automatically maintains a preselected speed on steep downhill inclines.
Pioneering chassis concept unites different worlds of driving
The Vision GLK FREESIDE’s AGILITY CONTROL suspension resolves a conflict of objectives which particularly affects the SUV class, where chassis engineers want to create a vehicle which is both sportily agile and comfortably smooth yet one which can also cope with off-road terrain. If the focus is on sportily active handling, the springs and above all the shock absorbers have to demonstrate a certain firmness, which precludes access to the brand’s typical suspension comfort and limits the off-road options. If the vehicle is set up with softer dampers to ensure suspension comfort and off-road capability, dynamic handling naturally suffers. The solution is “amplitude-dependent damping”: the damping forces of the shock absorber are configured to respond flexibly rather than lineally. In normal driving mode on moderately contoured roads or on slow off-road tours the system responds softly, enhancing both the comfort of the occupants and the off-road capability. To ensure that this level of comfort is retained in the face of hard driving or abrupt evasion manoeuvres, in these situations the dampers deliver a harder performance, ensuring optimum driving stability. The driver of the Vision GLK is supported by speed-sensitive power steering which ensures the optimum steering assistance for the given situation. Parking or manoeuvring off-road are an easy exercise because the greatest possible power assistance is on hand. At higher speeds the assistance is reduced in favour of greater driving stability.
Vision GLK FREESIDE: continuing a success story
Since the launch of the legendary G-Class in 1979, Mercedes-Benz has been a leader in the field of off-road vehicles. With the first generation of the ML-Class, which appeared in 1997, Mercedes-Benz marked out the contemporary sports utility vehicle segment. Including the latest generation of this model, which made its debut in 2005, this model series is one of the most successful premium SUVs in the world, with around 900,000 vehicles sold. The GL-Class in turn has occupied the top spot in the overall SUV world since 2006, its occupants travelling first-class whatever the conditions, whether on or off the road. The Vision GLK FREESIDE now demonstrates how the expertise garnered in the course of creating this sequence of models can be translated into compact format. The new compact character, in other words, is in the best of company – just like the production model, which is to be launched in autumn 2008.